Doing the Artist’s Way course

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I’ve been journaling for over 20 years now, and I’ve tried a lot of different things. I have also done morning pages on and off a number of times. But the one thing I have never done is the Artist’s Way.

This has been weird 12 months for all of us. I think in one way or another most of us have been through personal crisis or some sort of journey. Over the last few months, I personally went through a lot of health issues, and when it was finally looking like there was a light at the end of the tunnel, I decided to do the full Artist’s Way course. A friend of mine agreed to do it with me, so we are doing it together, and at the end of each week we plan to discuss how that week went.

If you are not familiar with the Artist’s Way, it’s a 12-week course that you do by yourself (or with friends). You work your way through the book, completing each week’s tasks. There are two non-negotiable elements. The first is that you write three-morning pages every morning, ideally first thing in the morning. This is a stream of consciousness writing. The second non-negotiable element is that you go on the artist date each week, where you take your inner artist out and spend some quality time together. In the current coronavirus days, you can also find indoor activities. The purpose of the course is to free your inner artist from fears or censor or any limiting beliefs and allow them to find joy in their practice. At least that is my purpose. No matter how experienced you are as an artist, from time to time, we all need to replenish our well with a little TLC.

My first week of the course has gone really well. I’ve been very enthusiastic about this course. So much so that I finished all my week’s task by Tuesday. But I’ve been warned by more experienced people not to expect that every week. This is meant to be an emotional journey after all, so you never know what you might discover.

What do you need to do the course

You need the Artist’s Way book. Even if you are a kindle or an audio book user (I use both), in this instance I would highly recommend having a physical copy of the book. It would make your life a lot easier to be able to flip through the pages to check exercises and different tasks.

You need a journal to do morning, and an A4 notebook to do your morning pages. You can do both of those things in one notebook if you really want to, but I would recommend keeping them separate. Morning pages are ideally meant to be A4 pages. They are also meant to be pages you don’t regularly look back to (though Week 8’s exercise includes referring back to them I believe). This is the writing where what you write doesn’t matter, your spelling mistakes or your handwriting doesn’t matter. You are meant to write them as fast as possible, so this is not where your prettiest work will happen.

The journal where you do your weekly tasks can be as pretty as you want. It might also be helpful to refer back to what you answer for these tasks, as some tasks overlap across multiple weeks. It will keep things organised and tidy to keep those separate as while flipping back to previous week’s exercises, you won’t have to go through 7 days worth of morning pages in-between.

You need a comfortable pen. This is pretty important. Depending on your handwriting, the morning pages will take anything from 30 to 60 minutes. My handwriting is tiny, so they take me a full hour each morning. By the end of that hour, my hand is usually pretty cramped, though much better if I remember not to clutch my pen in a death grip. The first day I wrote with a heavier fountain pen, then switched to a lighter one and it made a lot of difference in my comfort level.

As with most journaling advice on here, unless you’ve a medical reason for why you cannot write by hand, I would suggest sticking to pen and paper, as opposed to a computer. Julia Cameron advises the same. The reason is simple – there is a process that happens when your thoughts form, and the time it takes you to write them down manually. It’s a slower act than typing for most of us. There is also an added element of engaging more of your senses and being more tactile when you write by hand. I believe it helps. Though if you hate writing by hand so much that you would rather do it on a computer or not at all, then by all means use a computer. The artist’s way – like all forms of journaling – is flexible. It’s meant to serve you.


Journaling prompts for the lockdown life

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

Let’s get straight into it. You are in lockdown, or in a semi-lockdown. You are spending a lot more time with yourself and in your own head. You want to journal, but don’t know what to write about or how to get started. No problem. These prompts will get you going. Just pick one at random, or use them in order. Use multiple prompts in the same session or do one a day. It doesn’t matter. Just go with it, and enjoy the process.

