Archives for August 2012

Value-Based Leadership: Making the Invisible, Visible

You teach company values during orientation and when providing performance reviews, and the marketing department has given you a set of value posters for your office wall, but do you know how to make them come alive in your own life? If you don’t, it’s going to be an uphill run to help others in the organization bring values to their operations.

Values are part of the invisible world that creates worth for stakeholders. The clearer they are and the more you work with them, the easier it gets to measure their impact and see them embodied in day-to-day activity.

10 ways to move a value off the office wall and into your life.

  • Reflect on what the value means to you in writing.
  • Identify someone who you feel embodies the value in their day-to-day work and talk with them about this.
  • Identify someone in your industry or field that embodies the value. Interview them about this and develop an article.
  • Describe what happens when the value isn’t present.
  • Identify actions which embody the value, and discover how you could add them to your work day.
  • Keep a values journal and note when you experience the value. Describe the situation, what happened, any action you took, and how you felt.
  • Once you’ve made progress with bringing the value to life, talk to five people who you work with, explain you’ve been working on the value, and ask them for feedback about your connection with/embodiment of the value.
  • Ask someone who you feel really understands the value to mentor you on embodying it.
  • Identify a situation that needs more of the value, check to see if those in the situation agree, and then work with them to develop it.
  • Write an article on the value or ask to speak about it at a meeting.

If you begin by increasing your own awareness of the value, and then work to put it into action, you provide leadership, and become a model that makes the invisible, visible.

Join the conversation: How have you gone about embodying a value? What practices have helped you bring from the invisible to the visible world?

Finding Treasure

Probably the last place you’d think to look for treasure is in the pages of your calendar, but there could be insights waiting for you there.

Recruiters know that past performance is usually the best indication of what will happen in the future (that’s why they’re always asking you to “tell me about a time when . . . “), so it’s a good idea to become more familiar with what you’ve done; to be able to talk about your work and your life with some objectivity and perspective.

It can help you find your own jewels of insight.

Goal setting and planning processes often start by asking you to review the previous period. In business the period could be the previous day, week, month, quarter or fiscal year. If you are in a more personal mode, think about what started this “period”.

Think like a biographer: Picasso had a Blue Period, Winston Churchill had The War Years, your mother had before kids/after kids, Dylan had acoustic/electric.

Being able to look back on your day, plan your week, and get a sense of how you are doing based on your own measures can be helpful for creative types as well as those in more traditional businesses.

You will need:

A notebook or paper and pen

Your calendar, datebook, or journal

Several hours

Before you start

Decide on the period for the first review

A quarter (three months), six months or a year or some other period that is most appropriate for this planning session.

For example, if your situation has been the same for some time choosing the previous, 3 to 12 months might work well.

If you’ve just been through a transition, for instance just graduated or retired, had your first child, or come back from a long trip you might want to look at the whole period that preceded the transition, or the most appropriate period for you could be related to health, to emotions, or to a major creative project.

Goals, dreams or wishes for the period you will review

If you had some goals for the period, whether formal or informal, it’s good to have a list. If you didn’t have goals, can you remember what you wanted?

Ideas to consider as you begin

Considering the questions below can help you uncover the connections between what you have now and what you hoped to have.

  • Happiness/Disappointment

When were you happy during the previous period?

What things disappointed you?

Is there anything you do every day that connects with what made you happy?

Is your source of happiness connected to the goals you set? (If not, why not?)

What contributed to your unhappiness?

  • Resources

Look at the resources that you found most useful. What helped and supported you? What spurred growth and challenged you? Where did you learn? What resources do you maintain or use that aren’t contributing much? How’s your network of friends, colleagues and champions?

  • Contribution

Where do you feel you made the most important contribution?

  • Luck/Plans

When did you feel lucky? What happened with plans? What happened without plans?

  • Vision

Did you have a vision?

Did you have an idea of the endpoint?

How did that go?

  • Heart’s Desire

What’s tucked away in your heart for later?

  • Process/Cycles/Tracking/Measures

How did you know you were on or off track for success?

  • Obstacles/Strategy

What obstacles did you know you faced? Did you have a plan? How did it work?

What came up that you didn’t expect?

  • Acknowledgement

How did you respond to achieving a goal?

How did you respond when it wasn’t working?

What do you want to acknowledge about yourself or your effort?

What do you want to acknowledge about others?

  • Resources

What kinds of resources did you use?

What resources were available to you?

Where you able to maintain your resources?

Did you develop any new resources?

What resources aren’t worth maintaining?

How do you show appreciation for resources?

Using your treasures; marking the holes

Once you’ve worked through the questions go through your notes and mark your treasures, things you want to celebrate or integrate into the plans you’re making now.

Then go through and mark the holes, the information about obstacles, mistakes, omissions, the things that got in the way during the previous period. These are sometimes even more valuable for future plans.

As you begin to set or refine goals for the next period use your buried treasure and the holes you discovered to bring depth and context to your strategy.

