Week Two-Does journaling make me creative?

This week I followed in Emily Carr’s footsteps and wrote in a journal. And like Emily,
I did not do it daily. I let it come in snippets or torrents. A day might pass or two, and when I picked up I wrote about what was unfolding and as she did, stepped out of myself far enough often to see my part in it all. I’m sure there isn’t a one of you reading this that hasn’t kept a journal at some point. Perhaps, as have I, with wildly differing levels of commitment.
Emily Carr writes in Hundred’s and Thousands that member of the Group of Seven, Lawren Harris, encouraged her to journal because it would assist her artistic process. Emily’s’ journal isn’t unlike journals I’ve kept. Mixed in with the daily shopping list of visitors and events are sharp left turns into self pity, doubt and fear about ones’ own talent and purpose. One of the gifts I’m receiving while reading her journal is that while she frets over whether she has anything of merit to say in her paintings and fears that she is a fake and a failure, I currently can walk a few blocks to the Victoria Art Gallery and see a show celebrating her artwork-her voice in paint. Her voice is important. Her struggles, I can gratefully say, did not stop her from her pursuit of communicating the depth of the soul of the BC forest. It’s a shame isn’t it, that we can’t actually fast forward 50 or 100 years down the road to see what our efforts will have wrought.

“I have done a charcoal sketch today of young pines at the foot of a forest. I may take a canvas out of it. It should lead from joy back to mystery-young pines full of light and joyousness against a background of moving, mysterious forest. Last night I dreamed that I came face to face with a picture I had done and forgotten, a forest done in simple movement, just forms of trees moving in space. That is the third time I have seen pictures in my dreams, a glint of what I am striving to attain. Perhaps some day I shall get things clearer. Every day I long for the woods more, to get away and commune with things. Oh spring! I want to go out and feel you and get inspiration. My old things seem dead. I want fresh contacts, more vital searching.”

From Hundreds and Thousands by Emily Carr Sunday, January 18th

What did writing in this journal offer me in my search for inspiration and creative release? First off it helped me get past the inner critic and freed me from my personal ‘story’. The journal served as a ‘virtual’ life coach for me. You see, one of my roles as a coach is to assist clients in stepping out of the swirl of life and to look back at it as an observer. When you can step out of your life and all its’ pushes and pulls and hooks, you can actually get a perspective on what is happening. Perspective gives space and with space, you avail yourself of the opportunity to make different choices moving forward as you see your situation more clearly. Emotions? Love them, but boy do they make things complicated. The stories that get written where emotion is involved can put me in a vice where I just keep spinning in the wheel. The journal became a moment to step off the wheel and breathe and write the facts as well as to write my impression of them colored by my emotions. To go back and read it, even the next day, was like sitting in the audience watching a play. I thought, “That heroine in the story shouldn’t get so wound up by that. Why did she make such a big deal about that?’ And ‘That heroine sure made a drama for herself. Why did she continue to shove more appointments in a day when she knew she needed a break? What the heroine takes on every day isn’t realistic. No wonder she is exhausted and grumpy’. I felt a bit like I was watching Pride and Prejudice. Assumptions and mistaken notions abound. The journal helped me step out of my own story. I see it can be a tool for me to step out of my story and make positive changes in my life.
That was a happy by product, some freedom, but I’m really looking for are keys to my inspiration and creativity. What did journaling offer me in that?

I spent Friday of this week in bed with a cluster headache, unable to move for most of the day. A cluster headache feels like someone wedged an ice pick behind your eye and there it sits for hours. Reading back over my journal, I can see the signs that I was going to get this tension induced headache. I see in my journal entries my complaints about too much to do, and not enough time. I hear my tired stressed voice over and over again. And who created the schedule this week and didn’t take care of themselves? Me. Thanks journal, I say with gritted teeth.

At the end of the week as I right this blog post, I wonder, what is my answer to the question-Does journaling make me creative? Journaling this week for me offered a glimpse as to what I am doing that exhausts me and after a day spent bed ridden with my headache, I can say there is no creative juice in that. There is only one foot in front of the other and a ‘To Do’ list.

August 12
I thought my mountain was coming this morning. It began to move, it was near the speaking, when suddenly it shifted, sulked, returned to obscurity, to smallness. It has eluded me again and sits there, mean, puny, dull. Why? Did I lower my ideal? Did I carelessly bungle, pandering to the material instead of the spiritual? Did I lose sight of God, too filled with petty household cares, sailing low to the ground, ploughing fleshily along?”
From Hundreds and Thousands by Emily Carr

Ah, yes, even Emily Carr struggled with petty household cares, as I do. Cleaning, book keeping, laundry and the like.

