New Year, New Canvas
Where and How to start over...again.
Happy New Year!!
A New Year brings new goals and dreams… or old dreams that we’d like to revisit again. Either way, feels like we have a blank canvas ahead of us. It’s a fresh start, but where do we begin exactly? Where do we draw that first line or place that first brushstroke – our starting point?
“Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.” ― Danny Kaye
Let me be honest with you, I almost ended the year on an odd note. I had big shiny plans for my Substack and social media during the Holidays. I had illustrations, giveaways, and fun videos to post. None of it happened. Life was full and steamrolling ahead. I also had a flight booked through an airline (that shall not be named) that would take my little family to my sister’s for the Holidays. However, with flights cancelled, things did not turn out quite as planned.
I’m not here to list my excuses for missed plans (although I think they were valid) or to curse the powers that be about the weather and cancelled flights. None of that matters now because it’s a new year! That’s last years troubles…right?
“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” ― Melody Beattie
The thing is…it’s easy to dwell on our failures, missed opportunities, broken relationships, cancelled plans, and unexpected hurdles. It’s like hitting a dead end in a maze. You linger for little bit or long while, wondering where to go next. This is how a difficult painting feels.
I’ve learned a lot from painting. There are moments you feel stuck. I stare at the what I’ve done for what feels like ages wondering what it needs. At this point, I get out of my seat and step back. It looks different far away. I might flip my canvas to see it with fresh eyes. There might be parts I need to paint over. I might take a break from the painting all together and come back later.
New Years has this way of revitalizing everyone’s intentions. It’s like turning around in the maze and realizing…Oh! It’s a new year! I can start over! Great! I’ll lose weight this year! I’ll drink more water! I’ll eat better! I’ll finish my book finally! I’ll do those things I’ve been saying I’ll do for ages. It’s a fresh start. New canvas. What was stuck, is unstuck.
Yet, for many of us those new year resolutions will be challenged sooner or later by the reality of your circumstances or deeply rooted habits. No amount of planning or goal setting can keep us from having a bad day or two. We hit new hurdles or the same old dead ends. Back to the questions of : “How do I start fresh again? Where do I start? How do I write a new chapter when I still feel the weight of everything before it?”
We really can’t avoid this universal experience.
“It’s not how we fall. It’s how we get back up again.” — Patrick Ness
Have you heard the above quote before? Or something similar? I have too. So, when you miss a few days of your new workout, when you realize you haven’t done yoga like you planned all week, or your diet isn’t quiet what you hoped for in the new year… how do we get back up time and time again….like it’s Janaury 1st? What do you do when you feel like you have a ruined canvas and you’re not sure how to fix it?
As an artist, I know it IS possible to start over and over and again…there is not a limit! You can start a new painting or flip it upside down whenever you want!
“There are no mistakes, just happy accidents.” ― Bob Ross
Here is what I do to reset:
First, the MOMENT I realize I’m spinning my wheels, missing my mark, or hitting a hurdle, I close my eyes and take a deep cleansing breathe. Nothing hokey or overly dramatic. I just pause and breathe.
It’s almost like a sigh. I’m taking a step back. I fill up my lungs, puff up my belly, and blow it out slowly. I try to keep my focus on this action. In through my nose, out through my mouth. In with the good, out with the bad.
How often do you stop to breath throughout your day?
Chances are, falling short has you feeling a bit heavy hearted, stressed, or disappointed. If I’m really elevated or stressed, I breathe deeply and focus on my breathe until my body feels calm. Might take 2 min or 15 min. I try to do yoga as much as I can because this helps me breathe and stretch of course (that’s good too).
“It’s hard to see things when you are too close. Take a step back and look.” ― Bob Ross
Now it’s time to flip the canvas. I ask myself 2 questions:
1. Are there ways you could of avoided this setback?
2. Or was this experience out of your control?
If you could have avoided this feeling, try not to dwell on the negative. That will get you no where. Try to treat yourself kindly after making a mistake. I do this by saying out loud or to myself:
“I am not perfect. Life is not meant to be perfect. What can I do better?”
