the importance of a creative practice


I am a huge journaling evangelist -- my journaling practice is a huge part of the reason I've discovered this career I love today.  Since I began journaling about a decade ago, I've been pretty consistent with doing morning pages, because starting my morning by writing two stream-of-consciousness pages helps me clear my head and focus on the day ahead.  I doodle, and glue important cards or notes in my journal pages, but once I complete a journal, I usually just put it on a shelf and forget about them.  In fact, I rarely revisit my journals.  The magic of journaling, for me, has always been the process -- never the result.

Late this summer, however, I went through the stack of journals on my shelf, and I was actually stunned to see how much my journaling styles have changed and morphed over the years.  i've always included a lot of colour in my journals -- I'm a bit of a marker addict -- but I realized that my earlier journals had way more colour than my current journals do.


There was paint, and torn papers, and glue; random magazine pages and even string and yarn and paper clips.  And while nothing I did would likely end up in the Smithsonian anytime soon, I remember really enjoying the process of making them.  It didn't matter that the end result was, I just loved playing with the paints and the colours.  I felt calm. I felt settled and grounded.  Making those journals gave me the chance to turn off my monkey mind and just enjoy being in the moment.

This isn't surprising, really.  Brené Brown says "Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgement, sorrow, shame." I believe her.  I think anytime we do anything that slows our mind down, it allows for a reset of stress -- and if we don't, there's a consequence.  In fact, having a creative practice might actually have a physical benefit:  in this article, citing this American Journal of Public Health study and this Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine study, the author says "the process of creating art doesn’t just make you feel better, it also creates real, physical changes inside your body."  Entirely possible, I say.

Unfortunately, I used to store all of my journals on a lower shelf of my bookcase in my home office, so when our home flooded last year (and the water stayed in our home for almost 2 weeks), every single one of my journals was completely destroyed, save for the one I was currently working on and therefore took with me when we evacuated.  Again, it's rare that I revisit my old journals, so even though it's a pity I don't have them anymore, I wasn't as devastated as you might think.  However, the truth is that I haven't done any real art journaling in a long time, and certainly not since the flood.  And trying to expand my business while simultaneously rebuilding my house ...

... well, let's just say that my monkey mind has been turbo charged lately.

This morning, after dropping my daughter off at school, I swung by our local art supply store and picked up some new markers and paints.  I came home and spread some blue paint over two pages and, and instantly felt calm.  I haven't finished that page, but I'm going to use these art supplies as a reminder to switch off working at a reasonable hour, and spend my evenings winding down by playing with them. 

Because sometimes creativity is about self-care, not about an audience. 

And the magic is in the doing.



(Incidentally, if you'd like to start a journaling practice, here's my primer.)

I've always loved painting, although I never show anyone what I've done. Mainly because I don't do it well. But it's like a form of visual diary for me. A way of fixing things in my mind.

DAME Judi Dench