I didn’t sing at all this week, after declaring it was to be a week of work with a new role to learn for an upcoming contract. I’m also designing all new content to relaunch my website in February which sat untouched this week. Creativity is my having the energy and the resources to work on my web project, research my role for the opera, and to come with ways to support my challenging 12 year old son who is bored at school. The journal shows me what I let get in the way. It gives me the chance to make next week different. Even Emily Carr struggled with daily life while trying to make space for what her heart called for.

Next, I follow her lead with aligning myself with like-minded people. Emily drew inspiration from her visits and correspondence with the group of seven. This week I will be connecting with people, who are not in my industry necessarily, but whose energy gives me energy. Let’s see what that unleashes.

On Thursday, November 17th Emily writes of her time with the Group of Seven

“Oh, god, what have I seen? Where have I been? Something has spoken to the very soul of me, wonderful, mighty, not of this world. Chords way down in my being have been touched. Dumb notes have struck chords of wonderful tone. Something has called out of somewhere. Something in me is trying to answer.
It is surging through my whole being, the wonder of it all, like a great river rushing on, dark and turbulent, and rushing and irresistible, carrying me away on its wild swirl like a helpless little bundle of wreckage. Where, where? These men, this Group of Seven, what have they created? A world stripped of earthiness, shorn of fretting details, purged, purified; a naked soul, pure and unashamed; lovely spaces filled with wonderful serenity. What language do they speak, those silent, awe-filled spaces? I do not know. Wait and listen; you shall hear by and by. I long to hear and yet I’m half afraid. I think perhaps I shall find God here, the God I’ve longed and hunted for and failed to find. Always he’s seemed nearer out in the big spaces, sometimes almost within reach but never quite. Perhaps in this newer, wider, space-filled vision I shall find him. Jackson, Johnson, Varley, Lismer, Harris-up-up-up-up!”

2 Comments Week Two-Does journaling make me creative?

  1. Richard Hurst

    I’ve kept a Journal since my early twenties – over forty years (way over). That’s a LOT of pages. I used to do it daily (handwritten)and then weekly (on an old Commodore 64! and then moving up the scale) and then … well, let’s just say I start feeling guilty when I’ve not written something for a month or more. In the eighties, I started including pictures – polaroids glued onto the pages and now, I just include them from photoshop directly into the text. There are thousands of pages! I’ve even had a number of them Cerlox bound and there are a lot of volumes.
    The most wonderful thing about keeping a Journal is getting to re-read entries from years and years ago. It can also be terribly embarrassing and humbling. “HOW did I ever THINK that?” “HOW did I ever DO that?” “WHY did I ever do that???” Getting a taste of WHO one was ten, twenty, thirty years ago can be terrifying and, like I said, embarrassing. The detail into which one goes is the most interesting part of re-reading the Journal, the small thoughts and ideas, the loves and losses, the heights and depths of a long-ago person. I’ve also kept letters to and from a particularly cherished friend back in Montreal days in the sixties. At one point, I re-read them (they were pretty regular and numerous) and found myself actually crying at the spirit, hope and undaunted enthusiasm of the young man that I was then. Its not easy to look back sometimes, but the great solace that comes from revisiting who one was can buoy and confirm the path on which you find yourself. Basically, what I’ve learned from those re-readings is that I’m a Good Guy and, it would seem, always have been. I know that because of the words I’ve taken time to set down over all those years. Journal-ing is a method of purging and divesting the challenges, but its also a Personal History Document. I just hope they get buried with me! Maybe I’ll put that in my Will.

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  2. Alicia Woynarski

    Thanks for this post! If you like journaling and want to commit with even more like minded people in the arts. May I suggest joining the online Artist’s Way forum. The 12 week course of the Artist’s Way focuses on the things you and Emily Carr are already doing – unleashing the artist within through journaling. It also has great projects at the end of each chapter that help stimulate creativity. Perhaps you’ve already taken the course…but if you are looking for continued support..the online forum is great for that. It also can be anonymous which in turn allows even more freedom to share the artistic journey with similar artistic minds.
    Your post has reminded me of a few good energy people in my life and books that I want to revisit as well. So thank you!

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