Illustrated Discovery Journal

discovery journal
I once wanted to paint my front door to look like the photo on right

Back in 1995, Sarah Ban Breathnach published a book called Simple Abundance. It was a big sensation back in the day, before lifestyle blogs. It was a bit spiritual, a bit home-making, a bit loving yourself. It sold millions of copies. Many women I knew had a copy and at least attempted to follow it.

I did, too. I was 46 and I was searching for something to give my life more meaning. There were good and bad things about the book, the oniy thing that really stuck with me was the idea of making and using what she called An Illustrated Discovery Journal–surprise, surprise! Of course, I went for the journal…

It was meant to be a place to store discoveries you made of things you loved. The suggestion was to go to a very well-stocked newsstand with many magazines and take your time picking out all the magazines that appealed to you visually. You were to purchase your picks and look through them and tear out the pages that most appealed to you, whether you knew why they appealed or not. Then, in no particular order, you were to glue or tape them into a large, bound blank book. This was the basis of your Illustrated Discovery Journal.

A lot of the ideas in Simple Abundance were kind of expensive, so I often felt like I wasn’t doing it “right” because I couldn’t afford to buy a stack of fancy magazines to use. I did find an inexpensive blank book at Barnes and Noble, though, and I used my collection of American Home, Country Living and Mary Engelbreit magazines to make my journal.

The idea was to find your personal style through this process. It was a lot of fun to do. I still have my journal, and I still love every page in it. I have never had a dwelling that looked anything like the photos in my book, but the style still appeals to me. I have incorporated bits of the illustrations into my homes, and I started collections based on things that appealed to me when I found something like it in a thrift store or antique mall.

discovery journal
the daybed in my apartment bears a resemblance to this photo

I realize now that that journal was my first visual, or “art” journal. I started it long before Pinterest, and today women would probably be advised to start a mood board or something like it. Not a bad idea, but I haven’t quite adopted Pinterest, except for collecting recipes and a few articles. I have other boards, but I never check them.

There is something about using our HANDS, to write, to cut out photos and glue or tape them in a book, to draw and paint, or color with pens or pencils. It slows us down, for one thing–you have to use scissors to cut things out, you look at what you are cutting, you move things around, glueing them to the page, you look at how the paint or color looks and feels as you apply it to the paper.

You are engaged with the physical materials, but your mind is also making connections between the colors, the shapes, the instruments you are using and the sum becomes greater than the parts. It is a process I love, and I love to share it with others. It’s a process similar to what I described in my last post, you are engaging your right brain, the non-linear brain and interesting things happen. I am always surprised when I look at my Illustrated Discovery Journal, that I still love everything I chose to put in it. I no longer add to my book, I use visual journals in a different way now, but it served its purpose and showed me the power of putting dreams and desires on paper with images instead of words.

I’m working on a newsletter which will include a short list of tips to get started on visual journal play. You can use them if you are stuck getting started on an idea or dream, or you’re just curious to try it for yourself! If you are already on my mailing list, you will get it in a few days. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so here so you don’t miss out!

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How Working in an Art Journal Can Help Uncover Your Dreams

art journal spread
non-dominant hand…

Art journals can be a tool to understand what we want and because they tend to be more visual than written, they trigger a different part of the brain than we use when we are just thinking or writing about how to solve problems. We switch to the right brain, which is more in touch with the imagination. Let me show how this happened for me:

The picture above is a spread in one of my art journals. I made it based on a writing prompt in an art journal class I took in 2011. We were to ask ourselves a series of questions writing the question with our dominant hand, then answer the question with our non-dominant hand. Writing with the non-dominant hand (beside being hard) triggers our right brain as well, and the answers are frequently surprising. I had so many surprising answers that day that I didn’t make my journal spread until a couple of days later…I kept asking questions of myself and answering with the non-dominant hand!

I’d only been divorced for one year, and was still reeling from all the change that had triggered. The question prompt was: “What do I want to do?” I surprised the heck out of myself when my non-dominant hand wrote:

I want to be a massage therapist to women in their 40’s to 60’s and above. I want to help them to be healthy and vibrant as they age, to be empowered to live really vibrant lives, because that is how I want to live.

