Progress, Not Perfection | Adventures In Journaling

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to start journaling in 2018. I’ve accumulated a ton of notebooks, both plain and pretty, over the years, but very few of them had seen any use.

So far, I’ve been successful at this resolution and try to journal a little bit every day – or at least a few times a week when my life is crazy busy.

I’m trying to reframe my mindset from “What if I mess up this page?” to “What if I never used this notebook at all?”

Every year, I get better and better at letting myself enjoy the small pleasures in life: Wearing my nice dresses. Making that slightly expensive tea because it’s my favorite and I want some. You get the idea. I don’t want to overindulge, but the more time that goes by the less “saving it for a rainy day” makes sense to me.

Because sometimes that chance never comes. A rainy day comes and you say, “No, not this rainy day. It must be a more special one.” And that’s how you end up with people who die without ever having used their good china.

I’m not trying to be morbid. I certainly hope I don’t die anytime soon lmao! But what’s the point in letting all those notebooks sit, abandoned, in a box or desk drawer? If I’m not gonna use them, then I should at least give them to someone else who will.

I’m still worried about “messing up.” Maybe less so now that I’ve actually started journaling regularly, but that feeling is still somewhat there. It won’t disappear – let alone lessen – unless I keep going, though.

Sometimes I do mess up a page. My handwriting isn’t the greatest. I have a very poor sense of spacing, too, so sometimes my letters are huge on one side of the page and then tiny on the other as I panic and try to cram them all in.

But that’s OK. Progress, not perfection. I’d rather have the satisfaction of looking at a completed page and knowing I did my best than the guilt of looking at a blank page and remembering all the times I promised I’d start creating but never followed through.

Take my quote journal, for instance. It’s a little notebook with blank white pages, so I first paint a page with watercolors and then write a favorite, long-ish quote of mine with black marker. It isn’t a flawless project by any means; sometimes my handwriting is wonky or the paint and marker bleed through. And I used to feel bad about that!

But then it dawned on me that aesthetics were never the point here. I started this journal because I wanted a place to keep all my favorite lengthy quotes about life and love and books and all sorts of other things. It had nothing to do with making it look pretty. The whole point was to write down those quotes so I can look back at all those words from Neil Gaiman and Oscar Wilde and oh so many others I admire when I need advice or inspiration.

I still scream internally every time a letter turns out lopsided or a line of text angles upward. I won’t give up, though. For now, I just remind myself over and over that it’s about the experience, not the product. I’ll never learn to relax and enjoy making art if I’m tense + worried about making mistakes. And I’ll never get any better at making art if I don’t keep practicing, pushing onward no matter how many mistakes I make.

Progress, not perfection.

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
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