Using a log

I’ve been using a creative log and find tracking my creative work each day a motivator. This way I can’t drift through a day or two without realizing I haven’t done any creative work. Because my week is focused more on producing work than meeting with others I can use a simple format: Just the date and the creative work I did that day.

Join the conversation: How do you track your ideas/projects/goals? Do you set aside time to work on goals? Do you have goals? If you don’t like goals, I’d love to know what keeps you from using them.

10 Steps to Reconnect with Work You Love


A year after deciding not to pursue HR work I have a better idea of what snuffed the flame of engagement after a long career when I loved the work.

I began in HR in a small sixty-five person business because I wanted to help make it a great place to work. A background in organizational development and a successful six-month development process that engaged 85% of our front-line staff finished and I moved to the human resource function, the area that most needed attention. When I left the organization some eighteen years later, we had become part of a Fortune 500 company with operations in three countries and over 50,000 employees.

Over the years I gained experience in most aspects of human resources and worked with senior management who believed in the power of engagement and supported front-line staff. I’d say I had a pretty ideal work environment. Despite that, when I left I discovered I needed to dissolve or reframe a lot of ideas I had accumulated, and my view of myself.

I first looked at the internal and external drivers.

Internal Drivers

  • Personal Values
  • Personal Vision
  • Desire to Serve
  • Insight
  • Observations
  • Knowledge
  • Ethics

This is a list of my internal drivers. Yours may look a bit different. Now let’s look at the external drivers.

External Drivers

  • Company Leaders
  • Company Values
  • Company Vision
  • Company Policies
  • Boss
  • Legislation
  • Experts
  • Training
  • Front-line Opinion
  • Colleagues

As with the internal drivers, your external drivers may be a bit different.

From looking at the internal and external drivers you can see how, over time, it’s easy for your voice and vision to be overtaken by external voices and ideas.

So how do you get out from underneath and re-engage with the internal drivers that brought you to the work you love?

10 steps to reconnect with work you love

1. Identify and reconnect with your internal drivers.

Why do you do what you do? Pay particular attention to the values you want to embody in your work and to the vision you have for success in it. Is your desire to serve alive and well? If not, why not? What’s changed? How is your knowledge base? When did you last do some professional development that challenged you to be better? Is your conscience happy? Are any ethical concerns addressed promptly? Do you regularly observe the work of the people you serve? Do you know what’s great and what needs to be improved? Do you reflect on and gain insight from your day-to-day work life? Do you feel successful?

2. Assess your relationship with External Drivers.

Is what you do in tune with expert opinion or do you really feel it is irrelevant to your situation, and if so, why? Are you compliant with Employment Standards, Human Rights and WorkSafe legislation? Do you respond to the letter of the law or understand the intent? Are there many rules governing your work? If so, do you agree with them and believe they are needed? Are rules written or unwritten? What do you feel your professional colleagues expect? Where did you make assumptions? Are company policies clear, simple and direct? What assumptions have you made about front-line opinion? How frequently do you check it? Are the methods you use effective and accurate? How does your boss communicate expectations? Are they clear, written, communicated well? Does your boss embody Company values? Clarify as needed. How in sync are your efforts with Company Values? Do Company Leaders embody values that are important to you? Do they embody Company values? Does what you are doing build on your professional training or is it taking you in another direction?

Having a better understanding of your internal and external drivers lays a foundation for the next steps.

3. Review your strengths or discover them.

To what extent do you currently use your strengths at work? Estimate the amount of time you spend using your strengths. If you can hit the 20% mark you have a good chance of loving your job.

4. Look at how do you instinctively respond to situations.

Don’t know? Invest in the Kolbe A Index, an assessment that will give you insight into your motivations. Once you know your preferred method of operations, you can take steps to move toward doing more work that fits with your MO.

5. Log your highs and lows.

For two weeks log every high (activity where you felt very engaged) your lows (activity where you felt disengaged or bored). Once you’ve completed the log look for themes.

6. Have a dialogue with your professional role

You can dialogue either in a journal or by sitting first in one chair and then in another, speaking for yourself and then switching and speaking for your professional role. In each position ask what you like and dislike, what advice you have to give, what you would stop doing, and about what you would change. If you’ve done this verbally, make some notes after your dialogue to reflect on later. You can do this dialogue with a mentor or friend as well.

7. Write a profile of yourself.

Pick your favorite work related magazine and picture the article running three years from now. Which magazine did you chose? What are the accomplishments you highlight? Why did the magazine chose you for a profile?

8. What legacy you would leave if you left your job?

What would people thank you for and miss? What would you be most proud of? How would this position add to your career?

9. If, for some reason you couldn’t do this work, what would you do?

10. If, you attained enlightenment tonight, what would you do differently tomorrow?

Join the conversation: Do you sometimes feel disconnected from your work even though you love it? What do you do to reconnect? If you try any of these steps, let me know how they work for you!


