So, you've gotten yourself a sketchbook, you've made it your own and maybe you've even written a contract with yourself on the first page. What is the next step?
The next step, my dears, is for you to . . . use the journal! No. YES! To use the sketchbook and write, draw or paint in it every day.
The next step is 10 minutes. 10 minutes, Bri? Yes, my lovelies. For your first foray, just 10 minutes.
I want you to just take 10 minutes a day to be with your journal or sketchbook. It can be right when you wake up, just before you go to bed or some other time during the day. It doesn't matter when your 10 minutes is, only that it's there. What do I want you to do with this 10 minutes? I'm glad you asked.
I want you to write.
I know, but hear me out. You've read, before, that no one has to see inside this book but you, so it's okay. I want you to spend 10 minutes each day writing in your sketchbook. (For bonus points, carry your sketchbook with you everywhere you go and record interesting things about your day: a snippet of conversation, song lyrics, a wonderful phrase that crawls across your brain.)
There are some rules for your writing. Trust me. They're easy, but essential. I use these rules every day in my sketchbook and they're the same rules that I use for every creative workshop I've ever led.
But first, some basic principles.
1) You can write. I know you can. How do I know? Because I know that you can tell your best friend a story about something that's happened in your life. That's all that writing is. It's relating your thoughts and feelings on paper. That's it!
2) For now, no editing. Don't worry about spelling. Don't worry about punctuation. Don't worry about any of the rules you learned in school. Don't worry about margins or capitalization. Don't worry about if you're writing a poem, drawing a comic strip or creating a dance. We're not editing, right now. We're just getting your thoughts down on paper.
3) You have something of value to say and contribute to this world. How do I know that? Because you're alive. Think about it. If you could find the journal of your great-grandmother that told about her life in her words, wouldn't that be a treasure? You bet it would. There is only one you in this world and if you don't tell your story, who will? Your story is part of the great puzzle of existence and what a great loss it would be to human history if we advanced into the future, missing even one piece.
4) You don't have to change who you are. I know that, growing up, teachers told you not to use the word "ain't" and that when you paint a tree, it must have brown bark on it. I want you to ignore all the rules and just be who you are on paper. Do you use the word "ain't" when speaking to your friends? If so, write it. We call this your "mother tongue." It's the voice and language that you grew up using, the truest way your mouth and heart speak. Don't take away the wonderful flavor of words that are uniquely yours just because, as one teacher told me, "Your readers are not going to know what a 'skiff' of snow is" or "Don't write 'shit.' You're a girl, for heaven's sake."
5) Choose your tool wisely. I prefer fast-writing pens. Often, my brain runs faster than my hand, so any writing tool that can slow down that lag for me is awesome. My favorite pen is this one -- the uni-ball Vision Exact. It's got a comfy grip, hardly ever leaks and is the fastest writing pen I've ever found. It's important that you find a pen that's going to be comfortable for you. You're going to be using it, a lot.
Now that we've got those out of the way, on to the sketchbook rules!
The Sketchbook Rules:
1. Keep your hand moving. Don't stop writing. Just keep your hand moving the entire time. If you stop and erase or back up, that means that you're editing. Editing will come at a later time. Our first goal is just to get what's in your head down on the paper, pure, unadulterated and beautiful. Even if what you want to be is a painter, writing will help you mine for images. Even if you want to be a dancer, writing will help you mine for what you want to emulate in movement. Just write.
2. No editing. Don't cross things out or scribble over them. Don't worry about punctuation. Don't worry about spelling. Don't worry about margins, incomplete thoughts or if you skipped a word. What we want is to get that creative channel flowing out of you, freely. Nothing blocks the creative mind more than 'should' or 'can't.' Just like you've got to smooth the dirt out before you can pour a concrete foundation, we must clear the way for the good stuff.
3. Get free, get courageous, get bold! Let yourself go where your mind wants to go. If your mind wants to spend your allotted time by doing nothing but writing what a horrible day you had, then write it. If your mind and hand want to spend 20 minutes just describing how the sheets of your bed remind you of the Sahara, do it. Go for what you want you want to write or sketch. Just go. Don't worry about much, right now.
4. Don't over-think. Say that, while you're writing, you come out with a line like, "My mothers' Amethyst Shell lips spat her poisonous words at me like I was Jeff Corwin." Your logic brain kicks in and says, "No. I should say 'pink' because no one else knows that Amethyst Shell was the color name of my mother's favorite lipstick." No, dearies. That's over-thinking. Just write what comes up and go with your gut of what feels right.
5. Don't shy away from touchy subjects. I know, my dearies. Each one of us has had pain in our life. If, in your writing, you come across something touchy, painful, emotional, scary, raw or taboo, I want you to go for it. Don't pull away from your experience. Write it out. Cut right to the quick and go for it. Some awe-inspiring gems lie in wait, there. I promise you.
6. It's okay to cry. If a touchy subject comes up and you find yourself with tears literally falling on the page, don't stop. Write through it. Write to the other side. Forget that 10 minute timer and just stay with it. I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me. I always come out the other side feeling better.
7. Don't beat yourself up. If you cross something out while writing, shy away from a sensitive subject or forget to do your 10 minutes for 3 days in a row, it's okay. Just make a mental note of it and move on. Write it again. Go back to the subject. Do 20 minutes and see what it's like. In other words, don't get that critic going in your head and abandon your dreams. It's a slip up. It's okay. We all make them.
That's it! If you reach your 10 minute a day goal and want to continue writing, by all means, write away. Write for 20 minutes straight. Write for an hour. Personally, my hand starts cramping after about 30 minutes and I need to stop to release the trigger points in it but if you can go a distance, feel free.
Another thing to think about when you're doing your 10 minute a day write is your own comfort, meaning how you feel in your body. My favorite place to write and create is a 24 hour diner. When I would go back to my hometown for the summer in college, my hometown didn't have a 24 hour diner. However, they did have a bar. From the time I was 18 until I was 28, I wrote in that bar, off and on. I got to be known there. I had my own booth which was the exact right height and there was always coffee for me to drink. I could read, I could write, and I could take a break and be a bit social, if I was called to.
Now that I'm a mama, going out to a bar and writing all night really can't be on my agenda. I now do my writing at night, in my own bed. My hubby falls asleep way before I do, so I sit in my bed with some TV show on Netflix in the background and write. Sometimes, I'll have a cup of tea beside me. Occasionally, I need to take a break to have a snack or just take a breather to mentally digest and refocus on what I'm doing.
I'd suggest taking your journal and trying to write in different places. Maybe sitting in the grass or up in a tree, you might feel comfortable. What about looking out a window with a hot cup of coffee beside you? What about in a cafe or some large chain bookstore, sipping away at some iced tea? Maybe your comfortable spot is at the kitchen table or snuggled on the couch while your children are doing their homework. Find what works for you, what allows you to relax and be with yourself and your pen.
So, that's it. You've got your tools and your rules. You've got some encouragement, now all you need is the time. Take these 10 minutes a day and create what you've always wanted to create in this world. Keep in mind that I'm rooting for you. The whole of existence supports you in this endeavor. Isn't that a great thought?
Until next time, you gorgeous people you, remember that we're all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel!