According to the National Science Foundation, an average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are repetitive thoughts. That leaves a very small window for fresh thinking and creativity.
The practice of journaling gets all the unwanted thoughts out and on the page and creates room for fresh thinking. Think of your creativity as a well and on the top of this well are dead leaves (old patterns of thinking). The practice of showing up and writing everyday gets rid of the detritus and allows you to access this well.
About twenty years ago, I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’ and caused untold havoc. My inner artist encouraged me with bold – almost reckless ideas; it wrote clearly on the page, GIVE UP YOUR JOB AND BELIEVE YOU ARE A WRITER. So I gave up my job and got rejected by every publisher. It was not what I was expecting. A few months later, whilst journaling, the escaped artist wrote – SET UP YOUR OWN PUBLISHING company and so I set up a publishing company to publish my novel, Gypsy Masala and then it scribbled CREATE AN ALTER EGO TO DO THE PR and NAME HER PRU. The thoughts were so random and out of the ordinary that I decided to follow them, all whilst putting on a suit and pretending to go to work (it’s a very long, complicated story!).
The inner artist in me celebrated when Pru, my alter-ego was short-listed as Publicist of the Year for the amazing job she/I had done on Gypsy Masala and I went on to sign a three book deal with HarperCollins. All the goals that I had set in the front page of that journal somehow came to pass.
The Artist’s Way is twelve week course and the premise is this:
- Journal every day (known as the morning pages), preferably 3 A4 pages on waking. It takes about 40 minutes but with practice, you can get it down to twenty!
You are supposed to do this first thing as your brainwaves are still in alpha (awake but relaxed). The most important thing is to keep the pen moving and not stop to think. If I can’t do 3 A4 pages, I don’t give myself a hard time and am grateful that I made the effort and congratulate the inner artist even if she/I have only managed 10 minutes of writing.
- Walk everywhere. A Stanford study published in 2014 found that walking increased a person’s “creative output” by an average of 60 percent. The premise is that walking balances both sides of the brain’s hemispheres and allows you to enter the “flow” state.
- Take yourself on an artist date. It might be slightly difficult to motivate yourself to go on any kind of date right now but this could just be doing something different or out of the ordinary – playing with Lego, drawing, listening to a piece of music. The artist’s date is supposed to stimulate fresh thinking and innovation as you take yourself out of habitual patterns and replenish the well.
For me the artists dates are sporadic. The walks have been fairly consistent but over the twenty years, journaling has been my faithful companion and more so during this eighteen month period of loss, instability and uncertainty. The words that have appeared mysteriously on the page in amongst the 80% of negative thoughts and the mundane have directed me to start a lip balm business with my ten year old to help her with her maths, to write a new book, re-write a rejected script and enter it into a competition and it has helped generally kept me sane and motivated.
When I teach, I ask my students to try it for 28 days and see how their lives are transformed by this one act. Then, I ask them to follow the voice of their inner Artist who has managed to escape from somewhere deep inside.
Follow it with courage and go to wherever it may want to take you.
(c) Preethi Nair
Preethi is speaking at the DESIblitz Literature Festival on Being Published: Traditional or Indie?
About Anjali’s Story: My Magical Lip Balm Adventure
Anjali unexpectedly starts a business in Lockdown and dives into a very magical adventure…
Anjali has a problem. Well, actually, she has two:
1) A very mean teacher called Mr Shutgun (don’t even dare to make fun of his name) picks on her.
2) The problem she’s been trying to keep secret comes out during the world’s worst maths lesson.
Then Lockdown happens and everything JUST. GETS. WORSE. Her problems get even bigger and seem HUGE! Like, AVALANCHE HUGE!!
Will diving into an adventure of making lip balms and setting up her own business with her very chaotic mum help solve her problems? Or meeting the mysterious Mrs Marston, an old lady with secrets of her own…?
Order your copy online here.