6 Steps for Mapping your Creative Journey



One of my New Year rituals is to map my creative path --  where I've been, where I see the road unfolding ahead. It's one of the exercises for my Artist Journey/Artist Journal workshop, and it's one that I've begun doing each year to set my own compass. And it's what I will work on for some time today in the studio. I like the visual nature of this exercise and it seems to loosen me up for more pragmatic, linear, word-oriented goal-setting. Perhaps you'll hear more about that later this weekend!

Here are the basics. The task: Draw , paint, collage an illustrated and annotated map of your journey as an artist.

Six steps to map your creative journey.

1.  Chose a time period -- last year or the last five years -- or take the whole of your life's creative path. Work big, on a poster sized sheet or on a long accordion-folded length of pages taped together. You may need to do a little research: look back at calendars, a blog or journal you've kept, your morning pages, the photos in your albums. Don't read in detail, just skim the territory.

2. Is this the map of a world, a state, a universe, a neighborhood? Set the scale at what seems most pertinent, most interesting at the moment. Draw the shape of that known world map. Is it a circle, a rectangle, an unusual polygon, a universe with your solar system at its center?

3. Start with drawing in the big cities (or buildings or planets), the departure ports and destinations, the major landmarks, the mountain ranges, light years or busy streets you've traversed. What stands out from the background? Name and label these if you can.


4.  Where were the highways, the byways, the crossroads and the roads noted but not taken? The deadends. The distracting side streets, any detours (and were they worth it?) What were the oceans crossed, the rapids and rivers that took you with the flow? Remember you are working on this visually and metaphorically; it may not seem to fit together exactly,  but your job is to keep drawing, painting, pasting and collaging.

5.  By now, you have much of this known world sketched in. Add some details -- historical markers: "What HAPPENED here," "On this spot in 1972."  Name the streets and buildings.  Note who else is wandering around your map -- add the names of friends, supporters, fellow travelers (maybe even a nemesis or two).


6. Now look at the territory outside the known map. Where are you headed outside the comfort zone? What other destinations beckon? And, like a Medieval map, there might be some places that deserve some warnings: "Here dwell dragons," "Beware the wormhole, "  "Sirens sing here, wear ear plugs."