Category: Reading Nook

A Powerful Journal Prompt – and How to Use it as an Affirmation (I used it to get me through the reno)


If you’ve been around the studio for any length of time, you know that I believe journaling is one of the best practices for developing and sustaining your creative life. With just something to write with and something to write on, you can change your life.

That’s what happened to me when I was a grad student and living with my boyfriend of 13 years. I started writing morning pages, three pages of long-hand free-form writing prescribed by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. As I wrote, I started to hear my own voice for the first time in years. I could no longer avoid the truth; I felt constricted and unhappy and I needed to do something about it. Over the next year I started my life anew. It was terrifying and heart-wrenching but laid the foundations for the life I live and love now. Telling myself the truth each and every day tuned my inner compass and guided the way.

Just me, a pen and the page and everything changed.

Free writing is just one of many ways to journal. Another approach is exploring prompts, taking a question or a sentence stem and seeing where it leads. Today I want to share with you one of my very favourite:

I am a person who…

Note, the word ‘person’ should be adjusted to the word that best represents you to you. (For example, I usually write, “I am a woman who…”) This is your journal, your voice, your truth. Take this prompt to the page and complete the sentence over and over again with what you know to be true. Just keep writing and let aspects of you pour out of your fingertips.

I am a person who is an artist at heart.
I am a person with a soft spot for cartoons.
I am a person who values freedom.
I am a person who has loved and lost.
I am a person who speaks 7 languages.
I am a person who is tougher than I look.
I am a person with a great sense of wonder.
I am a person who deserves better.
I am a person committed to a cause.

Once you’ve finished journaling, take a moment to say each of the statements to yourself. Notice what happens in your body. When you hit on something that rings pure and true, you can feel it. It’s as though this reminder, this acknowledgement of who you are, deepens the strength of your roots.

You can feel the truth in your bones.

Over the summer I started using this practice to create meaningful affirmations. When I was facing a choice or a challenge, I crafted these I-statements into talismans, words I could use to remind me of who I am and who I wanted to be. For example, when I was heading into a big meeting with the trades for our renovation knowing I was going to have to hold firm in the face of opposition…

I am a woman who speaks her mind directly and with conviction.
I am a woman who holds her own.
I am a woman who keeps her cool.
I am a woman who gets what she wants.
I am a woman who turns conversations into connection.

I would play with the options as I got ready to go until I found something that felt just right. I would walk into that meeting with those words and that conviction about who I am, about who I was actively choosing to be. It served as an internal guidance system for every interaction and decision. When the challenging conversation was at hand, I would remind myself, “I am a person who turns conversations into connection. That’s not scary. That’s what I do. That’s who I am.” Or if I had to make sure my voice was heard, I would remind myself “I am a woman who holds her own. Right. I am. That’s me and that’s what I do. I hold my own.” And then I’d do it.

That’s the extra bit of magic. Affirmations are most powerful when we believe them to be true.

When you take this approach to these “I am” statements, you have the immediate opportunity to prove them true. In the situation with the contractors, I did that by holding my own or by having conversations with the intention of connecting. Even if I managed to do it just a little bit, my mind was predisposed to look for proof of who I say I am and would measure that little bit as success.* For example…

“I am a woman who turns conversations into connection.”
“Hey, when I made that joke with the contractor, he smiled and laughed. I felt like we were just people having a conversation.”

Using these I-statement affirmations has become a regular and powerful part of my life. When I face a challenge or a tough decision, I stop and think about who I am, who I want to be. “I am a woman of integrity.” “I am a woman who embraces life.” “I am a woman who chooses love.” And then I act. Each time, I feel my roots grow deeper, I know exactly who I am and I move forward with clarity and strength.

Knowing the magic in this simple journal prompt, I offer it up to you. May it remind you of who you are and guide you in becoming exactly who you want to be.

*This is why it’s so important to let go of negative self-talk. As we say rotten things about ourselves, our minds also look for proof of truth. Finding true and positive I-statement affirmations and living into them can help displace and replace those negative words.

You Don’t Have to Justify Your Creativity


As creatives, we tend to be a little bit different than your average bear.

Sometimes it’s obvious. We’re the ones unloading 3 books, 5 journals and a packed pencil case at a coffee shop. We’re the ones with big jewellery, a blue streak in our hair and a unique sense of personal style.

Sometimes it’s more subtle. It shows up in our resourcefulness, our problem-solving, our insatiable curiosity. Maybe we notice a slight dissonance when we’re chatting with others at work or at a party, a way that we seem to be slightly off-centre.
Perhaps we just don’t feel the same sense of attachment or urgency about the machinations of a workaday life. We long for something else, something every bit as real but not nearly as accepted.