After You’ve Achieved the Goal


Goals give you something to aim for; something to steer toward. What happens when you achieve a goal, but don’t have another to steer toward yet? Or maybe you have another goal, but it’s in a different area and you don’t want to lose the momentum that accomplishing your goal provided? What can you do to make best use of the time and energy unexpectedly at your disposal?

If you treat your plan for the year as the itinerary for a journey, recognize that the situation is a bit like finding yourself with free time on a trip. If traveling and already in an area, you want to take advantage of this; maybe explore something you didn’t think you’d get to see, or spend some time hanging out with the locals, shopping or relaxing with a more expansive meal than you’d usually have for lunch.

Does the analogy translate?

Let’s say you’ve completed a research project. Maybe there are some related areas that turned up while you were working on the project that you couldn’t explore. Now you can. Or you found several expert resources that are accessible in person or by phone. Now you can see if you can do some short interviews. Maybe you found an area where there was much recent work but didn’t have time to review it as it wasn’t immediately pertinent. Go back and take another look at material that seemed especially rich that you didn’t have time to dive into deeply. Now you can immerse yourself.

The space between goals is great time to do some day dreaming too. Blue sky,” what if”, thinking thrives in the breaks between focused efforts.

Often your goal will be one step on the journey to a larger goal. Now you have some time to visualize the end point with the information you’ve gained from accomplishing your interim goal. Does it change anything? Suggest any course corrections or new avenues of exploration? Did it point to some things to stop or discontinue? Use this time to reflect on the meaning and implication of achieving your goal.

Reap the rewards

What did you learn? Can these lessons be used as you go forward? What did you learn about how you work? What did you most enjoy? Dislike? Were you able to use your strengths effectively? What could you do to leverage your strengths as you move forward? Did you have everything you needed? Are there any resources you need to ask for before you proceed? Who deserves appreciation and thanks for their contributions and support? Who do you want to stay in touch with or work more closely with? What pleased you about this work? Where were you dissatisfied? Is there anything else you need to do to complete this phase?

Building in some time to stop and reflect when you reach your goals will help you gain more from achieving them. All too often we tick them off the list without reflection, debriefing or celebration. Do all three to get the most from your achievements.

Join the conversation: What happens for you in the space between goals? How do you use this space? How do you explore what you learned from achievement?


Celebrating Help


I ask people who come to programs, how did you get here? I know I’ve arrived at this point because of all the encouragement and support that’s come my way. I’ve done the work, yet it has been the encouragement and support that’s allowed me to sustain the work. I am grateful for all the family, teachers, friends, other writers and bloggers, and artists in my life. This is a celebration of their work and an appreciation of what they offer.

It is a short list, focused on the website, so it leaves out more people and resources than it includes, but when you have lots to acknowledge you have to start somewhere!

Family and friends have shown their support and belief in me in so many ways over many years. You may not remember the countless times that you affirmed my dream or asked how the writing was going, or introduced me to the work of someone you love, but I thank you for each question, each acknowledgement, each connection, each time you recognized the “quiet light” in my heart.

Atum O’Kane: I took Atum’s two-year Art of Spiritual Guidance course at Hollyhock on Cortes Island from 2007-2009. It came at the perfect time for me, just as I was getting ready to make the transition from being a Regional HR Manager at Capers to some unknown other work. The practice and work in the course helped me move toward my soul work. I went on to study The Alchemy of Transformation from 2009 to 2011 and am now taking Archetypal Dimensions of Spiritual Guidance which began last year and will finish in 2013. I am profoundly grateful for the way work with Atum continues to nourish me spiritually and creatively.


John O’Donohue: The first book I read of John’s was To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. I go back to the book over and over again to use the blessings, and to study the essays about blessing. His work continues to lead me deeper into the mystery, and has been a blessing in my life.


Julia Cameron: When I finally started actually doing Morning Pages (see The Artist’s Way) it changed my creative life. I had kept a journal off and on for decades; the switch to faithfully writing three pages every morning helped me to turn on a tap that had been rusted almost closed.


Danielle LaPorte: Danielle’s writing and videos ignited a spark of urgency and booted me toward greater transparency. I ordered the digital program Your Big Beautiful Book Plan that she co-created with Linda Sivertsen and her Firestarter Sessions and found them both full of inspiration and help. I love the way she writes and talks; lots of great information, lots of soul, lots of straight talk, and a fabulous smile.


Roger Housden: Roger brought me back to poetry. Because of Roger I went to John Fox’s workshop last year. Because of the gift of Dancing With Joy, Roger’s anthology of 99 poems, I read poets I hadn’t read before like Billy Collins, William Stafford, Stanley Kunitz, and Jane Hirshfield and began to investigate more poets. It inspired me to reread poets I love like Mary Oliver, Wendell Barry, Pablo Neruda, Rumi, Hafiz, Denise Levertov, E.E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. His essays on poems in the Ten Poems series of books helped me read poems in a new way. Poetry is incredibly nourishing.