We are growing, living things and failing is how we learn and grow. Take action by listing three things you could do differently if you find yourself in the same position again. For example: get better organized, plan further ahead, give yourself more time for unforeseen hiccups, make more time in your schedule, higher a babysitter if you’re able to, or maybe break your goal into smaller pieces. Turn this into wisdom for the road. Nothing is lost!
“Every moment is a fresh beginning.” ― T.S. Eliot.
If the experience was out of your control, it’s hard to let go of the frustration that comes with it. You can feel stuck in that moment or emotion. Try using visualization to let go. Close your eyes, picture an empty balloon. Take a deep breathe and fill the balloon with your feelings. Frustrations and all. Breathe out and let the balloon go. Picture it slowly floating away. Farther and farther until it’s gone. If you don’t like the idea of a balloon, imagine a bird. The point is to visualize letting go.
If you need something physical. Try using clay or play doh. Mold it in your hand. This is your frustrations. Make something with it. Like a ball. Then squish it down. Do it over and over until you feel better. It helps your brain reset. Do not let anger and frustration tie you down and lead your next steps. Move forward with an open mind. You may need to take a completely different path to reach your goal. Letting your emotions go helps you see that new path.
If it’s really eating at you, seek someone you trust to talk to. Our feelings can run in circles in our minds, driving us mad. Sadness can boil into anger or impulsive actions. It’s really helpful to talk it out with someone you trust.
Don’t rush into another direction too soon. Spend time looking at your “map”. Are your goals the same? Do you still want to visit the same destination? Do you still want to travel along side the same people? Do you need to change the way you are traveling to be more successful? Or are you spinning your wheels and hitting the same obstacles?
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.”— Joseph Campbell
Finally, take time for yourself. Step away from the problem. The best thing you can do is flush out bad vibes and bring in new energy. Go for a walk, read a good book, rearrange a room in your house, take a bath, go for a run, take a short trip if you are able to, or make art that’s just for your eyes. Do whatever is an act of self love for you. It’s a way of telling yourself:
“I love you. You are okay. Let’s start over.”
This is how you make your own start line…again and again.
“Keep taking time for yourself until your you again” - Lalah Delia
Often Holidays unintentionally include a bit of this flushing or cleansing. A few days off from work or traveling else where. A time for reflection. The whole world is letting go of the year that was, so it’s easy to collectively let go and start that new project or diet. The key is to be prepared for the stumbles along the way, so you’re not derailed indefinitely.
When you approach your “painting” or goal again, you can either turn your past mistakes into “happy accidents” or literally start over.
Either way, try adding 1 or all of these 5 things to your prepping or priming:
Find an accountability partner(s). It’s always easier to do things with a friend.
Write down a list of 5-10 things you’ve learned or accomplished already.
Write down at least 3 NEW things you will try differently.
Write down an affirmation where you can see it (For example: “I can do hard things!") Write it on a sticky note or illustrate it and make it really cool. Either way, place it in your journal, planner, or on your wall.
Start with an “easy yes”. For example, when I start a painting, I sometimes add a little bit of my favorite color to my primer…so my canvas is not so perfect and white. Try starting your new goal or project with an “easy yes” – something fun to get you started. For example: like buying and filling a planner, setting up an ideal spot dedicated to your new yoga practice, organizing your tasks with color coded sticky notes, making a work music soundtrack, or calling your accountability partner to discuss your goals and deadlines. See, you’ve already started!
“You can do anything you want. This is your world.” ― Bob Ross
Can you tell I like Bob Ross…I think you can tell.
Of course, it’s totally fine I didn’t do my Xmas posts as planned. Instead, I chose to clear my plate. I knew it was more than I could handle and so I let go. Maybe next year I’ll plan better. I’ve written down a few things I’ll do differently. For now, I’ll focus on the New Year and new goals.
And in the end, I did make it on a plane to see my sister! It was a lovely, calming time despite being shortened. We still made many memories to cherish for always. The trip helped me reset. I came home with a full and grateful heart, ready to do anything!
I’ll end this post, with one of my favorite quotes:
“It’s never too late to become who you want to be. I hope you live a life that you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald
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Each month members of the IlloGuild, an international group of illustrators, answer a question together. It’s fun to see how we all respond to the topic. Our first of the year is about starting fresh and finding focus. A reflection on how to get started.
Head over to IlloGuild to read other responses.