Vibrant was the important descriptor–I wanted to lead a vibrant life, to shake off the failure I felt being divorced, having to start over in my 60’s. I remember I was fairly obsessed with this idea and the vision it gave me for at least a few months after I wrote those words. I made a collage of what being vibrant meant to me. It was about how I wanted to feel, unfortunately I got rid of the collage in a down moment, thinking I wasn’t turning my massage practice into what I was envisioning. I wanted to help other women get in touch with their creativity, but it really wasn’t in the scope of my practice as a massage therapist.

To be fair to myself and my massage practice, I was a very good therapist, and I helped hundreds of people over the 16 years I practiced. I believe I actually did help quite a few of my clients, women and men, live more vibrant lives without pain.

However, when I got out this journal the other day to look through it, I was struck again by the message I received, writing with my left hand. Helping women live vibrant, empowered lives as they age is pretty close to my goals for this site, I definitely believe I’ve become more vibrant in the six years since I wrote it.

When I looked again at this spread, I realized I planted a seed, without realizing it, which has grown in various ways and has brought me to where I am today. One of the ways I grew  was through exploring my creativity, art journals are one example and I think a good starting place for many people.

In my next few posts I will be talking about ways to use art to help you tap into your intuition to clarify your dreams. In the meantime, why not get out some paper and a pen and ask yourself, “What do I want to do?” and answer with your non-dominant hand…I would love to hear about it if 

NaNoWriMo

banner for Nanowrimo
National Novel Writing Month

When I was in Quebec with my friend, Patricia in September, we talked a lot about the dreams of our youth, and the dreams we have now. I told her about the germ of an idea for a novel that I’ve been carrying around for about 40 years. This was one of my deferred dreams, I never thought I had time to write while raising kids and working, but it has surfaced over and over again, a little more insistently in the last 4 years.

Today starts National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. During the month of November, thousands of people commit to writing daily for 30 days, the object being to complete a first draft of a novel during that time. It may seem gimmicky, with a cutesy name, but I know enough about my habits to know that I need a structure and some form of accountability to keep me on track! So I am committing myself to writing daily for 30 days on the novel idea I’ve had for 40 years. I have a writing buddy, we’re checking in daily with word counts, and because she is a friend, not someone anonymous from the NaNoWriMo site, I will be less likely to blow her off!

While thinking about whether to relaunch my blog, I realized that unless I was living up to my tagline, it’s never too late, I couldn’t write honestly or convincingly to you. I keep coming back to another maxim: It’s only too late if you don’t startI am writing blog posts again because it’s something I really want to do, and the only way to do it is to write, and hit publish.

I’m not expecting a first draft by Nov. 30, but I will have way more direction, pages and ideas to work with than if I didn’t take the leap to join (and told everyone that I am doing it…). And who knows? Maybe it will be a rough first draft? I’ve never written a novel before!

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A Glorious Freedom!

author picture
Meeting Lisa Congdon at her book-signing in Seattle!

When I heard about the new book, A Glorious Freedom Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives by Lisa Congdon, I was really excited. After all, it is one of my favorite subjects, and written and illustrated by a favorite artist and writer! She is not a personal friend, but I did get to meet her at her recent book-signing event at Elliot Bay Books (she is every bit as delightful as she seems in the photo!)

I pre-ordered the book, so I’d receive it on publication day, and I was not disappointed. It is a beautiful book, illustrated by Lisa with portraits of many of the extraordinary women in the book, as well as her own distinctive illustrations and graphics.

She chose to write the book because she is a “self-described late bloomer” who didn’t begin her illustration and writing career until she was 40. She is now 49 and has published 7 books, her 8th book is coming out next year. It takes courage to begin a new path at 40, or 50 as I did, and some of the women profiled started even later. This book explores the courage and resilience of women who either started “late” on careers or redefined their careers as they aged.