Robin McKinley: The first book I read was Beauty; from there I went to The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, and on to all the others. I reread Blue Sword and Hero regularly. I am not alone. Her blog is well followed and there’s lots of conversation on her forum. I want to celebrate her characters and heroic fantasy and her way of being herself on her blog, Days in the Life. Reading the blog nearly every day (remarkably she posts every day) she gives me a closer to reality vision of the writing life and this has been incredibly encouraging.


Jennifer Parker: I found Jenny by falling in love with a font, tracking the font to the designer, Stephen W. Rapp, and then finding the Jennifer Parker Designs website as an example of one of his fonts in use. I kept going back to her website, drawn by her designs and her art (look at the personal altars), and finally contacted her about designs for this website. She was wonderful to work with and I am delighted with the results (my logo, and logo art for dream, discover, explore, create, and celebrate). There’s something wonderful about the way long distance collaboration works and about the power of visual images.


Robert Ouimet: Helpful, easy to work with, knowledgeable, intuitive, and a good teacher, Robert has made the process of getting my first site up and this redesign done workable and creative. I love the feeling that Robert’s got my back; that there is a real person to hold my virtual hand, if needed.


Union Photographers: Holly took photos of me and made it fun. Her laugh is so good, you want to do what you can to have it happen again; fortunately this isn’t hard and you get great candid photos.


Join the conversation: These are some of the folks who helped me get here. Who do you want to celebrate for helping you?


Art Journals 4

Journaling with Words and Images

This is the fourth and final interview in a series of interviews with Joan Gregory about Art Journaling. It’s been some time since the last post; thanks for hanging in there!

Once you have a sense of the way you can explore your experience with journal work, are there ways you can shape the process to take yourself in a specific direction?

Yes, there are ways to shape the process. For example, in 2005 I wanted to be in a place of gratitude. Looking back at my journal I could see that there was still a fair bit of whining going on, and I decided to only write about the things I was thankful for. It does have value to do that; it reframes how you look at your day. It’s not that you deny that the bad stuff is happening; it’s just that you are not choosing to write about it in that journal.

One thing to do, whether you are journaling on a scrap of paper or in several books, recording dreams, poetry, or other writing, is always date your entry. A really interesting thing to do is cross-reference the entries after a bit of time has passed. It’s lets you see how all the different pieces are fitting together.

Thinking about dating, makes me think it would be interesting to do that with quotes as well. I’ve collected quotes, but I haven’t noted when I found them. Time can become so fluid; something that happened twenty years ago can feel like it only happened five years ago.

Some things like web pages or magazine articles have dates on them, but for anything else that you collect, that doesn’t have a date, yes date that too. I even like to write the date I’ve gotten a book in the book.  As well, when I buy books, I’ll note the titles in my journal, another way to document what interests me at a particular stage of my life.  Then later, as you go back through your journal(s) you can see, “oh, this is what I like, this is what resonates with me, what has meaning”. These are just more l clues along your path to determine who your true self may be.

Are there books or articles about journaling that you feel have been helpful?

One of the articles I’ve kept is called, “Leaving a Trace”; an excerpt from a book by Alexandra Johnson called Leaving a trace: On Keeping A Journal. It’s examines the answer to the question, “why am I keeping a journal?” This is an interesting question to ask yourself, and to explore in your journal. It will likely lead to other areas to delve into. Is it to leave something for my children and grandchildren? Is a place for me to reflect on my life and experience? Is it just for the pleasure of creating something personal?

There are so many resources on journaling available in different formats. There are ‘how to ’books, memoirs and diaries of well-known writers, articles in various magazines and on the internet. It is really difficult to limit it to a few. However, in addition to those I have already mentioned in previous segments of this interview, I have found these to be inspiring.

Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice by Christina Baldwin

Writing For Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds by Deena Metzger

Creative Journal Writing: the Art and Heart of Reflection by Stephanie Dowrick

I have already referenced Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal Workshop.  The next best thing to attending a workshop would be to read the book, At a Journal Workshop: Writing to Access the Power of the Unconscious and Evoke Creative Ability. I have attended one of the courses and highly recommend the experience, especially if you seek guidance from, and connection to, your inner life. It definitely deepens and broadens your journal work. A favourite answer to the question, “Why do you journal” comes from this book: “To interact with your life”.

There is an upcoming Journal Workshop in Edmonton in late July/early August. You can go to their website to read more about the process and to get further details on workshops in your area.

I think we’ve all gone through periods where things can seem flat; where nothing seems to be catching your attention; times when you feel like there is nothing to write or say; times when It all seems dry. What can you do when you come to your journal and there is nothing to put on the page?

Whether you are a poet, a writer or an artist, you have to first be an observer, a wonderer, and a collector; not so much a collector of things as a collector of impressions. Begin to bring a child-like curiosity to the way you explore. If you can meet your journal page everyday with that openness, with not knowing, as if you had never seen a day before, as if you had just arrived, you will bring presence and freshness to the page.