We long for a creative life.

And a creative life looks different for each of us. It might mean working a comfortable job and investing your earnings in art classes and writing retreats. It might mean getting up early to write poetry by candlelight. It might mean becoming a part of an improv troupe or learning how to temper chocolate or knitting blankets for preemies. It might mean working as a temp between acting gigs, fundraising so you can make your documentary or start your own business.

What your creative life looks like is up to you.

No one else. You.

That’s not to say that everyone won’t have an opinion. Everyone will. Everyone.

Some people just won’t get it. They’ll think you’re a bit of an odd duck. Others will think you are special and rare. Still others will think, “Oh, it’s lovely that you have a hobby, dear.” And many (many) will warn you against trying to make it more than that. Some will even deign to assess your “talent” and the viability of this path for you. Some will think it’s only worthwhile if it makes money – if you can do that, then pursue it, otherwise…let it go, sweetheart.

Don’t listen to any of them.

Not a one.

Live a creative life, follow a creative path, because it’s who you are. You’ve always known it. Even when you weren’t expressing it, when it was locked down deep inside, you’ve always had a creative heart.

You don’t have to make money at it for it to be worthwhile.

You don’t have to be labelled as ‘talented’ in order to be worthy.

You don’t have to prove, justify, explain or defend.

You just have to do it.

I’m not saying it will be easy. I’m saying it will be worth it. I’m saying it’s your birthright. I’m saying it’s for you.
Be yourself. Love your life. Create your work.

I, for one, believe in you.

The Bigger the Dream, the Deeper the Roots


At this time of year, so many of us are deep in reflection*. Over the past week, I’ve had a lot of discussions with people near and dear to me about what they learned from 2019 and what they are envisioning for 2020. The more people I spoke with, the more I noticed a surprising theme emerging: slow growth.

I know. It’s not sexy, is it? Where are the big hairy audacious goals? The brave and bold choices? The dramatic transformations?

We all just seem a little tired for that.

Or maybe, it’s something more unexpected – we’re actually dreaming bigger.

When Justin and I sat down on New Year’s Eve and talked about our past year, it was clearly about our home renovation. As we explored the experience, we realized that we had actually been working on this dream for over three years! There was the year we committed and then started to dream and save. Then came the year we started working with the architect and getting the city’s approval. That was also the year that we went through all of our belongings, clearing the way for a new vision and a fresh start. Then last year we packed and moved and the construction work began. Our house was taken down to the studs and then was built back up again. Now, at the beginning of our fourth year, we’re preparing to move back in and make this fresh new space into our home. It’s time for us to nest.

If I’d been aware of how long it would take, I’m not sure how I would have approached it or whether I would have at all. How many times do we walk away from a dream because it seems like it will take too long – especially as we get older!

I don’t have time to get a degree!

It’s too late to start my own business!

I’m too old to learn the violin now!

Hogwash.

There. I said it. Hogwash.

When I first read The Artist’s Way, I was shaken by something Julia Cameron said and it forever changed my perspective in this regard. I’m paraphrasing but I think you’ll get the point.

Yes, it takes a long time. Yes, it may be late. But in 5 years, you can either have 5 years of experience playing the piano or none. You choose.

And the beautiful thing, the thing that makes all the difference, is that it’s not just about the destination or even about the journey. It’s about who you become when you step into a desire or a dream. Do I want to be a woman who studies Art History or a woman who decided it was too late? Do I want to be a woman who can fumble her way through a conversation in French or a woman who wishes she learned? Do I want to be a woman who is writing a book or one who hopes to one day?

I have felt in a rush for a lot of my life. I’ve been a late bloomer and struggled with a constant state of worrying that I’ll miss out. It’s taken me a long time to realize how much I miss out on when I rush, including the chance to build big dreams, the kind of dreams that take patience and time, and the chance to live the kind of life that takes time to build.

I’m learning to not be intimidated by things that take a long time. No matter what happens, saying yes to what I dream of makes me the woman that I want to be.

Sometimes moving slow is dreaming big after all.

Awaken Your Creative Capacity

There’s something liminal about December.

Here in the studio, we’re wrapping up one season and preparing for the next. In a few weeks, we’ll all be moving from fall into winter (or spring into summer, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere). For me, personally, I’m completing one solar return and moving into the next with my birthday next weekend. And, of course, with our home renovation, we’re hoping to finish up the biggest project of our lives and move back home.

One of the things I love about these in-between times is how they give us a chance to shake things up, to break things up and to find new ways. When the path trudges on, day after day, with no break or disruption, it is harder to make a change. I’ve seen this with so many clients who have tucked into their regular life with devotion for years and then, when they feel the need to make a change, it seems impossible to do so because of ‘the way things are.’

