“Culturing creativity can produce confidence, curiosity, communication, and connections.” As adults, we learn the valuable skills of self-care, and we consider creativity a precious possession. One strategy to achievement in these areas is journaling.
Julia Cameron, the author of the timelessly popular book The Artist’s Way, requires reader participants to complete three journal page entries every morning to help jumpstart their creativity, and unpack worry and stress in an effort for a clear mind during the day. As an adult, now practicing my “morning pages,” I’ve truly realized the incredible personal value it gives to me daily. Before I’ve set foot out the door, I’ve already unpacked a lot of the concerns clogging my ability to receive new information and ideas. I wish I had learned and begun this practice many years ago.
The closest resemblance to this in my childhood was a small, pink diary with a lock and key. I already knew how to read and write, and the idea was that the diary functioned as a vault to write and keep secrets in. Oh, the mind shattering secrets of my 8-year-old self! I must admit that writing in the diary was something more of a recreational novelty, versus a self-care practice. My childhood diary didn’t equate to the practice of the “morning pages” in my adulthood today.
How would my mental and emotional health and my creativity been affected if I had maintained a journal consistently during the mornings of my childhood? Consider this: Here we are sending our kids to a full day of school equaling eight hours of constant input, not counting after-school activities. And while we know children’s brains are growing and absorbing new experiences and information rapidly, how much more could they retain or process efficiently if they were able to practice the self-care technique of journaling themselves? Here are five ways I believe morning journaling would have benefitted kid Kristine.
1. Increased self-expression and emotional articulation
Journaling causes me to stop and focus on my own thoughts and feelings, and then attempt to convey them in some form on paper. This is a beautiful way to unearth my true emotions. Fears, desires, struggles, jealousies, and all the other raw emotional complexities emerge. Stopping long enough to experience the reality of their existence makes the feelings easier to identify and communicate to others.
2. Decreased stress and anxiety
It’s widely known that suppressing enough emotions can only ultimately lead to an explosion of some kind. Putting down worries and fears in a safe spot helps to minimize the out of control behaviors and extreme reactions from emotional build-up. Also I’m able to process through some fears and anxieties that may not be realistic. I can more reasonably evaluate these once they’re outside of my own head. It is possible for me to pinpoint difficult circumstances that I have survived and thrived out of, giving me strength and encouragement for future challenges.
3. Understanding of myself as a unique individual
Over time, journaling has allowed me to learn how I respond and react to different stimuli I’m faced with in my life. It helps me to see exactly what types of circumstances cause me to feel angry, help me to feel peaceful, and spark my creativity! In one sense, my journals exist as the chronicles of my innate personality traits, as well as those that are being shaped. They also record my own one-of-a-kind amazing, and sometimes hare-brained schemes for saving the world and making earth-shattering art! In short, journaling can nurture a sense of identity and self-esteem.
4. Better focus while learning
Without all of the clutter and complexity of stress and/or negative emotion weighing me down, I’m able to face the day knowing I’ve attended to some of that. I can be free to learn new information and skills, and accept advice and new friendships. I can stay focused on the task at hand without my mind wandering as much to neglected thoughts and feelings loitering in my brain.
5. Unleashed creativity
Finally, as an artist and art instructor, I find that the process of journaling opens me up to be present and available. When I approach a creative process of any type, especially in visual art, I have gained an improved awareness of my own stream of thoughts, including creative solutions during the process! The improved creativity and problem solving can be applied to more than art projects. It can be used by your children to creatively solve problems on school assignments, and in organizing tasks around the home. Later in life, creativity is an incredibly marketable skill. Culturing creativity can produce confidence, curiosity, communication, and connections.
Some of you might agree that these things could have helped you, too, or will benefit your own children. But what if your children aren’t reading and writing yet? Or what if they won’t accept this new idea? Let’s tackle the first issue of age and ability. Art journaling for children too young to write is valid. Instead of writing, kids can draw a picture (or a few pictures) about what’s on their mind. The picture can be about several things and doesn’t have to look a certain way when it’s finished. As a parent, just make sure to date the top of the page for them so when they’re older they can reference their growth by reviewing past journal entries. (As a side note, I always put the date at the top of each journal entry page of my own for this reason.) If your kids don’t accept the idea, I challenge you to model it for them. Adopt the process yourself, reap the benefits, and make sure your children hear about your new adventure. They may observe for a while and then ask questions, or show interest. You can even gift them with a beautiful, special journal of their own. Eventually they may choose to begin a form of daily journaling themselves.
Finally, you might be asking yourself, “What do I/they journal about?” The short answer is anything and everything. The freedom found in the journaling process partially comes from the absence of mandated content. As Julia Cameron directs, it can be a steady stream of consciousness (or ridiculousness). I extend her suggestion to include scribbles, doodles, and images of all types. As soon as you get out of your head all of the thought-life congestion, room will vacate for new, creative ideas to sprout up and for processing and nurturing these ideas. Give it a try with your family, and culture some creativity!
A creative adventurist, Kristine Peterson began her arts endeavors very young. In her identity, Kristine captured the love for all things creative, drawing from the time she could hold a pencil and leading her to Alfred University where she graduated magna cum laude earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She was trained as a studio artist in all mediums, ultimately concentrating in ceramics and metal foundry and fabrication work. A portion of her senior thesis exhibition was selected for an emerging artist’s show at the Kathleen Cullen Gallery in New York City. She first began teaching art while at Alfred University, even traveling to and living in Anan-Cho, Japan for three months to teach pottery. Following her undergraduate experiences, she worked as a tour leader for a traveling hands-on children’s museum. This allowed her to visit thirteen different states and over seventy-five different schools. With an ignited passion for art education, Kristine attended Mansfield University of Pennsylvania earning her Master of Education in Art Education degree. Upon her graduation, she received the Outstanding Art Education Award for her performance excellence in the program. She moved to Charleston from Pennsylvania in 2012 to work as an art teacher in the Charleston County School District. During her very first year she was selected Charleston County School District’s “Rookie Teacher of the Year.” She taught in the Charleston County public schools for three years. Kristine is now the Art Director and an Instructor at Black Tie Music Academy (www.blacktiemusicacademy.com) offering both art and music instruction for all ages and levels.