Finding a Way: Envisioning a Creative, Complete Life

“Serious art is born from serious play.”
― Julia Cameron

Sometimes, I forget how to play. I stare at a blank page and fret over words I haven’t written yet. I know that the thoughts in my head and heart may never find their way to the page— because there’s so much pressure to write them perfectly the first time.

And so, I have to remind myself. Play. Sit with a word. Let it break open into worlds of colour, patterns, shapes and, well, more words. It’s the breaking open that pushes creativity through us.

The breaking of a heart. The breaking into tears. The breaking of expectations.


I used to think that being a writer was about sitting in a coffee shop all day (sometimes it is), having lunch with my agent (I don’t have one), and writing perfect nuggets of prose and poetry (rarely).  I fell in love with the idea of being an artist, rather than the hard reality.  I was convinced that a true artist had no other love in life than their art (unless they had a muse, of course). I have too many loves. I love frothy soy lattes. I love drawing and painting. I can’t seem to stop ogling tumbled gemstones.  I have a newfound love for birds. I love spending an evening playing board games with my sister and mom. I love going for nature walks with my partner (he also knows how to build a beautiful campfire).

I realized that instead of neglecting my many loves for the sake of commercial creative success, I have to embrace and accept them. Obsessing over the accomplishments I have yet to accomplish creates so much anxiety in me, I have to remind myself of the quality of life I want to have. Do I really want to be a feverish, malnourished, caffeinated writer? No. Not even a little bit. Do I want to sacrifice every other happiness in life to write a prize-winning novel? No. I want to live a wholesome life, and if I happen to win a prize, well, I’ll take that too.  Perhaps this isn’t everyone’s path, but it’s certainly one to consider.

Why do we have to choose between a complete, healthy life and a life that is wildly creative?

Before I sit down with my grand business plan, I’m going to ask myself what kind of life I want to have, and what kind of person I strive to be.  You can do this too, and let me know how it works out for you.

A Word of Caution:

Now, let’s be careful here. Being too attached to the outcomes of the life we want to have is not only limiting but it’s also dangerous. It’s important to use these questions as a compass, rather than a carved out path. If opportunities don’t work out and doors shut, the answers to these questions might create more anxiety and close us off from possibilities we haven’t considered.  So, the objective of this exercise is draw out a vision of a healthy, creative life— not a map.


“As you move toward a dream, the dream moves toward you.”
― Julia Cameron

These questions might seem completely unrelated to your creative projects and goals, but in fact, they feed each other.

Your Creative, Complete Life:

• What do you want to do in your spare time (when you’re not creating)?
• Who do you want to surround yourself with? Why?
• What does your ideal creative studio/space look like?
• Who is an example of a achieving a balance between their creative and complete life?
• What skills would you like to learn ( examples: cooking, martial arts, painting)?
• Walk yourself through a day in your complete, creative life. What are you doing? Wearing? Eating? Where are you? What’s the weather like?

Steps to Moving Closer:

• Cut out images from magazines that resonate with the creative complete life you want to have.
• Create a “Creative Complete Life” board on Pinterest
• Experiment with your art form. Try a painting technique you haven’t tried before. Write in a form you are unfamiliar with.
• Choose one answer from the questions above and focus on how to make it a reality (can you rent a studio space? How about learning a new skill? Maybe call that person you want to get to know better.)

Honing In:

Now that you’ve gotten a fuller idea of what your creative complete life looks like, focus on a creative complete project. Is there an idea you’ve been toying with?  Maybe it’s a book or a series of art installations— or perhaps it’s a poem or a painting you can see in your mind’s eye but haven’t gotten around to committing to paper/canvas.

Your Creative Complete Project:

• What colours, textures,, tastes, smells and sounds are evoked when you think of this project? Are there particular elements in nature that resonate with this project?
• If you were seeing this project for the first time (as a viewer, audience member or reader), what emotions would you feel? Joy? Melancholy? Fear? Relief?
• How does this project physically feel? Is it smooth? rough? intangible? If it’s a book, what does the cover look like? What is the texture of the paper?

Steps to Moving Closer:

• Cut out images from magazines that resonate with your project
• Gather pastels, pencil crayons, watercolours, glitter. Place a piece of paper in front of you. Think about your project. Time yourself for 10 minutes. Let your hands guide you as you choose colours and draw patterns that evoke your project.
• Do a word study of your project. Put your project idea name (or just “Project”) in the centre of a blank piece of paper. Time yourself for 5 minutes. Write every word that comes to mind.
• Evoke the senses of your project: go back to your answers and look for the tastes, textures, scents and sounds of your project.  Make a delicious meal, light some incense or a scented candle, listen to a piece of music, go for a walk.  Physically engaging in the senses affiliated with your project will help you move closer to it.

And now that you’re done with the envisioning, move onto the business plan here:

LaVaLab Visual Arts Editor, Samantha Rodin’s Article


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Happy Envisioning,

Sheniz Janmohamed
LaVaLab Literary Arts Editor

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