30 Days of Creativity: Journal Ideas for Artists

In January I set myself a challenge: to spend just five minutes each day doing something creative. I let the terms be both loose and attainable so that I would be more apt to complete my own challenge.

I bought myself an art journal and prompted myself to be creative for 30 days. Not all of my creativity fell into the realm of journalling, but I did use it on more occasions than not.

The idea was to get creative rather than worry too much about what I was doing.

But here it is, my 30 days of creativity. I hope my ideas inspire you to start a creative journal or challenge of your own!

Day 1 – Goal Setting

While this may not seem the most interesting or creative of prospects, it seemed the right place to start. Goal setting puts my head on straight. It helps me zero in on what I am hoping to accomplish.

The key is to create long and short term goals, and to determine what category these items fit into e.g. personal, professional, etc.

In five minutes I created six goals for Sasso & Company. These include:

  • 3 long term goals for the company (items that I will work on for the next few years),
  • 3 personal goals (specifically, what will I do to contribute to the success of the company’s short and long term goals).

Before I knew it time was up. I felt proud of myself for creating a list that will keep me accountable and help me focus on what I truly want.

Day 2 – Drawing

When I was in my masters program, I was afforded a lot of time to draw, paint, and generally be creative. Since graduation, I have spent little time with my art journal and I miss it.

Today I tasked myself with 5 minutes of drawing — I decided to use one ‘happy’ color and go for it.

Within two minutes I could feel my whole body relax, my mind focused just on the shapes and density/intensity of color that I was putting on the paper.

I forgot how good it felt to simply sit and draw.

After five minutes, I wasn’t ready to stop, so I continued until I decided the page was finished.

My mood has brightened, my brain has cleared, and I overall felt happier for spending a few minutes doing something creative just for me.

Day 3 – Movement

To ‘just move’ for five minutes was actually surprisingly challenging!

As dancers, we are so goal oriented with movement – even when we improvise. That’s usually because of a prompt, an audition, a movement that you are trying to link in a phrase.

I ended up recording most of my improv on my phone.

I needed it to feel productive, and I also was hoping that I might find a nugget of a phrase – something I can foster into a new piece. I’ll try movement again, but with a clearer directive.

Day 4 & 5 – Zendala

A mixture of a zentangle and a mandala. I recently learned this technique in an art therapy course and wanted to try it out.

I loved the focused in quality (active meditation). And oved that it took me a long time… I spent around an hour on it in total over two days and found that it really helped my mind to focus on the here and now, and to clear out the extra cobwebs.

I also like the challenge of creating in ink, since I couldn’t erase any section, only alter what was already there. This felt like a good exercise in acceptance.

Day 6 – missed

Day 7 – Free writing

I had no idea what I wanted to write about, so I just let words flow to paper for five minutes.

My stream of thought jumped from one idea to another including ‘I have no idea what I’m writing about’ to ‘I want to create more dance’.

The product is a jumble of thoughts that have been floating around in my head. Getting these thoughts on paper has given space in my brain to process new thoughts and organize the items that were swirling about.

I felt calmer and less cluttered after this exercise.

Day 8 – New Music

Music has been a giant part of my life for as long as I can remember. I have often bonded with friends over similar taste in music. I have spent a lot of time swapping CD’s with friends and searching online for the perfect songs for certain dances.

I put on the new Jack Savoretti album with the intention of just zoning out to his perfectly raspy voice. What happened, was that I allowed my mind to wander so far that it started daydreaming choreography (yay!).

I love when this happens.

I just let the images flow for a while until they coagulated into a solid stream (the beginnings of a phrase!).

In these instances I wish I had a pensive like the one found in Dumbledore’s office so I could perfectly preserve the images in my brain. Alas, I only had my iphone, so I opened up notes and got to work.

I have no idea if the idea will ever come to live in a piece, but I have it saved and waiting for the right moment to come to life.

Day 9 – Cooking challenge

This year, my husband and I are trying to incorporate one meat free day a week. We were cooking one night and had a realization that meat was at the center of nearly everything that we knew how to prepare.

I have had fun browsing online and in cookbooks for new recipes.

I have always enjoyed cooking. I find it to be very relaxing. Tonight we tried gnocchi in pomodoro sauce with baby spinach and it was delicious!

I had so much fun chopping, sauteing, and simmering this meal. I was able to creatively put the pieces together, decide how big or small to chop everything, and in the end decide just how creamy I wanted all the melted mozzarella to be (yum!).

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Day 10 – Drawing Shapes

I was stuck for something to do, so I grabbed my art journal and just drew shapes for five minutes. Quick, simple, and easy. Sometimes it’s just about committing to the five minutes to help make it a long term habit.

Day 11 – Video Editing

I turned a short movement improvisation into a 1 minute mini film.

I took me about an hour to clip, edit, and cut everything together. It was a satisfying way to get back into film editing after nearly a year away. I always love a challenge and enjoy exploring dance through the medium of film.

Day 12 – Choreography

I spent about an hour choreographing for classes. While I am trying to spend my creative time outside of work projects, I also recognize that everything has a crossover effect.

I am noticing that my creative juices are flowing more freely and that it is taking less time to get my brain working when I have a creative task.

This really excites me, as my major goal in this challenge is to help make a daily creative habit in my life.