The women profiled are a mix of contemporary women and historical figures. Some are interviewed by Lisa, the stories of others are essays by the subjects themselves or by Lisa. This makes for a nice mix of style in the text, and every woman profiled made me hungry to learn more. I jumped to my laptop a few times to look up artists previously unknown to me, especially a collage artist named Della Wells. She is now a favorite, not only for her own amazing story and work, but for her work supporting and promoting other artists in her city.

The women profiled are not all well-known, nor are they all artists–there are athletes, scientists, authors, and business people. I think one of the most fascinating interviews is with Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest national park ranger in the US who is still working at the age of 95 as a ranger at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, CA.

She is a very articulate and thoughtful woman, and does a tremendous service telling the story of the war experience of women of color, highlighting how much social change has occurred since 1942, the remarkable thing is that she is telling the story from her own lived experience. It is no wonder she received a commemorative presidential coin from President Obama in 2015.

I love this book, and it’s subject is completely in line with my purpose writing this blog…it’s never too late to live your life with courage, creativity and wisdom.

My favorite quote from the book is from the interview with Debbie Millman, host and founder of the longest-running design podcast, Design Matters. Asked by Lisa to elaborate on her opinion that confidence is important, but courage is more important, Millman says:

“I think confidence comes from a repeated effort that continues to go well. so if you try something and you are successful at it, you feel that if you do it again you will be successful again. And that repeated success breeds confidence. I think it’s actually more important to have courage, because you tend to be more afraid of doing things that you’ve never done before and through which you have no previous experience of success. Courage is more important than confidence because it forces you to try new things, to move outside what is comfortable.”  (emphasis is mine) page 126

Reading that paragraph made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I have not always been courageous in my life, not by a long shot, but being courageous is one of my core values as I age.

This is a terrific book, and I hope you will find it, read it, and try something new in your life. After all, it is never too late…

 

 

 

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Why a (Wild Girl)?

 

paperdoll collage
be a good girl…

The tagline for my website is “It’s never too late to be the (wild girl) you might have been”. I put “wild girl” in parentheses because being wild may not be your goal, and you can fill in what your long held desire is. For me, the wild girl is what I imagine I would have been like if I had not been raised to be a “good girl”.

Growing up in the 1950’s and coming of age in the 1960’s was a massive contradiction. I rebelled in the ’60’s but unfortunately (and also fortunately!) I had the “good girl” model pretty deeply ingrained. I think most of us roughly my generation were raised to be “good girls”. Good girls didn’t rock the boat, they were good examples to their siblings, they didn’t talk back, and the strong opinions we formed were often kept to ourselves or only shared with each other. We put up with a lot, and voiced our true thoughts and opinions at our peril: the peril of losing our jobs, the good opinion of our peers, the affection of boyfriends and spouses.

A year ago when I was planning ideas for this website, the image of my wild girl was an artist who followed through on her desires to be creative in all aspects of her life; hair, clothes, lifestyle, all forms of expression. I still feel that way, but I have had to add the image of using my voice and my actions to really show up in the world to make a difference.

I know I am not the only one, there is a lot of simmering anger or at least frustration in the women of  my generation for not being a little more wild, for putting everyone else and their feelings ahead of their own feelings and desires. We may feel like we have missed out, and wonder if it is too late to BE what we always have wanted to be.

I think the 53% of voting white women who voted for Trump in the last election are also full of simmering anger and frustration. I wonder if they are so lost in good-girl world that they voted to keep the status quo? I don’t know.

I don’t believe it is too late, I don’t believe it is ever too late to be what we might have been and to explore new territory. I want to write about all the reasons opening up to our creativity and being even a little bit wild will make us all healthier and happier and save the world for women and men. I lost sight of the vision I had for this blog when I started it last year, wallowing in the insanity of the last 10 months. I forgot about becoming a wild woman. I forgot that being who we really want to be will allow us to live with courage, creativity and wisdom. I forgot that this is what the world needs, and if we as women accept and embrace that, we will help bring about a courageous, wise, creative world for all.

 

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Post-election Reflections

It helps to write it out...
It helps to write it out…

I had planned a very different post-election 2016 post, I allowed myself, in the last couple of days before election day, to get excited and very emotional about a woman president.