Journaling prompts 

  1. Have you enjoyed spending time in your home during the lockdown? Why or why not? Be specific and focus on the details and on your feelings. What do you like or dislike about your home or the people you live with? Are your surroundings comfortable? Do you crave more company or do you find this relative solitude refreshing?
  2. How have you used the lockdown time so far? All the time that you might have spent going to work, school, meeting friends, socialising, what have you done with it instead? 
  3. What is the one new thing you’ve learned during this lockdown? This can be anything?—?a skill, or a new way of doing things. For example, I acquired a whole new level of cooking skills and actually learned to enjoy cooking. Perhaps you learned a new language or learned to bake bread, or maybe you learned how to use Zoom. Whatever it is, write about it. How do you use it? Do you enjoy it? Were you forced into learning it? 
  4. How do you feel about how your government and the governments across the world have handled lockdown? Do you keep tabs on government updates? How does that make you feel? 
  5. Do you think other people are going through the same experience? Or is everyone’s experience different depending on their personal situation?
  6. How long did it take you to set into “the lockdown mode”? Have you settled in now?
  7. Do you feel anxious about having to resume a normal life, or are you excited? What about the “new normal” of wearings masks, cleaning hands, and maintaining social distance? 
  8. Has this lockdown made you reevaluate any part of your life? What changes are you going to make as a result of that?
  9. Has this lockdown made you reevaluate your relationships? What changes are you going to make as a result of that? 
  10. How do you feel on most days? Are you worried? Anxious? Are you feeling positive? What are you thinking about? What are you focusing on?
  11. Do you exercise regularly during the lockdown? What exercise do you do? How does that make you feel? 
  12. How do you feel about video calls? Do you spend a lot of time on them? Are they a good replacement for social contact? Or merely a useful work tool?
  13. Do you wear a mask when you go out? How do you feel about it? 
  14. Think about the person you were in February. Has anything changed since then? Do you feel that when the world does return to normal, you will do things differently than you did before? 
  15. What are you grateful for? List at least 10 things, and explain why.
  16. Who has made you laugh during this lockdown? 
  17. What books/tv shows/films have you enjoyed? 
  18. What do you miss the most about not being able to go out? 
  19. Are there any aspects of lockdown life that you see as positives? (i.e. not having to commute on a crowded tube)
  20. What is the one lesson you have learned? It can be a lesson about the world, about life, or just about yourself and how you want to do things.  

Action you can take today

Grab a pen and a journal and start journaling with these prompts. Whether you use them in order or at random, doesn’t matter. Just journal and enjoy the process.


3 ways to use journaling to cope with coronavirus

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Photo by Yohann LIBOT on Unsplash

I use journaling to face just about any problem in life. It’s my first go-to solution, and it has worked for me for years. I use journaling to focus on my personal growth, my mental health, and my professional growth to name a few areas. I also use it for my ever-changing hobbies. 

Last few months have been hard for everyone. We suddenly found ourselves in a strange world. We found our global world retreating within stately borders. While we’ve all been in the same pandemic, we’ve not experienced it the same way. Some people have lost their loved ones, others have lost their livelihood. Some people have discovered new hobbies, others have found more quality time with their families. People’s experiences have varied from extreme ends of positive to negative spectrum, and everything in-between. But even if you haven’t suffered any personal tragedies, if you are like most people, it is impossible to ignore tragedies happening around us. It is impossible not to think of some messed-up dystopian future when you step outside of your home and see people wearing masks?—?and view the world as what we are now calling “the new normal”. 

It’s too soon for “the new normal”. Our memories are not that short. We may have gotten used to the lockdown and staying at home, washing hands more than usual, and taking precautions when we go out, but many of us still long for the world where we didn’t worry about any such thing. Where a global pandemic was something that existed either in history or in fiction. 

But it is our present, and while there is not much I can do about the state of the world, I can do something about the state of my mind. And I can also help you do something about the state of yours. Just grab a journal and a pen and get started. These three exercises are incredibly effective.