To take it another direction, resurrect the lost art of pretending that we experienced as children. Allow yourself to become a fictional or historical character moving through your day. What would you see if you were say, Alice in Wonderland, or Anais Nin? Use your imagination to view your world from a different perspective and write about it.

You could also imagine yourself twenty years from now. As you look back from the future, who do you see sitting there writing? What is her world like, what are her hopes and fears? This is another way of recognizing who you are in the world.

 Do you find that the Art Journal process opens the journal process up?


Yes, it engages more of your senses and provides a way to use all the ephemera of your life. Throughout the day you encounter news stories, tickets, stamps, ads, magazine pictures and more, and if you are open to these they can find their way into your journal to document your day. So you end up seeing more, and finding more beauty in every day. Each day you encounter endless possibility for story. From the simplest thing, like seeing a fallen leaf on the ground in the fall, to seeing an older woman walking up the street using a walker, we are bombarded by story potential. If you are open to receiving, there’s no limit to what you can write about. If you feel a bit overwhelmed, pick the top three things that stood out for you that day, choose one and reflect on it.

Why did that capture my interest today?

What’s going on that I would recognize this one thing as significant?

You can use these questions as a starting point.

Have you ever used your journal to help you make a decision? I’ve sometimes done that by fully imagining where different decisions lead.

I could have used that thirty years ago! Yes, you can use your imagination to gain access to guidance. Ira Progoff uses what he termed ‘twilight imagery’ (similar to Jungian active imagination) in the journal process as a vehicle to access a ‘deeper-than-conscious’ level of ourselves when at a crossroad where a decision has to be made. The technique is used to explore the possibilities of both the ‘roads taken and of the roads not taken’; to provide a self-generated inner knowing and affirmation, as well as the resolution and energy to carry that decision out.

What gifts has the process of writing, rereading, and reflecting in your journal brought you?

The surprises are, as you reread, the realization that you already knew something that you feel you are just now learning, or discovering something that you know you wrote that somehow makes you think you found it a book, it’s that profound. The biggest gift is learning about who you are and acknowledging how much wisdom you actually have. We all have these gems of knowledge buried within. The journal mirrors you to yourself enabling you to see aspects of yourself that you weren’t aware of, or that you didn’t give yourself credit for. You begin to trust yourself more.

Some mornings I’ll take time to go back over the same date in the previous four or five journals to see what I wrote there. Often I will find very similar passages to those I am currently writing and think that I haven’t moved an inch in terms of personal growth, but this repetition is common in journaling. Published journals have similar entries edited out, but there is merit in what at first appears superfluous.

I love what Joseph Campbell, best known for his work in the field of comparative mythology, has to say on the topic. “I brought out my book, Myths to Live By, by collecting together a series of lectures that I had given over a period of twenty-four years. My notion about myself was that I had grown up during that time, that my ideas had changed, and, too, that I had progressed. But when I brought these papers together, they were all saying essentially the same thing – over a span of decades. I found out something about the thing that was moving me. I didn’t even have a very clear idea of what it was until I recognized those continuities running through that whole book. Twenty-four years is a pretty good stretch of time; a lot had happened during that period. And there I was babbling on about the same thing. That’s my myth in there.”

He continues by saying, “Another astonishing way to look back is to pick up some diary entries or notes that you kept a long time ago. You’ll be astonished. Things that you were convinced you had realized more recently will be all pinned down there. These are driving themes in your life”.

And in support of journal writing he adds, “But what if you want to gain some idea of what your myth is while you are living it? Well, another way to try to discern your destiny – your myth – would be to follow Jung’s example: observe your dreams, observe your conscious choices, keep a journal, and see which images and stories surface and resurface. Look at stories and symbols and see which ones resonate.” (The above quotes are taken from page 112 of Pathways to Bliss, Mythology and Personal Transformation by Joseph Campbell, Collected Works Series)

Is there a difference between the Joan on the page and Joan the person?

When I communicate with other people I generally filter what I say to accommodate how I feel the other person will receive it. I think most of us do some form of this. In my journal I am as authentic as I can be. It is a place to be real and true to oneself. If you aren’t going to be honest you won’t receive the mirror’s gift back, or what you do receive will be distorted. You might go back and  come to sections that have not been written in your voice, and then begin to explore whose voice it is.

Journal work is a way of removing the layers that have accumulated and gradually exposing one’s true self. It can be a way of getting off the same old track, going deeper than those circular ways of thinking that lead us back to the same spot without more insight. You have to stop and be reflective.

Journal writing takes you along that boundary between the inside and the outside of your life; a very creative place. It allows you to play and to develop some gentleness with yourself. Art journaling also offers some softness to the process and the materials provide another dimension.

Where can someone go to learn about art journal making and to meet others who share art journal interests?

I have mixed feelings about that, based on my own experience. When I started journaling it was all self-discovery; I am self-taught. So, I don’t think you need to go out and buy a book on it, and I didn’t do that until I was some years into it, and wanted to branch out a bit. As with journaling, resources for art journaling are abundant, dare I say, excessive. Only if you truly believe you don’t have a creative bone in your body would I recommend a book. It’s great to start on your own because you will get a sense of your own style.

