When I first began art journaling, I was very invested in being certain of what it was I was trying to create. Because I didn’t know I was an artist (I really didn’t), I approached art journaling as a craft. I wanted a pattern. A predetermined palette. Composition. The rule of thirds. Without some idea of where I was heading, I felt like I was bound to fail.
Over time, though, I moved into working intuitively. I started to push myself to begin without knowing where I was going to end. This was a natural progression for me, since my writing practice was very much based on this kind of ‘stream of consciousness’ practice. I eased in to uncertainty in the art journal as well, and now, I never really know where I’m heading when I begin.
Uncertainty in the journal has become easy. I don’t have to know for certain where a spread is going to end up because I know with 100% certainty that I don’t have to stop until I’m happy. I can have multiple failures, make eleventy billion mistakes, use the wrong thing at the wrong time, put something in there that doesn’t quite fit – and it’s all okay. It’s all fixable. It’s all good.
I have no idea where this is going. The end result is completely uncertain. It is admittedly a little like standing on the edge of a cliff and peering over into a vast, thick, foggy soup of nothingness. Do I dare leap?
And I am absolutely certain that I will end up with something that makes sense to me, expresses what needs expressing, looks the way I want it to…
How does one get there?
I remember thinking, when I first began to work in this uncertain, intuitive way, that life would be a lot simpler if it were like art journaling. I had a relationship with uncertainty (and still do, if I’m being honest) that could not be called friendly. Uncertainty made/makes me extremely uncomfortable. There have been times when being uncertain has sent me spiraling into a deep pit of anxiety and even despair. I am not good at not knowing. There is no way to control the outcome when I proceed from a place of uncertainty. I want contracts and guarantees. I want to know for sure that I’m making the right choice, that I will not fail, will not lose, will not be hurt…
But all the certainty my body tells me I need is *impossible* to attain. There are no guarantees. Life doesn’t come with a predetermined story arc. There is no way to know if one will get a happy ending or a tragic one. There are no contracts. There is absolutely no certainty on offer except that I will die some day. That’s it. That’s the only thing I get to know for sure.
And that’s not very comforting for someone for whom certainty is so desperately desired.
I journal from a place of uncertainty all the time, though, so I’m learning how to be a little less anxious and a lot more open to ‘what might happen if…’ as a way of being in the world.
There’s also a lot of ‘this is what is right now’ going on. And surrendering to the impossibility of knowing what the outcome might be.
I don’t know that I could forge this new relationship with uncertainty without my journaling practice. Journaling is teaching me to trust myself enough to let go of the outcome. It’s teaching me that no matter what, everything will be okay. It’s teaching me to remember that it isn’t over until it’s over, and nothing is really ever over until we slip this mortal coil.
It’s not a guarantee or a contract, but in those moments when uncertainty rises up like a big swarm of anxious hornets ready to sting and paralyze me, I can self-soothe with a little trip into the journal, where uncertainty is a gift that leads to beauty.
And it always, always leads to beauty.
Oh. Hello uncertainty! Let’s go wherever you’re taking me. I trust that we’ll end up exactly where we’re meant to be.
P.S. I’d love it if you’d consider joining me for Book Of Days: Mixed Tape. It starts on May 4th and it is certainly going to be awesome. :)