But before we get into the exercises, set yourself up properly. Sit comfortably, and somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Grab your journal, or if you don’t have a regular journal, grab a notebook. I highly recommend writing by hand. If you want to know why, check out this post on hand-written journaling versus e-journaling.

Then start writing. 

Mind dump 

This is free writing at its best. Set a timer and just write. I recommend setting a timer for 7 minutes. It’s just short enough to not feel daunting but long enough for you to get into the flow. At the end of those 7 minutes, you may find that you still want to keep writing. Keep going. 

Mind dump means writing rather than thinking. Your paragraphs don’t have to make sense. Your words don’t need to be spelt perfectly. Just let the words tumble out. Write with your heart. Write your worries, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, even the petty argument you had with your loved one. It doesn’t matter what you write about. Let your subconscious dictate that. This is about the emotional release and letting out the frustration. 

Depending on what you are focusing on, you may feel a number of different emotions. You may feel a sense of relief as if you have just vented. You may feel down if you have focused on painful memories. You may feel relieved if you have written things down that put things into perspective. You may feel happy if you wrote about the positive things happening in your life, or just in your mind. Some problems are genuine. Others are fixable by changing perspective. But this exercise is not about fixing anything. It’s just about letting it all out. 

Make a list of things that are worrying you

During this time, this is important. Collectively, we are all worried about coronavirus and its impact. But on an individual level, people are worried about many different things. We are not going through an identical experience. Depending on where you live, who you live with, how much money you have, what other challenges you face, what job you have, and numerous other factors, your experience and your worries are unique to your situation. So make a list of things that are worrying you. But be very specific. Don’t just say “I’m worried about coronavirus.” Why are you worried about coronavirus? Are you vulnerable and at a higher risk? Are your loved ones? Are you worried about coronavirus’ impact on your child’s education? Are you worried about losing your business? Whatever it is, be very specific. 

The point of this is to burst the bubble of vague fear. There is so much negativity in the media that it’s impossible not to be worried about everything and feel like the world is going to end. But we are here, and life continues. So instead of focusing on a big cloud of fear that just follows you all day, break down your worries, make them specific. 

You may find then that some of those worries are small things that perhaps you don’t need to worry about. It might identify some worries that you can fix. For example, if you are worried about being made redundant, perhaps you can start preparing and brush up your CV. Maybe you can start thinking of ways to make small money on the side. 

That is not to say that all your worries are baseless. They are not. But this list should help you identify which worries deserve your mental energies and which ones don’t. 


It’s important to end on the positive. Especially when you are surrounded by negativity and fear. 

For this exercise, make a list of at least 10 things that you are grateful for. If anything, coronavirus has reminded us that things many of us take for granted, like health, are not available to everyone. If you are healthy, you’ve something to be grateful for. If you are healthy and have a safe roof over your head and enough food, you are very lucky. If you have all of that, and people who love you, you are massively fortunate. Appreciate that. 

Yes, problems are relative. Just because you have those things doesn’t mean you have to be content with your lot in life. You are still allowed to want more things, strive for things, complain about things. But during this exercise, just focus on what you have, rather than what you don’t have. 

Make that list. Say “Thank you” out loud, after you write each point. Just be present in that moment, as you thank god, the universe, whatever for each of those things. It will make you feel better. 

Action you can take today

What are you waiting for? Go do those exercises. And if you are really committed, do them at least once a week. The gratitude one, I recommend at least 3 times a week.


Journaling in time of coronavirus

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My last journal – My current journal (pretty apt for the times we live in)

How are you all doing? I hope you and your loved ones are well during this strange time that we are living in. Who would have thought, a mere six months ago, that entire world would be experiencing the same crisis. But here we are.

I’ve been in the lockdown for over 4 months now. Things are starting to open in the UK, but I am still cautious about where I go. Things are most definitely not back to normal and I don’t think they will be for a while.

