What If I Don’t Feel Artistic Today?

Some days, I wake up feeling the pressure of everything that has to be done that day, and taking time out to work in my journal seems like a luxury I can’t afford.

Some days, I am so exhausted at the end of the day, I just want to crawl in bed and sleep.

Some days, it’s just too much work to go find my journal, and dig out my art supplies.

Before I had some strategies for dealing with those “don’t feel like it today” days, I would sometimes have weeks or even months go by without journaling. I meant to. I wanted to. I just couldn’t find the time and energy.

Worse, I would start to feel bad about my lack of discipline.  The last thing I want is for my journal to become one more task on my to-do list for me to feel bad about not completing!

Does this ever happen to you?

Here are a few simple tricks that have helped me:

1. Just doodle.

Carry a small journal and pen around, or grab whatever paper is handy, and let yourself just doodle.

Sometimes I think my attempts to give you something new and different all the time on the blog creates a false picture of what my practice actually looks like. There are many, many days when all I do is some form of doodling.

2. Just look.

Allow yourself to simply leaf through your journal, or simply have it in your lap while you have a cup of coffee and let your gaze wander over the natural world.

Remind yourself that the main goal is to give your brain a healthy stretch break.  If you have your journal in your hands, you may wind up working in it, but you don’t have to make a

We spend a lot of time in the linear, chronological, task-oriented straitjacket of to-do lists, schedules and calendars.   A chance to stretch and wander and move freely is as important for your brain as for your body.

(Check out this article about how making art—any art—can help your brain stay healthy and sharp throughout life.  Or this one, about how doodling can help you focus and remember.)

3.  Just feel.

Unless something dramatic is happening, we can get so caught up in our tasks and schedules that we lose touch with how we are actually feeling.

Have you ever had a day when you are just feel a little “off”, even though there’s nothing really going on in your life to account for it?  Or maybe there is a reason, but it’s something like weather, or dealing with one of life’s little inconveniences.

I like to use my journal to simply “sit with the feeling”.  Using your journal to check in with how you are feeling can help you find the source of your discontent so you can take appropriate action.

Maybe you need a little self-care, or some companionship, or a break from a tough project.

Maybe you’ll discover your feeling shifts as you sit with it.

Here’s an example of one of my recent journal pages.  It was a grey drizzly day, and I was feeling uninspired and lethargic. Around 4 in the afternoon, I sat down with my journal and a cup of tea, hoping a short break would revive me a bit.

Two grey rectangles and gold poppy in vase.
Gloomy day in my journal.

I started simply recording (visually) the feel of the day. I painted a grey rectangle with water drips like the drizzle on the window.  A darker grey area underneath represented how dark the house felt without sunlight, and my tired mood.

Partway through, I realized it was too dark to even see much of what I was doing, so I turned on a lamp.  Then I made a gold rectangle to represent the lamplight.

Looking at the gold light glowing on the page made me feel cozy, and brought back memories of being curled up on the couch on a rainy day with a good book. The next thing, I knew, I was doodling a gold flower shape, and feeling content.

In the space of about 5 minutes, my feelings had transformed completely. Not because I set out to change them, but simply because I gave myself time and space to feel them.

And to let the magic of color and shape and the calm movement of the brush on the page give my brain and my spirit a little break.

So, pick up your journal, and let your brain and heart and spirit out of the cage of your schedule and task list. Five or 10 minutes isn’t really too much to ask, is it?