First of all, just for the record, starting over again sucks.
In my life, I’ve started over in many new communities, I’ve settled into umpteen new houses and I’ve also done the stop and start dance with everything from exercise regimens to arting practices many times. So I know all about starting over.
And here I am again. I sat down the other day to get back to my art journal and it was really discouraging. The whole experience. I struggled and strained. I felt like I’d forgotten everything I’d learned. I could have titled this post, “what happens when you begin with mud.” I should have.
So I stormed off that day, pretty sure all was lost. I nearly threw my journal and all my supplies in the trashcan. I was mad.
But of course the next day I had new perspective. I journaled about it for a bit and I gave myself some first rate coaching, I have to say. Afterwards, I sat down and created a page I liked very much. Hope!
So I thought I’d do an art journal jam on the lessons I (re)learned through all this starting over, which is particularly about starting up an art journal practice again. But I think these lessons apply to almost any other kind of starting over, too.
1. Acknowledge the obvious: Starting again sucks.
You feel like you forgot everything you knew. You’re filled with fear again and you miss what was just beginning to happen when you left off. Those times when you felt a little more freedom, a little less fear.
Now it feels like you’re completely back to the beginning of the learning. Blank page like headlights on bright. Total resistance. I couldn’t even get myself to sit down at my art table for weeks.
2. The only thing to do is start
Chances are the first page is going to be suck-y. Or maybe your first time back will be a total thrill at first. That’s happened to me before, too—until the next time after that. Either way, there’s no way through but through. You gotta get that first suck-y page out of the way.
3. Then start some more.
This is hard, too. You lose self confidence after that poor effort (at least in your mind). But turn the page. Start again.
4. A good place to go first is to words. Journal it!
I have a separate writing journal, some of the pages often ending up in my art journal, some not. Kvetch a little (this sucks!) Then give yourself a good talking to. Remember yourself and remember all the stuff you love.
Remind yourself what an art journal page really is, an experience of getting quiet and listening to yourself and playing, as Barbara Ueland says, "like a kindergartener stringing beads." Remind yourself that you know how to play.
5. Then start playing.
Have fun! Make something that comes from that quiet listening to yourself after all that loud criticism fades away.
6. And if possible, don’t stop this time!
The reason I’m starting up with my art journal again is because I stopped. Life happens and sometimes we can’t avoid starting over, but I’m afraid I have a history of stopping and starting over. But this is what I had to say in my art journal to myself at the end of my journal session and I loved it so much I knew what the next page in my art journal would be—and I knew it was something I want to share:
“You are very familiar with this starting over stuff; its a constant in your life...get through it again with faith that you will begin to grow roots and then shoots out of the ground...and then branches and leaves...but this time? Please keep watering. Fertilize often. Take care of me. Wouldn't it be wonderful to grow fruit?”