Thursday, February 7, 2013


When I first began painting fifteen years ago I looked for advice and guidance everywhere. When a very famous artist told me the most important book I could get was The Artist's Way, I figured everything I needed to know from the proper way to set up a palette and hold a brush to what colors to use would be in that book. When I finally had it in my hands I was so disappointed to learn that it was a book full of self-discovery exercises and that the author Julia Cameron, instead of explaining what type of canvas to buy, insisted that readers start a journal. REALLY? I thought, this is going to help me PAINT? But I began.

I proceeded to journal every day for five years, first thing every morning, I'd write three pages in a college ruled, spiral notebook. It usually took about 45 minutes. No matter where I went, or what was going on in my life, I journaled first thing. This was at a time when I had a baby plus five children ages 9-14 and a garden center that was open seven days a week. My journal was like a best friend who I could call every morning before everyone woke up and  tell ANYTHING to.

I still keep a journal, but I only write in it once a week or so unless something really big is going on. It's a wonderful habit for this reason: it helps me see how I process things.

For years, one of my artist mentors has been Robert Genn who writes a bi-weekly newsletter. One piece of his advice that stands out above all is: fall in love with your process. I find that's true in creating art as well as in creating a lifestyle. Makes sense, right? After all, a well lived life is a work of art.

To fall in love with our process, we must first understand it.

Through years of journaling I've learned some things about myself that I've come to accept. One of the big ones is, I'm not consistent. I have ups and downs and times of inspiration and times where my well is dead dry. Sometimes everything I have ever produced looks great to me, sometimes it all looks like shit. Sometimes I make all my own meals, eat healthy, and feel noble for weeks on end, other times I fall back into drinking each evening and eating chocolate chips straight from a bag.

Each time I fall into a hole I wonder if I'll crawl out again, but having journals to look back on is helpful. I see trends, I see hope, I see improvement! My journals are like a  friend who can say, "Remember how you worried that you'd never have an original painting idea; that you couldn't afford to send even one kid to college; that you'd get fat and sick like your mother? Well notice how all those issues are long solved and in the past."

A  friend is someone you might not believe because she's too nice or has a faulty memory, but when your friend is your own words written down, you know her word is gospel.

I believe a journal must be written by hand and not on a computer. That way it isn't corrected as much and is harder to lose. Plus you really can take it anywhere.

Note: If you make yourself journal every day you'll often find yourself sitting down thinking you have nothing to say. That's what makes it more like a therapy session... things DO come up.

And with that, I'm off to find my notebook....