Doing the Artist’s Way course

May be an image of book

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

grayscale photo of man walking on tunnel

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 exercise: challenging your mindset in challenging times

I’ve been facing some personal challenges recently. Unexpected twists and turns that threw all my plans aside, forced me to shift priorities, and focus on things that I didn’t want to focus. That’s also one of the reasons why I haven’t been able to post here regularly, though that will hopefully change. I miss interacting with you guys, but also more importantly, regardless of what else is happening, I want to keep giving you journaling goodness, and inspiring your journaling journeys. 

Forced change is never pleasant, but it is what it is, and has to be dealt with accordingly. So today’s exercise reflects that: 

In your journal, answer this question: 

When was the last time you were forced into an unexpected, unwanted situation? What was it? What was your initial reaction? What did you then do to resolve it? How did you feel afterwards?

Do you believe now that whatever happened, happened for the best? Do you believe in that positive outlook that everything eventually turns out for the best? 


Do the above journaling exercise. Be honest with yourself. About your reactions to the situation, and about how you felt. Don’t sugarcoat anything.


Journaling exercise: dissecting your nearest and dearest

Well if that title caught your attention, I don’t know what that says about you :-) But in this exercise, we are going to dissect people closest to you.
Not literally. 
Just on the page. 
Who are the 5 people closest to you? 
What makes them closest? 
Why do you trust them?
Why do respect them?
Why do you love them? If you do?
Is there a pecking order among these five people? Be honest if there is. You don’t need to feel bad or guilty about it. 
The purpose of this exercise is to understand those closest to you, and by doing so, you understand more about your self. 

Journaling exercise: are you self-centred?

Image result for it's all about me

image credit

Too much self-centered attitude brings isolation. Result: loneliness, fear, anger. The extreme self-centered attitude is the source of suffering.

Dalai Lama

I had a conversation recently with someone who is going through a rough period, but what I noticed was that every single sentence was about them. Even when they were trying to talk about not hurting someone else, their sentence was phrased such:

“I don’t want to feel guilty for hurting my loved ones.”

Notice the sentence pattern. First, it begins with an ‘I’. That’s not bad necessarily. You could say, “I don’t want to hurt my loved ones.” or “I want to behave better towards my loved ones.”

But that’s not what that sentence does. It clarifies that the person doesn’t want to feel guilty for hurting their loved ones. So its’ not so much hurting others they are worried about, but feeling guilty for it.

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t talking about a horrible human being here. This person doesn’t actually want to hurt anyone. However, their focus is all on them. All they are thinking about is how it would make THEM feel if they hurt someone. Their focus is entirely on self, but superficial self. The outside self, not the inner self where self-awareness exists and makes you take stock of your behaviour and allow you to change it.

Self-centeredness can take many forms, from above where one is the sole emotional focus of one’s thoughts, to where one is deliberately using others for one’s benefit and all the degrees in between. It is also possible that you may not even be aware of how self-centred you are.

I believe in general human goodness, and I don’t think most people actually want to be self-centred. I think most people do want to be able to give and receive affection, have healthy relationships – but not everyone is consciously working on overcoming their internal triggers and limitations to achieve that. So that’s what this exercise is about. If you find that you are self-centred, or more self-centred than you thought, that doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person. Awareness is the key. You need to know exactly who you are in order to determine if you want to continue being that, or if some changes/improvements are needed. 

So ask yourself these questions:

  • When you are talking to other people, particularly people close to you, how often “YOU” are the sole focus of your conversation?
  • Do you ask someone, “How do you feel?” or “How are you?” and actually listen to them, or you can’t wait to get to your part of the conversation?
  • When considering other people, are you more concerned about how it would make you feel?
  • When talking to other people, are you often thinking about how they annoy/amuse/irritate/adore/inspire you? 
  • Do you find yourself ever thinking of others, in their own right, their problems, just wanting to listen to them for their own sake, because you care?
  • Do you think you are better than others in every way possible? 
  • Do you think you DESERVE everything in life – attention, affection, admiration – without having to give anything in return?

Be honest with yourself as you answer these questions, and give specific examples wherever you can. Don’t just give up at the first try. If you can’t immediately come up with an answer, try again. But answer these questions in as much detail as possible. 

Once you know the extent of your self-centeredness then you can work any changes you think you might need to execute to be the person you want to be.