“Cultivate the root, the leaves and branches will take care of themselves.”
Roots are a theme I’ve explored for more than fifteen years in my sketchbooks.
That Confucius quote has been with me just as long, when I first painted into a journal and then did used it as a journaling prompt during 2001, a year of loss, upheaval and grief.
The image below is one from that visual journal.
I was in the midst of a big series of changes, all at once. Relationship. Livlihood. Home. (Not recommended).
Plus five people in my life died unexpectedly that year. And those were just the physical deaths, not including the deaths of other relationships held dear that came abruptly and harshly.
I mention that because all the while, I kept creating, even though what I was making wasn’t anything “special” to me.
A lot of times I thought it was pure crap. I so longed to create something beautiful, to make something meaningful, to make something that I could share with others and that was marketable. Ha!
I looked at the work of other creatives in glossy magazines, and wished I could have what they were having: worldly success in expressing their creative voice. They had a style that connected with their audience. A unique quality. Where was mine?
If you’ve ever felt this way, like you’ll never find your own unique expression in a world of so much amazing art (and even more people who are copying whatever is popular), then I want to offer you three ideas for helping you see yourself and your own creativity differently.
These are 3 mantras, if you will, that you can take to your own private sketchbook, art journal, or notebook, whatever you use to explore your creativity.
1. Notice Patterns
If you allow yourself to journal in an experimental way, guided by intuition rather than outcome, you’ll notice that certain themes and images keep showing up.
Recurring images knock on the door of our psyche, asking us to open to the wisdom they hold just for us.
These recurring images become a visual vocabulary, forming a visual language that is as individual as you are.
This is where your unique style flows from.
Your unique style and voice is formed by showing up at the blank page and doing your work, your way.
Your unique style doesn’t come from mastering techniques, it comes from experimenting with your way of confronting the blank page.
Technical mastery can be learned and honed, and flows much more easily once your creative habits are established.
Your unique voice and style of working becomes a natural outcome—a gift—of your creative practice.
2. Follow Desire
Whatever images, ideas, things you are attracted to—whatever inspires you in this moment—is not random.
When we begin to trust and allow what we really love to arise in our pages, they provide clues and keys that unlock our innermost mysteries. This information helps us solve real-life problems.
Carl Jung said: The soul speaks in image.
Trust in the images that come to you. Put them down. Even (and especially) if you’ve done that image upteen times before.
Follow your desire to repeat certain images and themes. You probably won’t know what they mean right away, and this is good.
This is one reason why I guide workshop attendees to let go of interpretation and to avoid making comments on the content of what others make in their journals. Which brings us to…
3. Suspend Judgment
When we let go of attaching quick judgments and meaning to what we make, we enter the mystery of the unknown.
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘It is in the unknown where new thinking and ideas emerge.’ — Lisa Sonora” quote=”It is in the unknown where new thinking and ideas emerge.” theme=”style1″]
What we already know…is already known!
This is how the subconscious mind works. Working intuitively and freely in your journal this way is like Dreaming on Paper.
We have night dreams that are mysterious. Your journal is a great place to write them down or draw images from your dreams.
Eventually, meaning naturally arises. Clues turn into deeper knowings, flowing from our inner guidance.
In this way of working, your unique creative voice is formed by both your content and your technique.
No one else can replicate that, it’s truly your own work.
Bonus: you can use these mantras as you create no matter how you are feeling: about yourself or your work.
Which mantra stands out to you?
Also, if this was helpful, I’d love it if you shared this post. Thanks!