If there was ever a time to journal, this has been it. We’ve all been home, close to our notebooks and pens, with more emotional chaos and uncertainties. I’ve continued to journal as normal. What might surprise you is that my journals include very little information about coronavirus or what’s happening in the world. So from a historical perspective, my journal would be pretty useless. I don’t care, as I am not writing for posterity here.

So why is that? Why not write about what is possibly going to be one of the most significant periods in my life time?

Because I didn’t want to dwell on it. It’s that simple. My day job is all about coronavirus and I focus on it every single day. It takes a lot of energy to do that. And overall, what is happening is quite depressing. News, in general is just a downer. If I were to record all that in my journal, that would be even more time I am spending, dwelling on it. No, thanks.

So instead, I journal about whatever is going on in my head, or things I want to focus on. Sometimes, it is about coronavirus and the state of the world, but more often than not, it’s about personal endeavours, my personal struggles and my personal ambitions.

I also tend to keep my journal a place for positivity. So while I do have rants, and sometimes even have a go at myself for not doing what I set out to do or for not being as good as I set out to be, overall I focus on things I want to do and the person I want to become. This changes of course. It changes depending on mood, but also where I am in life. Indirectly, despite life still being busy on a day-to-day level, coronavirus has given most of us a break (not necessarily a welcome break for all) from our usual routine. It has disrupted the routine of our lives, and forced us into trying something else. It’s not been easy for a lot of people. I’m in more fortunate position than many for just being employed, and having a safe place to stay. I hope you are too. But even then, we all have our individual struggles, and this forced disruption has perhaps also resulted in some forced reflection for some of us. My journals include that as well.

It’s not necessarily changed my life or given me an incentive to do something drastic. But it has forced me to reflect on whether or not I am going in the right direction, whether my current actions are aligned with my long-term goals, and it has allowed me to discover a brand new hobby in cooking, and the joy of that process. All these things make into my journal, and it becomes a mix of both reflection and discovery. So it doesn’t matter if my journals are not going to be historically important, they are helping me in the here and the now. And I think that’s a great way to use your journal.


Journal about your here and now. Where are you in your life? Is that where you want to be? Are you enjoying the process and the journey of where you are? If not – how can you pivot?


Journaling to just feel better

Journaling is more about one’s inner life than outer life but you can’t dismiss that our outer life has a lot of impact on our inner life. So when your life, in general, feels difficult, or just too busy, too stressed, too anything – journaling can help.

Today, I am feeling super gloomy. There is no particular reason. Perhaps a multitude of small reasons. I have also been having such a packed summer that I am quite worn out. Yet, there is still no time to just be because of prior commitments. So I turn to my journal. I pour out the words, feelings, sometimes irrational feelings but worth mentioning nonetheless. It’s better than keeping it all in, because if I keep it in, it churns around in my mind, exploding into a bigger thing. It’s better than constantly barraging people in your life with your moaning because really, there is enough gloom around.

So today, I am journaling, just to feel better. There doesn’t have to be anything worthwhile written in there. There doesn’t have to be a stroke of brilliance or great writing skill. It’s not poetry. It’s not literature. It just is. It reflects my mood today, what’s on my mind, and it makes me feel better as I get those words out. 

Your journal can do that for you. It can’t fix everything. It can’t offer you a permanent solution for all your problems. But it can sometimes bring that temporary relief. And sometimes that’s enough to just get you going. 

It’s important to value our feelings. To acknowledge how we feel. Our society is so used to giving the standard answer “I’m fine” that we start doing it even to ourselves. We tell ourselves we are fine. Except that we are not. Lying about how fine we are, only leads to bitterness, which actually makes you less appreciative of the good things you do have. So instead, acknowledge that some days you are not fine. Some days you are just angry, hurt, sad, bitchy, gloomy etc. And get those feelings out. Process them. Give them room to make themselves known in the privacy of your journal, which is your safe space. By doing that, you may also just get to know yourself a bit better. 


Pick up that pen, get your journal, and write your heart out. 


Sometimes you need a break…and it’s okay.