The book I would recommend is The Decorated Page by Gwen Diehn because it is so full of doable ideas. It’s a great book to use by following her instructions to a T, or to simply take one or two techniques to try. This book is now only available used, but a newer book, also by her, is The Decorated Journal: Creating Beautifully Expressive Journal Pages is available in paperback and hard cover.

Stampington & Company offers many publications for artists and crafters. Art Journaling is one publication that will interest journal makers.

Another one of their publications, Somerset Press – The Art of Paper and Mixed Media, also contains articles and tips for journaling. Also, if you’re looking to pursue art journaling in a group setting, Teesha Moore, founder of the annual Artfest held in Port Townsend Washington, created Journalfest last October. Her website has information about events.

Creative souls run amok on the Internet, offering blogs, how–to videos, forums and classes. While these magazines and websites are full of wonderful work that can be inspiring in moderation, I would exercise caution. There is such a thing as too much, and that can bring on sensory overload! Instead of fanning the embers of a newfound creative spark they will more likely douse it!  Volumes of ideas can prove overwhelming and intimidating. It can be easy to talk yourself out of starting when you compare yourself to artists who have already been working for years. You too may know the voice that pops up and says, “I’ll never be able to do anything like that.”

What actually happens is the more you do the better you get. The more you do, the more playful you become and the less seriously you’ll take any one piece of work. You discover happy accidents and a sense of fun. Getting yourself going and doing is the main thing. The work shows the way. As you are writing and collecting and cutting and pasting and fooling around with lettering, something else enters your mind, you make a connection, “oh, I could put that with that”, that you wouldn’t have made just by thinking about it. That way you develop from your work and you gain confidence in your own abilities and intuitions without reference to someone else. Referring to someone else’s work is like having training wheels on a bike; you have to take them off in order to know you can ride.

You can’t compare your first work with those who have been art journaling for awhile already. Remember that you are making comparisons to their published work. They went through the learning curve just as you may be doing now, only you don’t see their first attempts, just the end result. You have to be willing to be a beginner.

As this is our final session do you have any parting words?

One of the most intriguing visual depictions of a journal is in the film, The English Patient, based on the novel by Michael Ondaatje.  It is used as a thread tying together much of the story.  The journal is actually a copy of Histories by Herodotus, regarded as the father of history and credited as the first to see many different stories as part of a single whole story. Almasy, the lead character and owner of the book is never without it. His journal entries are written in the margins and empty pages and it is layered with sketches, maps and photographs he has pasted into it. He calls it his ‘commonplace’ book but values it as a prize possession and his ‘historie’ is his companion throughout his life. That pretty much sums up the essence of a great journal.

Joan has provided some PDFs of art journal pages to get you started. She also makes wonderful greeting cards. You can contact her at Izzy Elly Paper Design, Box 8616, Canmore, AB  T1W 2V5, Canada, for information about her cards and her work. Her blog is, “Finding the Questions”

Early Inspiration, Current Inspiration

I spent the spring of 1983 working my way through Gabriele Rico’s Writing the Natural Way: Using Right Brain Techniques to Release Your Expressive Powers. When first published by Tarcher it had a typewriter on the cover. A second edition, revised and expanded, was published in 2000. It has a computer on the cover and includes useful updates. It was a big help for me. Here are two poems that came from work with the book.



White teacup, half-full of tea,

does your close kept clay,

long held from earth,

yearn for that time when tea

could penetrate and dissolve it?



The Question

Comes an emptiness in this world,

a silent ringing,

a bright shadow,

that enters, fizzes in the blood,

boils clean the mind,

mirrors infinity,

opens me, quivering,

to ceaseless energy.

What shelter beyond this little house of bone,

soon dust?

What I beyond this question?


Gabrielle Rico’s website has loads of information and resources. She introduced the process of “clustering” which I still use. It’s also something that’s now a regular part of many writing classes.

Current Inspiration

Last July I took a one-day workshop, Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem Making, with John Fox organized by Ray McGinnis, author of Writing the Sacred: A Psalm-Inspired Path to Appreciating and Writing Sacred Poetry. Here are two poems from that day.

John’s website

Ray’s website

You’ll find good resources on both websites.


These Days

What you know keeps changing.

the sea of information floods toward you.

Learn to swim.

Loosen your hold and jump in.

Dive deep into yourself, deep into the sea,

find the pearl,

hidden by irritation,

by surface storms,

by the tumbled debris of old containers.

These days are the beginning of something new.

These days call for the pearl you’ve found.


Not Listening

Her news of chores completed, everyday encounters,

stay words; a recorded message with no response needed.

I am not listening; I am only on the phone.

I don’t hear the pleasure in her voice as she tells me about

her grandson’s request for advice,

the sadness when she mentions a call from an ill friend,

the pleasure in successfully reaching out to a new neighbor.

