Why We Abandon Our Creative Work

"we have begun our real journey.” - quote by wendell berry

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do,

we have come to our real work

and when we no longer know which way to go,

we have begun our real journey.”

— Wendell Berry

Despite your best intentions for having a regular creative practice, it’s so easy to quit. To give up and then feel bad about it.

It’s tempting to think that “life gets in the way”. That we simply don’t have time for our creative work.

Now before you say, Yeah, BUT — stay with me. You’re here because you want to create, right? Well there is something that gets in the way of creativity, and this is true for everyone. That is, everyone who has a feeling bone in their body.

Let me explain.

I help a lot of people create more by first showing them how to keep a journal. So we’ll use this an example, because pretty much everyone goes through many stops and starts before they break through and find their own creative flow.

Want to know one of the best benefits of keeping a journal?

You don’t have to know what you are doing.

You simply sit down and write.

Think about that for a moment. Where else in your life to you have the luxury of not knowing what in the hell you are doing?

Where else in life are there are no consequences for pure experimentation? Other than wasting a few sheets of paper?

When you keep a journal, you don’t have to know:

  • What to write
  • How to write (well) – simply get the words down, stream-of-conscious style
  • What your writing means
  • How keeping a journal actually helps you, except that you feel better when you do it, and off-center when you don’t
  • What will come of all of this journal writing
  • Where your writing will take you


How the Unknown Trips Us Up

Not having to know what you are doing in your journal is a blessing.

There is no way to really do it right or wrong. There is only your way of keeping a journal.


Not knowing what you are doing can feel uncomfortable. Because it is human nature to avoid uncertainty. We live in a culture that rewards certainty, of having all of the “right” answers.

This is how creative exploration of any kind can turn into a curse.

When we have to know what we are doing, and we don’t have any idea, that creates emotional tension.

Confronting the unknown makes us feel uncomfortable. This discomfort can be extreme or mild. We often just feel a bit emotionally wobbly in some way. We don’t know why we feel weird, or how we’re really feeling, we just feel discomfort. And so to get away from discomfort, we abandon our creative practice.

A Creative Journaling Practice to Try

Just for today, try and be mindful of how you feel as you’re writing (or whatever your creative practice is).

Notice if you feel like avoiding the blank page. No judgement necessary!

Simply notice.

Then, try expressing your discomfort on the page. Suggestions:

  • write about how you feel
  • scribble how you feel
  • find an image that represents how you feel
  • try to name the feeling — it might simply be “wobbly”, or “uncertain”

When you are faced with uncertainty, with the unknown, the way to soothe the mind is by becoming aware of how you feel.

The temptation is to abandon our creative work when we feel discomfort.

Just being aware of this can make all the difference.

Let me know how it goes.

Blank Pages and Pretty Pencils for 30 Day Journal Project

30 Day Journal Project

Because writing saved my life, I have this passion project: To turn everyone on to the magic and power of regular, private writing.

So yeah, this is journal writing, in the sense that most people think of journals as something you keep private. But I’m not talking about Dear Diary stuff.

Writing has special power for us when we learn how to use it as a type of self-inquiry.

I wish someone had showed me how to write this way. Because boy, did I ever have to slog through a lot of boring, seeming pointless crap before I realized how writing could really help me.

In the 30 Day Journal Project, I’ve gathered up inspiration from 3o different writers, artists, philosophers and poets. Their words inspire my writing, and I create several writing prompts to share with you.

These writing prompts are what I think of as potent questions. Radical wonderings. Ways to access your own inner wisdom, guidance and answers. This is why I keep a journal, and it’s as life-giving as it is life-changing.

But it’s better if you just try it for yourself and don’t take my word for it.

You can get the whole scoop and join the 30 Day Journal Project here. It’s free to participate.

Here are today’s writing prompts inspired by Wendell Berry

Writing prompts for your journal…

I no longer know what to do about…

I no longer know which way to go regarding…

My real journey calls me to…

My real work might just be…

Video Writing Prompts

I’ve tried something new with this year’s 30 Day Journal Project and created a video of the writing prompts. I read the prompts to you, as you write along. Just like I do in my workshops.

Audio Writing Prompts

Prefer plain audio? You can get an .mp3 of today’s prompts

Why We Abandon Our Creative Work - And What To Do About It


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