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Day 13 – Blogging

I had fallen behind recording my daily creative endeavors in this blog, so today I am spending my minutes writing.

For me, writing comes and goes in waves.

Sometimes the words pour out quickly and other days (like today) I struggle to figure out an elegant way to recount my journey. But hey, I’m here typing and getting my creative minutes done, so it’s still a win.

Day 14 – Just Swirls

I grabbed my art journal and literally drew swirls in all different colors all over the page for 5 minutes. The result is a fun and free flowing page of color dancing over the entire page. This exercise made me feel happy and carefree.

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Day 15 – Movement

I created a short phrase to be used in a piece that I am working on. The phrase uses the method of accumulation, so A, AB, ABC, etc. It’s a relatively quick way to create a longer phrase.

Making an accumulation is also satisfying because repeating movements often helps me process how they link together. This process of repeating allows me to find new ways to attach individual movement to other phrases in a piece.

Day 16 – Cooking

I made a labor intensive, but all together tasty vegetable lasagne. I had to be creative with the recipe since a few of the ingredients weren’t available in the grocery store.

It was fun to challenge myself to think beyond the recipe. I’m proud of the product and happy I could feed myself and my husband a healthy meal.

Day 17 – Music and Movement

I created a new playlist and some choreography for classes today. I also had to think on my feet a lot while I was teaching.

I had a plan for my 7 year olds, but they had a totally different energy level than anticipated. Rather than being annoyed, I put on my creative hat, scrapped my plan, and improvised a fun class that left them all smiling.

Day 18 – Art Journal

I like a little bit of structure for any type of drawing project, so I started with a few large circles on the page that overlapped. I then divided them into smaller random shapes and colored them in until I was satisfied with the product.

Structuring my journal helps me to get started drawing, something that I struggle with. I find that once I have the initial structure, then I can let go and allow my brain to relax through the shapes and colors.

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Day 19 – Writing

I spent a few minutes adding onto a blog post that I am working on. I am trying to get back in the habit of writing. I find that a few minutes spent writing here and there has been helping the words to flow more freely.

Day 20 – Video Editing

I worked on the second video installation of a new work in progress for Sasso & Company.

I am using my improvisational phrases as the foundation of some brief, informal dance films.

Creating dance films is quickly becoming a favored hobby of mine. I am also loving how I can manipulate movement via film editing. What a fun process to explore!

Day 21 – Video Editing/Blogging

I finished up a blog post that I am writing and quickly edited a video that will go alongside it.

Day 22 – Art Journal

I came home feeling really agitated today. Rather than continue to carry that around and let in infect my whole evening, I pulled out my art journal.

For 10 minutes, I let it all out. Now those negative feelings are being held safely in my journal and I can go on and enjoy the rest of my night.

Day 23 – Free Writing

I let my mind wander and filled a page with my thoughts for 5 minutes. The stream went from random ideas to focused thought as I continued to write.

I find that unfocused writing helps me to get thoughts out of my subconscious where I can then focus them. This helps me to free up parts of my brain that are consumed in random thoughts or concerns, and allows me to revisit these thoughts with a rational, clear mind. In other words, free journaling helps me to process.

Day 24 – Movement

I choreographed on the spot for one of the classes I teach weekly. I had an idea to add some partnering into our phrase, but I needed the dancers to help me sort out exactly what movement would work and what wouldn’t.

Being on the spot can be stressful, but it also sometimes results in a fun and collaborative process between myself and the dancers.

Day 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 – Doodling

I started a small pattern in a corner of my page on day 25 and just continued adding to different parts of the paper with various patterns for the next several days. It has been fun to see the pattern grow, change, and take shape as is has consumed the page.

Day 30 – Art Journal

Determined to finish the month on a good note, I did my favorite type of free art journaling. I just put colors on the paper without any ‘rules.’ Often I set a goal of making shapes, or using certain colors, to help me focus, but for this day, I just let it flow.

My creative journal is a source of inspiration for dance ideas

After 30 days of challenging myself to create for 5 minutes a day I am noticing a big difference. My creative juices are flowing more freely. I am finding myself daydreaming more often and getting lost in random ideas for choreography.

For some, this might hinder their daily lives, but for me, this is the best way to stumble upon new and interesting ideas.

As an additional perk and unforeseen side effect, I have resurrected my art journal.

While in graduate school, I kept an art journal as both a record of my practice as an expressive therapist, and as a requirement of my course. Since graduating, I have let the practice slide.

Over the course of this challenge, I got back into my journal and realized what a positive practice it is in my life.

For me, a few minutes creating frees my mind:

  • I am able to take emotions from inside my body and leave them safely in the pages of my art journal.
  • I am also able to let my mind wander while I work, which allows me some time to process my day.
  • I leave my journal feeling lighter, less cluttered, and ready to move forward.

While I generally do not share my work, as it is not product oriented, I do like to keep it and look back on it.

I can reflect on a certain piece and further process what was going on in that moment. I am so pleased to have introduced this practice back into my life.

Use a journal to prompt yourself into creative ideas!

I challenge you to task yourself with 5 creative minutes every day.

Even if you miss a few days (I missed three), I think you will see a difference in your creative energy. At the end of the month I spent 670 minutes (11.2 hours) creating just for myself!

I feel happier, calmer, and overall, more myself.

My goal is to continue utilizing five minutes a day to be creative, making this creative habit part of my daily routine.

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