Earlier this week we released The Writer Reset Guide, a strategy to help writers refresh after a period of not writing and to spark joy back into their creative process. Today, we're going to show you step-by-step how to create your own creative journey map.
A Creative Journey Map is a physical manifestation of your creative journey. It features your big and small goals, emotional highs and lows, milestones, moments of inspiration, and accomplishments and failures over a period of time. It is a method that can help put perfectionism to rest, help you see the big picture, and give you a boost of motivation when you need it most.
Let's get started making your
Creative Journey Map!
Step #1: Brain Dump
To begin your map pick a starting point. It could be six months, a year, or even four years. The size of your paper is going to determine how far back you can go (since you have to have room for it all). Before you start creating your map it's time to brain dump.
On a separate piece of paper list the following:
Big and small goals- These refer to the big goals that you've accomplished and the small goals that helped you get there. Example: The first time you met your writing goal on up to the first time you published.
Emotional highs and lows- Make note of how you felt throughout your journey, the good the bad and the ugly.
Milestones (the struggle)- These are all the tiny pieces that fall through the cracks of our daily notice. The hundredth time you got writer's block, when you stayed up all night and only wrote two lines, the moment you read your first craft book and felt overwhelmed.
Moments of inspiration and motivation- When did you feel most excited? What motivated you to keep going? Make note of these moments that sparked and how they made you feel.
Accomplishments and failures- Both are important on your creative journey. Without the failures, you won't be able to see you pick yourself back up. Without the accomplishments, you may not recognize how far you've come.
Anything of significance to you and your writing journey counts, so make sure you give yourself ample time to think things over.
Step #2: Reference The Past
To help you with your list, it's time to look back and gain perspective. We certainly couldn't remember everything that had happened in the last four years (the time period since we started Writing It Wells). That's why we started reaching out to resources outside of ourselves in order to remember all the little moments we forgot along the way.
Make sure you:
Ask your loved ones- Outside perspective is the best! Often the way we see ourselves and remember what we've done is different than how others view us.
Check social media- A huge benefit of social media is the collection of memories that grow the longer we keep our profiles updated. This was a huge resource for us that helped us create our map because it gave us specific dates along with the events.
Ask your writer friends- Writer friends can also be a great resource for remembering small things about your journey that you may have forgotten.
Check old journals and notebooks- Another resource to check is any old journals or notebooks you have from the time period you're mapping. You never know what memories lurk there!
Check your old planners and calendars - Similar to the above, checking old planners and calendars can help you piece together events with dates.
Once you've collected all your relevant information, memories, events, dates, and pieces you're ready to start charting out your map!
Step #3: Chart It Out
The materials needed to make your map are simple, everyday items.
Here's what you'll need:
Graph paper or a bullet journal- (the dots are helpful)
Draw your map in an easy-access space- so you can revisit it
Include the dates for every marker you make- to chart the progression of time. This helps you see the patterns!
Make it fun- with visual effects such as different colors, symbols, stickers, etc.
Utilize colored pens and highlighters- to help you identify trends and patterns at a glance. Example: pink for burnout, blue for a specific writing project's accomplishments, and yellow for big goals.
Every map will be different and one-hundred percent unique to each writer/creative. That's the best part of making your own creative journey map. We'd love to see your maps if you decide to make one- don't forget to tag us on Instagram: @writingitwells.
Step #4: Color Code Patterns
The most important part of your creative journey map (and arguably the most useful part) is color coding your patterns. Your patterns are the specific trends that are personalized to your journey as a writer or creative. Identifying them can give you insight into your habits, your pitfalls, and when you may need to do a Writer Reset again in the future.
To learn more about The Writer Reset process check out our GUIDE here!
Color code these on your map:
Use one base color to outline your "road" on your map- This way you can follow along on your journey when you're finished. You'll literally be able to "see" yourself grow!
Use a bright color to mark your big goals (reinforced with a similar highlighter color)- These are the big long-term writing goals you have for your career. This is so you can see when exactly you accomplished them!
Highlight emotional and creative lows in another color- While it may seem like this would be a bummer, it's a vital part of your journey. Highlighting it will allow you to see not only the ebb and flow of your creative energy, but will teach you where to place preventative measures to prevent writer issues such as burnout in the future.
Use a stand-out color to track a specific goal- Choose a specific project that you've been working on, such as a single book you've been writing or another multi-step project. This will show you the singular progression of said project overall.
Use another color to mark life events- Pick life events that have influenced your writing habits such as a move, planning a wedding, having a baby, a death in the family, etc. These are highly emotional times where life will pull you away from writing. By charting them you can see just how long it takes you to return to your creative pursuits again.
Your patterns should become clear after applying your color code. With it, you can glean valuable insights into how you work as a creative, how your muse cooperates with you, when you could use extra support or a reset, and what life events trigger different responses in your creative life.
Last, but not least, we wanted to share our own creative journey map with you! Use it as an example for your own map or use it as inspiration to begin your own version.
The creative journey map is a tool to help you see your process clearly. It's designed to show you how you've grown, how much you've accomplished, and how hard you've worked towards your writing goals thus far. It should help you realize that you're being too hard on yourself, that it's okay to take the pressure off because you've done SO MUCH.
It should help you ease into a better mindset, one where you learn to recognize the signs of destructive writer issues like burnout and self-doubt. It should make you think about ways to prevent these blockers and how to overcome them. Hopefully it'll allow you to feel proud for a change rather than beating yourself up for not being perfect.
Through speaking to your family and friends, seeing your progress, and understanding how you've tried, failed, and got back up again you'll see how RESILIENT you are. How CAPABLE.
You can do this, writer. We believe in you.
Now it's time for you to believe in yourself!