In your creative career, you may have dabbled in some less-successful projects and completely avoided others. Some for good reason, others because of ignorance or, honestly, because you're terrified you'll crash and burn. From social media advertising to maintaining and growing a popular YouTube channel, the creative industry is baffling and harder than you'd think to be truly great at, especially if you're in at the deep end as an independent author writing, designing, editing, formatting AND selling your books! Phew...
With most creative jobs, there's an element of luck, particularly in timing (getting in on a trend at the beginning) or in finding your tribe—reaching new fans and followers genuinely interested in what you have to say and, if you're producing products, what you have to sell.
A personal journal is just one of many places to go to transfer thoughts, anxieties and failures. You could store lots of ideas there too, even if many of them never see the light of day. Either they suck (which 9 times out of 10 is the likely reason, just sayin') or they're brilliant, but where you are right now, you're not quite ready to accept the challenge. Still, a journal is a safe space to vent and b*tch, moan and groan, upsetting no one but yourself, which will happen frequently across lots of coffee and tear-stained pages. When you use the journal, sometimes little seeds of inspiration or self-realisation will sprout! Occasionally, those seeds grow a beanstalk.
Whilst my Moleskine journal is a different design (limited edition) and has lined pages, you may prefer a dotted one if you plan to turn yours into a bullet journal. WHAT IS A BULLET JOURNAL?
in July 2020, I created a spread in my lined Moleskine journal (Peter Pan themed... thank you; I have taste), to focus on what I'm currently doing and managing creative work-wise in my life versus what I want to be doing and managing. I'd call this one of my beanstalks, because it helped me (emotionally and intellectually) a great deal. I'd been feeling stuck and a bit fed up for a while, and needed to dig deeper to find out why and, of course, how to fix it!
WHAT YOU DO NOW
Despite what you note down (whether it's a lot of things or just a few), you'll realise you do actually complete a lot of additional work outside your full-time job when you run a business or embark on a creative venture like publishing a book, which is effectively several hours of 'overtime' every night before you get to relaxing and home stuff. Seeing it on paper, you can finally acknowledge your creative stress for what it is... stress!
"I was searching for a way to comb through my responsibilities to define exactly what my personal mission was and in which direction I needed to turn. What would make me less stressed, creatively?"
WHAT YOU WANT TO DO
You may write the same amount of points for this as you did for the above, but seeing where you are now and where you want to be might temporarily increase stress levels. They'll appear especially hard to achieve because you're not there yet, which makes sense, right? Perhaps you have been plodding along for a while with little traction, suddenly worried that you have taken a step back—have you been wasting time or doing something wrong, and is there anyone successful you can model to learn more? Instead of writing what you want to do with your creative career, you might end up writing some hard-core goals. That's OK, too.
"I documented my love of reading, which I soon realised I had been neglecting... sometimes, I still do! I also noted that maintaining the high quality of work produced for other people is massively important to me."
So, in a final section, make notes on how you could achieve the things you want to do in the form of a road map or a blueprint; the transition might be slow and difficult, but resolving the feelings of overwhelm and replacing them with clarity is worthwhile.
HOW YOU WILL ACHIEVE THIS
The final points you write will be interesting. Put a real emphasis on hustle (especially if you plan to write a book in a month... hello, NaNoWriMo!) but within reason.
"I realised I wanted to work hard, as I always do, but not disrespect myself. I needed to enjoy what I was doing, so I could keep doing it."
Are people taking advantage of you in your industry because you're friendly and hard-working? Are your services or books so popular you're struggling to keep up with the demand? Instead, perhaps you'd like to do the agreed hours for the agreed fees, take regular breaks, not take on more than you can physically handle and avoid burnout? Sounds like a plan! Encountering rude clients is something every freelancer or creative individual experiences eventually, too (aka negative 1* book reviews... boo!), and we've all had a fair share, perhaps contributing to the way you're feeling now. It's time to let that negativity go, and think about the positive role model you've already been (and could be in future) for so many others.
THE ROLES YOU PLAY
"When I completed this list, I couldn't believe the number of hats I wore daily. To think I started with 1 in 2010—a teenager with a vision. Now, over 10 years later, I've added another 17... at least."
It's OK if you need to 'shed' some of these labels if only temporarily to allow wriggle room—figuring out who you want to be long-term. Some roles you could bring back occasionally, like podcasting or freelance jobs. Some roles you might want to replace with others down the line. Knowing what they are and why you feel that way will help you to decide how you'd like to proceed.
ROLES YOU COULD SHED & ROLES YOU ENJOY
"The things I wanted to keep were the things I really enjoyed doing (no surprise there, then!). Things I was good at, too.
Those I needed to shed temporarily were tasks I completed less often or could drop to open up many other intriguing possibilities."
This is where a 'Strip It Back' spread in your journal can be handy. From a pencil-drawn little planet in the centre representing your world and creative career, draw shooting stars to various points in the sky. Think about things you can realistically do to improve your creative life—remember, these changes can be minor.
"At the end of the journal entry, I wrote the following reminder on a sticky note, summarising what I'd learnt from journaling through my stress:
On your terms.
Take back your power.
Because that's what being a creative entrepreneur is really about, right? Being able to enjoy what you do on your terms—being the boss of your passion, your talent, and keeping control of your schedule so it doesn't run away with you. It's no fun if you're feeling stressed all the time, and writing in particular should be enjoyable for you, the author, before it can be loved by your readers.
After re-reading the notes from the exercise, which overall may take about 45 minutes, you might find what you truly want is to feel inspired by your work and empowered to make some changes without having to ask permission or seek approval. So, my little motto for that exercise was 'on your terms, take back your power, maintain control', to remind me that being an indie author is empowering and freeing and gives me complete creative control over what I write, when I write and how I write. There's no rush—I can sit back, relax, and enjoy my hobby.
A PROMPT - Allocate 45 Minutes
Open your journal to a fresh, empty spread. With a brew in one hand and your favourite pen in the other, write the headings from this blog post and fill in your thoughts honestly and openly.
If you haven't yet found your perfect journal, you can download the companion worksheet for this blog post below. Your journal (and/or this worksheet) is private and should be a safe, personal space for you to express how you feel. If you're concerned about other people reading what you write, consider buying a lockable journal or storing it somewhere only you have access to.
It's OK to feel the way you do, and writing things down so you can see what's bothering you about current and potential projects will help you understand why, and can reveal a solution. Sometimes, the way to resolve a problem has been right in front of you all along, but it's harder to see when your judgement is clouded.
Consider also, and perhaps this is something you can add to that final prompt section in your journal, is how less is often more. Taking on fewer tasks, or clients, or whatever your creative career entails means you can complete those projects fully and to the best of your ability without distractions or fatigue.
"Lots of us, myself included, get overexcited when there's something new to try—it's OK to make note of it and save it for later."
Regarding your recommendations and links, please refer to this website's policy.