Her wish for my well-being isn’t felt, I am away somewhere

so unimportant I can’t remember where I’ve gone.

My heart contracts.

I realize what I’ve missed; what I’ve done.


Join the conversation: What was your early creative inspiration and what’s inspiring you now?


Exploring Values


About three years ago when I started consulting and did a website, I finally got around to declaring my own values: Learning, Kindness, Beauty and Integrity. Before then I’d been immersed in my company’s values. I thought I knew what I meant by integrity, but after awhile I felt what I meant was authenticity, which seemed to include integrity. Then I struggled a bit with understanding “authenticity”. What did it mean when I said I wanted to be authentic?

Authentic: being honest (having integrity), being transparent, not posing or pretending to be something I am not.

I worked on raising my awareness of how authentic my responses were.

As a girl I pretended to be something besides myself a lot: a princess, a pirate, a wagon train scout, star-ship empath, Sheena of the Jungle, a detective, and that’s only a partial list. After trying all the roles on offer from TV, movies and books, when I went to college I switched to imagining myself in a professional role: writer, journalist, teacher, actor, director, shopkeeper, professor. I have an active imagination.

Inside, Outside

Still, it took me a long time to find myself in a career. Once some kind of work was there and money was coming in, I discovered there was often a gap between how my family, my friends and colleagues saw me, and how I felt inside.

I first framed the challenge as being able to be the same person in every role, but that didn’t work because it wasn’t realistic. I wasn’t exactly the same person in each role with only the activity changing. Different activities brought out different aspects, and this seemed appropriate.

When I learned to meditate, authenticity became, just sitting, just breathing, just being aware. This definition created congruence between my feelings and awareness, but didn’t help me much when I wasn’t on my cushion, at least at first.

When I put something on my values list it means I want to cultivate it, understand it better, and I want to see it reflected in my work.

So when I put authenticity on the list it meant that when I talked with you I wanted to be with you, listening to what you were saying at that moment. I wanted to be able to own my feelings and claim them. I wanted to be willing to disclose them, to be more transparent, so you would have the chance to get to know me.

Increasing awareness brings a deeper dive

As I investigated when I was being authentic and when I wasn’t, I realized that even more than being authentic I wanted to cultivate Presence.

Presence means being able to bring all of myself to the present moment and being able to respond as needed.

That’s why this year I changed one of my four core values from integrity to presence. Presence, as it develops, has a definite energy field. You can’t have presence without authenticity; sometimes you can be authentic without presence. Presence is what I am exploring now.

Increasing my awareness of presence has drawn the value of community back into my list as a new appreciation of inter-dependency has grown.

Join the conversation: How would you define integrity, authenticity, presence, and community? What happens when you explore how your values play out in your life? Any tips for exploring values?


4 Steps to Renew Creative Flow


Facing the blank page can induce total amnesia and render even a normally chatty person devastatingly silent. When this continues for awhile we can begin to think we have writer’s block. Nothing to say, nowhere to go, nada, nada, nada . . .

1. Questions can help you unplug the flow

Writing the answers to questions that increase your self-knowledge is particularly helpful.

  • What do you appreciate about your mother and father and why?
  • What do you wish you’d known before your first kiss and how would it have changed things?
  • What advice would you most like to give your younger self and why this advice?
  • Who is your favorite superhero and which characteristics do you admire the most?
  • Where is your favorite place on earth or elsewhere in the universe and why is it your favorite?

2. Read your answers aloud. Then reread silently and pick-out the words that have the most meaning for you.

3. Review what you’ve circled or highlighted and write a paragraph about what you’ve discovered about yourself.

4. Review your answers plus your self-knowledge statement and mine them for elements that connect to your creative work.

No writing in progress? Pick the element that resonates for you most strongly and simply start working with it.

Resources to get your writing flowing again:

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes

On Writer’s Block: A New Approach to Creativity by Victoria Nelson

Finding Your Writer’s Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction by Thaisa Frank & Dorothy Wall

Story Starters: How to Jump-Start Your Imagination, Get Your Creative Juices Flowing, and Start Writing Your Story or Novel by Lou Willett Stanek, Ph.D.

The one that worked for me

Over the years I’ve collected a shelf full of books on writing. In the end the thing that got me writing every day was Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. Those pages led to a small note book were I began collecting story and article ideas. Once the routine of Morning Pages was established, I began to add doing just ten minutes a day on a story prompt, drafting one post for the blog, or adding even 500 words on my current novel.

Everyone is different. I discovered that I need variety to keep writing, and I love essays, stories, novels, and poetry. Once I had enough raw writing, revision became a part of my daily routine too. In the end the advice always seems to be the same.

  • Write.
  • Don’t give up.
  • Writing is revising.
  • Just spill it on the page to start.
  • Get it out. Get it down.
  • You can clean it up later.

Join the conversation: What do you do when you feel blocked?