You have a hand in creating the way things are!

You have been given this extraordinary gift of a creative spirit and that can show up on the page, in the studio and in your life. Yes, we all have what I call ‘given circumstances.’ These are the elemental truths of this moment in time, both limitations and blessings. What will you make of them? What will you imagine and create?

In Mindful Mondays, we start each week by imagining what we would like it to be and then we go about doing our level best to create it.

I want a week filled with creative play! How will I make it so?
I want a week with more ease! How will I invite that in?
I want to be brave this week! I will follow where that leads me!

Little by little, week by week, with our imaginings, our choices and our actions, we steer our lives in the direction or our soul. Little by little, week by week, our life aligns with our heart.

It’s easy for us to forget that we have this magic within us. We fall easily under the sway of ‘The Way It Is’ spell, believing that we are just a small being in a strong current and cannot make a difference, not even in our own lives. This is not true.

Our creativity shows us our magic every time.

Every time you knit a sock or make a meal, every time you make a painting or a collage, every time you rearrange your furniture or change your hairstyle, you have impact. With each creative act, you demonstrate your ability to change your life and your world. You experience your capacity to make something where there was nothing or to transform one thing into something new.

If you can do it on the page, on the canvas or in the kitchen, you can do it in your life.

You can bring ideas that make a difference.
You can make choices that make a difference.
You can take action that make a difference.

You have the creative capacity to make a difference in your life and in the world.

I’m here to remind you. The studio is full of classes to support you. Awaken your creative capacity and discover what’s possible. Bring your magic to the art, to the life and the world that calls you. Do it now.

5 Minutes of Creativity


How much time do you need for your creativity? An afternoon? A weekend? A lifetime?

How many of us leave our creativity languishing in the wings while we wait for a glorious expanse of time? What are we missing by not simply doing what we can when we can with what we have where we are?

As I go through this massive home renovation, I’ve managed to keep writing but art making? Not at all. I notice it each week as I check in with my Focus Pages in my Studio Yearbook. Not only has the “Art” section been consistently empty but a couple of weeks ago I completely cut it from the mix. I thought, I’m just not getting to it. Maybe it’s too much with all that’s going on. I’ll get to it later.

There’s only one problem with that.

Art is a part of me. It’s not something for later. It’s something for always.

Years ago I went through a wonderful Expressive Arts training program. Each week we painted, sculpted, wrote, danced, sang and played theatre games. A couple of weeks after the training was over, I was talking to my sister Shannon about the horrible mood I was in. She gently and sagely said, “Do you think it has anything to do with not having regular creative time anymore?”

*blink* *blink*

Why yes. Yes, I think it does.

It still does.

So instead of my original plan of shunting art aside, I’ve started a little practice. I’m calling it #5minutesofcreativity. I have an 8 x 10 storage box from the dollar store. In it are all sorts of paper cut-outs and scraps. (I’ve learned to gather not only images I love but also textures, colours and shapes.) It’s all dumped into the box, willy-nilly. I also toss in a sketchbook, scissors and a glue stick. With that, I have everything I need for a 5-minute burst of creative fun.

At least once a day I open up that box and give myself five minutes to make a collage. I have no plan. I sift through the papers looking for something to catch my eye. When it does, I cut it into a shape or put it on the page as-is. Then I let it inspire me to look for the next piece and the next. Before I know it, something’s appeared on the page.

I don’t stress about getting it right because what is ‘right’ after all? I just want 5 minutes of inspiration, 5 minutes of creative expression, 5 minutes of me time, 5 minutes of possibility. In that 5 minutes, my body relaxes, I stop thinking about the worries of the day and I breathe. When I’m done, I take a picture and share it on Instagram stories and then I put everything back in the box ready for tomorrow.

I love this little practice. I feel so much better for it. And yes, I still long for Art Days and expansive creating but here’s the news: I get to have both – and so do you! Saying yes to small moments of creative bliss doesn’t mean giving up on longer creative play dates. If anything, it paves the way, building momentum, keeping you in creative shape and reminding you of just how important your art and creativity really are.

This week I invite you to join me and take 5 minutes for your creativity. Collage, doodle, dance, sing – you choose. If you decide to share, tag me and use the hashtag #5minutesofcreativity. I’ll be cheering you on.

 

Becoming an Energy Wizard (a Strategy for Empaths & Highly Sensitive People)

This week I was at a party and a woman spoke to me about how she struggled as an empath, particularly in this world where so much is so distressing. She was deeply disturbed by the news and also had an activist’s heart. She wanted to make a difference but how could she when she felt consistently emotionally overwhelmed?

