When Words Fail, Try Art Journaling
Sometimes when I sit down to journal, words fail me. Especially when I’ve been writing all day, sitting at a computer looking at words over and over again. My brain is tired of strings of phrases created by letters. Plus, if I’m in a personal transition, and my mind is a swirling mass of chaotic neurons, making art helps to calm it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a strong advocate for journaling and writing through our transitions. But lately, I’ve been exploring art journaling as a woman in transition as well.
First let me say, I’m not an artist. When I was in elementary school, Miss Fry (my art teacher whom I’m sure was well-intentioned) told me that I could not draw a sun in the corner of any of my pictures. Instead, I had to show the affect of sun and shadows.
Geez, I was only in 3rd grade. I thought suns made everything look more cheerful. 🙂
Needless to say, I had no clue what she was talking about. Rather than trying to figure it out, I internalized her remarks to mean I had no artistic talent whatsoever. I stopped drawing, painting, or doing anything at all related to art. Instead, I read, took up needlework and music. I put my art-making insecurities on the shelf right next to my athletic insecurities, which I’m still dealing with!
Fast forward four decades to when I discover art journaling.
How I define Art Journaling
Much like with journaling and my yoga, I define art journaling as being a form of creative expression without rules and, therefore, without judgement, where the process is more important than the final product. Just when I journal or do yoga, I never intend for my journaling to win the Pulitzer prize or my yoga postures to grace the cover of a yoga magazine, I don’t art journal for perfection or for public pleasure.
I art journal for me as a means of creative play. And when I can focus on playing where I open to curiosity and possibility, I’m always amazed at what happens whether it’s on a page with my pen, my art supplies, or on my yoga mat.
So what kind of creative expression constitutes art journaling? Everything from simply gluing down words or images torn out from magazines, doodling with random doodles using crayons or colored pencils, collaging, to more complex mixed media creations. And you can always combine the journaling with the art-making. There’s really no wrong way to do this! There are just endless possibilities.
How to begin Art Journaling
If this idea of creating art in your journal is terrifying but intriguing to you, begin gently. Here are two easy ways:
- Add some color. Buy some colored pencils, a box of crayons, some new markers. In your journal, simply use a colored pencil or marker to write with. Maybe think about how you’re feeling at the moment, even write about it, (Right now I feel…. Right now the color that I’m identifying with is….) and then think about what color and what shape that feeling or emotion might look like. Make it simple. Is it a heart shape, or squiggly lines? Is it more circular? You are the only one who is going to see this so play. Be open to possibility here.
- Breathing/art making technique. Turn to a blank page spread in your journal (whether the journal is blank page, lined or filled with bullet dots, doesn’t matter). Pick up a marker or colored pencil in the color of your choice. Close your eyes, and place the tip of the marker/pencil anywhere on the page. Breath in, and as you breathe in, move the marker slowly in any direction you like for as long as you inhale. On the exhale, still keeping your eyes closed, change the direction of your marker and slowly move it until you reach the bottom of the exhale. Next inhale, change directions and so on. Keep doing this for maybe 8-10 breaths being aware of the breath guiding your hand. Then open your eyes and behold without judgment. Options now include to leave it as is. Or, you can begin coloring the sections (like I did below), or not, adding words, or not. You get to choose.
The Super Power in Art Journaling
There is a super power in art journaling. Actually, there are many super powers. But here are a few.
For one, art journaling can bring you into the present moment. It’s hard to think about the past or worry about the future when you’re playing with colors and art supplies.
Second, this creative play helps us practice acts of self-compassion and non-judgement if we can focus more on the process than the final product. If we can drop the labels– like “pretty” or “ugly” or “good” or “bad,” we practice just being with what is. If we can just observe what our thoughts are, or what we’re feeling when we look at our art journaling, we’re practicing mindfulness.
And all of this takes us closer to less self-criticism in general that often manifests as all the negative head chatter we listen to about ourselves.
Art Journaling is Good in Times of Transitions
Many times in our life, particularly during a life transition, we can feel as if life has spiraled out of control, like we have no power of it. Here, with art journaling, you get to choose what color, shape, and form the art-making process will take. You get to say when it’s done, or not. And this helps to develop what’s called agency, or the ability to assume direction and control of your immediate creative expression, and, by extension, your life. Agency helps put us back in control. When we act with agency, we make decisions based on our choices, and not those of someone else.
Have you tried art journaling?
I’d love hear your ways of creating/making art on the pages of your journal. Feel free to email me at Ginny(at)WomenofWonderCircle(dot)com.
Ginny Taylor is a life transition mentor at Women of Wonder where she guides women in life-changing transitions 0n a heroine’s journey towards a new beginning. Journaling and creative expression are some of the practices she helps women utilize on their transition journey.
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