But, here we are, four days post-election, and I am still emotional but not excited. I’m not going to write about all the reasons I’m not happy with the result, but I do want to point out the most discouraging statistic, for me, from the outcome:

53% of white women voted for Trump. This statistic lifted a veil from my eyes. We still live in a white supremacist patriarchy, and the majority of white women voters are ok with that.

White women voted for exclusion against inclusion. They voted for a person and a party that are eager to shut down what little progress has been made for women’s reproductive choice, for equal pay for women in the workplace, for basic dignity rights for women not to be sexually harassed in the workplace or elsewhere. They voted for a system that has children of immigrant parents, and black and brown children waking up afraid and being bullied at school and in the community because of hate speech practiced by the candidate for whom they voted. As a woman, mother, grandmother—HUMAN BEING, I cringe and cry for these children and their parents.

What I have decided so far with this election I am so opposed to is this: I am still passionate about working with creativity and I believe that art saves, art illuminates, art opens our eyes–I am more dedicated than ever to my own art-making AND to opening the eyes of all of us through creative expression.

I hope you’ll join me. Make a journal page that expresses your sadness, joy, anger, fear and transform your feelings into a message of love and action. Write out your anger, fear, sadness and what you can do about it, figure out a way to dress that expresses your solidarity with those who are afraid or being harassed. Make dinner for a neighbor family. March or show up at a demonstration, raise money for an organization that’s threatened and/or working for change.

My hope for this website and for the classes I will teach in the future is to help people find a way to express themselves through art and through that process, define themselves and make changes to live with courage, creativity and wisdom. The world needs women and men of courage acting with deep wisdom more than ever. I truly, truly believe tapping into our innate creativity is how to reach that courage and deep wisdom.

Why Creativity is Important to Me…and YOU

Visual Journaling

 

Writing a journal and making things have been the creative constants in my adult life. I can trace their roots back to my childhood, but I want to talk about what they mean to me as an adult. I began writing a journal when I was in college, after reading the diaries of Anais Nin. I have been journaling ever since, for well over 40 years.

Writing in a journal is where i figure out what I am thinking and feeling. I don’t try to compose for others to read, I just write. Sometimes I’m dumping feelings, sometimes I’m trying to make sense of something that is worrying me. Journaling is a companion. I frequently carry a notebook with me so that if I’m alone in a coffee shop, or waiting for an appointment, I can write about whatever project I’m currently working on.

Making things, sometimes what I would call “art”, but also more utilitarian things is my other constant. Making art has always been a desire of mine, but it has been a struggle to let myself devote time and resources to it until about 10 years ago. I was at the beginning of a really difficult transition time, I read about an art retreat happening a couple of hours away. I had an overwhelming desire to go, and despite the voice in my head saying it was too much money and impractical, I listened to the desire and went.

Spending 4 days making art in classes and hanging out with women who made art making a priority in their lives changed me. Making art became a priority in my life. I connected with other women from the retreat and developed a supportive network of art making friends which has continued and grown stronger over the last 10 years. I have called myself an artist ever since that retreat. I still struggle with the inner critic saying it’s not practical, but more often I listen to the deep desire that called me to that retreat.

Making art and writing are both ways for me to examine my world. Both help me figure myself out. Playing with color, shape and pattern in a loose way while painting or making collage loosens my left brain/analytical mind and allows my right brain intuition to rise to the surface and make connections I wouldn’t so easily make with my conscious mind.

I teach classes that use the visual journal as a vehicle for exploring one’s creativity in a personal container (the journal or sketchbook). The visual journal is a safe place to play with color, shape and pattern in your own style. Even if you think you don’t have a creative bone in your body, or that you can’t draw, you will enjoy this loose and open structure.

The visual journal can become a tool for creative problem solving, allowing and inviting your deep desire to speak to you through art making or writing or both. I offer tools and techniques to help you access the answers waiting within you.

Please go to the classes and events page learn more about classes I offer, and be sure to sign up for my newsletter, so you are always up-to-date with the latest offerings.