Here’s a strategy I offered to her and that I use myself. I hope it works wonders for you.

If you are an empath or a highly sensitive person, you already know the power of energy. You do not need to be convinced of it. You have experienced it. You have experienced the way your heart rate goes up, the way tears appear, the way you have a tangible reaction to the world around you.

This is not a one-way channel.

In the moment that you are receiving the anger, the heartbreak, the terror, the joy of a particular situation, crowd or individual, if you can find and stand your ground, you can send back love, peace, calm and hope through the connection between you. The experience will take on a different tenor, at minimum for you and perhaps for all.

Have you ever seen a fantasy film where an evil wizard or a dragon pours out fire in the direction of their foe and the good wizard responds with water or ice? Their magic connects and you watch the red glow and the cool blue meet and meld until one dissipates. Working your empath energy magic is like that.

Now, it takes time and strength to be an energy wizard. You need to tend to the practices and habits that keep you healthy and strong (e.g. good sleep, nourishing food, meditation). You also need boundaries and strategies for when the energy coming at you is too strong for your current state. But also remember that your sensitivity to energy is a super power. We tend to think of it only as a receptive power but it is also an active one. If the energy we receive can make a difference in our world, the energy we send can too.

There is a reason that so many creatives are highly sensitive people. We are tuned into the depth and breadth of what it means to be human. That is glorious and it is challenging too. Like a wizard, there will be days when we need to be alone, to be quiet and attend to our studies but there will also be days when we can use our magic to turn fear into hope and frogs into butterflies.

My Strategies for Handling My Biggest Project to Date


This month we are moving in with family, moving all of our things into storage and, at last, our renovation begins.

Oh, July, you will be an adventure!

During several recent events, people asked me how I was managing it all and whether I’d be sharing more about the renovation. In terms of sharing, I’m doing a lot of writing and picture taking behind the scenes but it’s all pretty raw. Perhaps that’s why the place I’m doing the most sharing right now is Instagram stories. It’s a quick place for me to share a photo and go, “Ack! Is this storage place going to be enough?” or “Omg, look at Scout on top of all those boxes.” I’m really loving being there and sharing. So if you want a daily dose of cats, the garden and the move, be sure to visit me on Instagram and check out my stories.

As for how I’m handling it all, I feel like I’ll have much more to say in a month but for now…

My Current Strategies for Handling My Biggest Project Ever

Be Devoted to Sleep. With so much on the go, it’s easy to become exhausted. I’ve been fiercely committed to getting to bed at a good time and trying to get 7 hours of sleep, no matter what. If I need a nap, I take it. If something on my to-do list needs to get cut, it’s cut. Sleep matters.

Eat Nutrition-rich Rood. I always find this is the hardest thing during busy times. This time I’m going to try and make sure that the fridge is stocked with simple and healthy choices all the time. I found this food prep video very inspiring and it’s exactly the approach I hope to take. (Yep, I’m just starting work on this one)

Drink Lots of Water. When things are demanding and I’m tired, it’s super easy to make one more cup of tea or drink one more cup of coffee. It’s all too easy to rev myself up while depleting my fluids. Not to mention that the heat has hit and I’m doing lots of lifting, shifting and moving. I’m reaching for water more often then not, maybe even with a few lovely berries for colour and sass.

Logs & Check-Ins. I start each day with going over the state of all of my projects, including the reno. I remind myself of what has been achieved and also what needs to get done. Throughout the day, I keep a journal page that lists not only my plans and tasks but also things that have happened and information I need to record, for example, “Building inspector called at 10:40 and said… Remember to email him about…” At the end of the day I review my page, noting in particular what didn’t get done so I am ready to tackle it the next day.

Communication & Relationships. Not only are there lots of moving pieces to a big project like this but there are also many people involved. I try to make sure that each communication not only moves the project forward but also deepens my relationship with the person involved, whether that’s a member of the family or the renovation team.

Remember the Dream. There have been many (and no doubt will be many more) reasons to stress and worry. There will be hard work and a thousand decisions and who knows what else. It’s easy to get caught up in it all and forget that above all else this is a blessing, an opportunity for us to create our home and make it a place we love. On the hard days I will remind myself that I believe it is worth the effort.

Remember What’s Important. From early on in our relationship, Justin and I made a decision that has served us well. If we ever feel ourselves getting edgy over something or other, getting a little heated about what colour to paint the walls or whether the couch should be on this side of the room or that, we stop immediately and remind one another, it’s not that important. It’s a colour. It’s paint. It’s a couch. It’s not us. What matters to us is each other. All the other choices will be just fine. It’s love that makes a home.

Remind me I said that when we’re picking lighting fixtures ;)