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Have you ever felt like simply not doing something even though you wanted to? Have you felt lack of motivation, or lack of ideas, or lack of energy? Have you decided at times that you can’t be bothered?

You are not alone. It happens to all of us, and for the most part, it’s okay. Sometimes you just need a break.

It’s been a while since I wrote here. At least couple of times a week I thought about writing a new article here. It wasn’t the shortage of ideas. It wasn’t the shortage of belief in the power of journaling. But for some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to write anything here. I felt I was being lazy, not good to my readers, that maybe I had nothing left to offer. But at the same time, I knew it wasn’t true because I’ve tons of drafts and ideas, and I am still going on about journaling to anyone who would listen.

I still journal, still see the benefits of it and still miss it when I haven’t done it for a while. But something wasn’t right.

I felt that there were too many things on my must-do list. Too many things I was trying to achieve at the same time. That is probably never going to change, but from time to time, you just have to take a step back and reassess your priorities. That’s what happened to the blog. There were too many admin issues going on that were taking up my time and energy, so I decided to shut down Kaizen Reading. I decided that I didn’t need to have a separate blog about reading and its advantages and that I could consolidate it with my writer blog at But journaling still needed to be expressed. This helps people. This brings us journalers together. And besides, Kaizen Journaling means way too much to me, and I’ve put so much effort into this, that I knew I couldn’t stop doing it. But a break – even unplanned one – was okay.

Because sometimes, you just can’t be bothered to do something. I didn’t want to force this. This is what I love. Yes, sometimes when you lovely people buy my courses or books, it earns me a little money – but for the most part, this is a labour of love. And I want it to continue to be so.

It was good to have the break, to get some perspective, and to decide how I see Kaizen Journaling now and in future. Because talking about journaling here is kind of like my own journaling. Sometimes, I may take a break but I will always come back.

I hope you give yourself a chance to have a break when you need it too. Even if what you need a break from is important to you.



Decide if you need to take a break from something to gain some perspective. Or journal if you have taken a break, and how did that work out for you?


Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas

Hello Kaizen Warriors,

I hope you are all doing well. For me, this year has just flown by, and it feels like it has been full of challenges – more than usual. Journaling, therefore, has often been an immensely valuable practice. The only thing to clear my mind. I hope you are journaling too, whatever your reasons, and finding value in it. I know this year, posts have been infrequent. My apologies. Next year, I hope to get back to some semblance of normalcy. I hope. 

But my notebooks are still being filled. Hundreds of pages. Keep filling your pages too. Whether it’s to record your life, to clear your mind, or to find your way out of a jumble…all of that is available with a pen and a notebook. 

I wish all of you the best during this holiday season, and for the new year. 

Thank you for being here. 

Happy Christmas,



Handwriting evolution in my journals

Handwriting is an incredible thing. So much of an individual’s personality is infused in it. If you are a regular reader of Kaizen Journaling, you know that I am a big advocate of handwritten journaling. Recently, I was talking to a friend who also journals and we were talking about handwriting and how it’s evolved over time. 

So out of curiosity, I dug out my first journal. I started journaling in 2000, but my first journal lasted a while. 

The first picture is from September 1, 2002.
The second picture is from September 11, 2017.

I found the evolution of my handwriting interesting. The fact that it has kept its neatness, but it is distinctly different. I seemed to have shaded all the flourish and go for far more straight-up efficiency now. And probably gotten stingier with old age, as my handwriting is far smaller :-D

How about you? How has your journaling changed over time? 


How to take emotional inventory in 7 Days

How often do you react in a certain way and then regret it?

How often do you say things in annoyance or anger and then wish you hadn’t? 

Perhaps you don’t even realise it. Perhaps you think it’s perfectly fine to be often annoyed, irritated, or angry. Now think about it – is that really how you want to spend a large part of your day?

Our emotions, our actions, and our emotions tend to be cyclical. If you feel annoyed, you act annoyed. The fact that you act annoyed, actually just feeds that annoyance, making you feel even more annoyed. Instead, if you choose to smile, choose to surround yourself with positive things that make you happy, then the chances of you feeling better are much higher. 