10 Steps to a New Beginning


My new beginning began when I left the Regional HR Manager position at Capers in 2008 after the merger with Whole Foods Markets. I began doing some HR consulting for small businesses shortly afterward. It was a big change.

Finding the new beginning

After several years of experience as an HR Consultant and a lot of thinking, I decided to “retire” from HR. HR best practices remain part of my tool kit. I am still a CHRP, but now my focus is on writing, consulting, facilitation, and developing programs.

Here’s my learning from my transition; may it help you find a way to realizing your dream!

10 Steps to Prepare a New Beginning

1. Realize transition is a process and not an event.

I thought the transition happened when I left my old position, but I discovered that the process started before I left and continued for a long time afterwards. Trying new things and reflecting on what I enjoyed and did well was helpful. What do you want to continue to do? When do you feel great? What are you doing when you have your most enjoyable, most stimulating interactions with others?

2. Celebrate What You Achieved and Mourn What Is Passing Away

Appreciate where you have been and reflect on what it provides for your new beginning. What knowledge, skills, experience, insights, and connections did you find? What will you be sad to leave? What is unlikely to come again? Acknowledging what I lived helped me move forward.

3. Discover and resolve unfinished business

If you have any regrets, or have left something undone, whether communication or work, do what you can to finish. If you are unable to finish with someone in person or by phone, try writing a letter, even if you don’t send it. If it’s work that isn’t done, sometimes the other party doesn’t actually want you to complete it as funds, time, or interest has run out. This may not affect your own need to finish the work. If so, inquire more deeply. What is important to you about completing? What are the consequences if you don’t complete? Look for ways you can finish and respect your own feelings and needs.

4. Offer appreciation and gratitude for what you have received from others and through your own efforts

The previous steps bring to mind those who have helped us, cheered us, taught us, been companions, and those who made us confront the error of our ways. We remember the times when we persevered, floundered in confusion, and relished accomplishment. Often, we weren’t alone. As you feel the gifts others have given you, take time to thank them. Remember to appreciate the work you did and effort you made as well. Sometimes offering yourself genuine appreciation can be much harder than offering appreciation to others.

5. Take time to experience this space, clear of past obligations and what has been; be patient with not knowing

After clearing the past, a rare silence grows. The space between the out-breath and in-breath; it can be short or much longer than you anticipated. It can be hard to be there if you are anxious about the future and worried about what comes next. If you can be patient with not knowing what the future holds, and confident that the work of the past has planted seeds for the future, you can begin to get a sense of your new beginning. This step is essential, often uncomfortable, often avoided, and yet it offers a rich harvest of insight and new understanding if you stick with it. What comes up for you in this space between what was and what could be?

6. Clear what you no longer need

At each stage of our journey we acquire information, ideas and things that go with that part of our life. As you move away from the past, let go of what you no longer need; move it on to those who can use it now. As you release the things that no longer provide support it frees both space and energy for what’s coming next. Here’s a link to get you started from Zen Habits

7. Pay attention to when you are happy and to what people appreciate about you

Once you shed the habits of your old life, other sources of happiness and new ways of appreciating what you bring start to appear. Log or note when you are happy and what was going on. When someone thanks you or appreciates something that you’ve said or done, make a note, and find out more specific information if you can. When you feel happy and strong you are probably using your strengths. When someone else offers thanks or appreciation, they are likely responding to one of your strengths. When we spend 20% or more of our time using our strengths, doing what we do best, we’re much more likely to be happy. Learn more about the importance of operating from your strengths at Marcus Buckingham’s website . You’ll want to have as many options as you can for using your strengths in your new beginning.

8. Think about who you want to work with; acknowledge what you bring

As long as you are heading toward a new beginning, think about who you’d like to work with, and then think about what you have to offer. Dream! If you could work with anyone, who would it be? Why? What would that situation offer you? What might they need? What can you offer? In this TED talk Charlie Hoehn, a young graduate now working with Tim Ferris, delivers a funny and relevant rant about going after what you want, and not settling; inspiring whether you are 17 or 70. Charlie Hoehn at Carnegie Mellon TEDx 

9. Preview your new adventure

Find a tour guide for your new life, someone who’s been there, done that, who inspires you, and find out what it’s been like for them. Even if there’s no one around doing just what you think you’ll be doing, you can usually find people who do similar things, or parts of what you are interested in doing. Don’t forget to ask what they wished they knew when they were beginning. Sometimes you really can learn from others experience.

10. Discover where your life is calling you to step up

When one stage ends and another begins we discover our “edges” are new. Areas of challenge in the past have become mastery and faded from attention, and previously unsuspected challenges pop-up. Are you called to engage more fully in an area of your life that’s been neglected? Are skills that haven’t been used much, even though you’ve enjoyed them, now in demand? Are you ready to do something you’ve been longing to do? Is it time to tackle something you’ve put off?

Here’s to your new adventure!

Join the conversation and share what you’ve done to get ready for a new beginning. What’s worked? What hasn’t? Share any questions too.