However, most people like to hold onto their annoyance. When they are feeling negative emotions, they don’t want to replace them with positive emotions. 

Most people claim that it’s because they are upset and so cannot feel happy. 

However, exactly the opposite is true. You cannot feel happy because you choose to hold onto your negative feelings. 

I’m not saying that it’s a blanket solution, or that you can be perpetually happy. However, most of the time, at least for day to day small irritations you have a choice of whether to let them get to you or not. It’s easy to let them get to you. It takes some effort, at least in the beginning, to not let them get to you. But the effort is definitely worth it. 

So if you want to start filling your days with a generally positive vibe, then this exercise will be of use. 

Take your emotional inventory

Over a week write down all emotions you feel

Make two columns: Negative emotions and Positive emotions. 

Keep that with you. And throughout the day, whenever you feel one emotion or other, write it down. It doesn’t have to be a long entry, a paragraph, or even a sentence. Just jot brief notes that will remind you of your emotion. 

For example, a man on the train joked = funny / a man pushed me rudely on the train = annoyed 

Just keep a log for a whole week. From the time you wake up until you go to bed.

The following week, have a look at those collected notes: 

What do they tell you? Do they show you a pattern? Do they tell a story of how emotions control your day? Are some days more positive than others? Why? Do you tend to be more positive or more negative? What are your thoughts on this? What can you change? What can you do differently? What can you do more of? 


Where does your motivation come from?

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Recently, I seem to be surrounded by personal challenges. But I also come across many people who are surrounded by their own challenges. Conversations with them, listening to or reading various personal development material, either confirms what you know or gives you insight into how different minds work.

However, one thing is certain – the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. When you are motivated by things outside of yourself, it’s much harder to face challenges. Whereas if your motivation comes from within you, then no matter how hard the road, you can continue on the path, looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. 

So what does it mean?

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside you. For example, when you want to lose weight because of how other people may perceive you. Or when you pick a career you hate, just because it pays good money. It could be things like signing up to do something because of peer pressure, or because you think you should. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be good at those things. Many people are. But it will almost certainly mean that you won’t be content doing those things, and when they become difficult, it will be much harder to rise to the challenges with a positive attitude, because you didn’t really want those things in the first place.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is what drives you, regardless of results. I write, for example, because I must. Sure, I hope that I can make a career out of it, but even when it doesn’t earn me anything, I write. When you exercise, because you want to feel good from the inside, because you want to feel the vitality and health pulsing through you, that’s intrinsic. When you strive on to save a marriage, be there for your kids, or your friends because you value those relationships, that is inner motivation. When we are driven by intrinsic motivation, while the road isn’t any easier, it’s certainly more bearable. Because you know why you are doing what you are doing. You know why you are putting in the effort or waiting for the right time. You know why whatever pain you are going through may be worth it. Intrinsic motivation makes the struggle less gloomy. 

As I’ve been going through challenges, often feeling very down, stressing out enough that it gave me a bit of insomnia, I never lost sight of it being the right thing. I had to go through this phase, in order to grow. I had to face challenges so that I would be out of the rut I was in. And I had to rise to these challenges so that I can take that one more step towards fulfilling my potential. Because our potential isn’t finite either. It can grow or shrink to accommodate our ambitions and drive. Intrinsic motivation can be that all-important glimmer of hope. When nothing seems to work, that’s what you can hold on to. You can keep telling yourself, to keep moving, one step at a time, because you know you are moving in the right direction. It may work, or it may not, but the journey – when fueled by the right motivation – will give its own rewards. You learn and you grow, and when you come out on the other side, your potential will have grown that little bit more.


For whatever challenges you are facing now, think about how you are dealing with them? Are you motivated to deal with them because of extrinsic or intrinsic motivation? What drives you? What is your light at the end of the tunnel? Let that sustain you with a positive outlook.