Cancer Art Journaling: Colorful words help heal my mind

Reluctantly, Ive decided to share a couple of pages from my sketchbook where I keep my not so very good artwork. I scrawl my emotions out on the pages using colorful pens, pencils, markers, paints, and whatever else handy from my growing art box.

Some days, instead of trying to get my words to fit in an essay, I find it easier to explore more non-traditional forms of journaling. One of my favorite sketches to date was to create a woman’s torso out of the letter “w” beginning the word “why.” It’s a question we probably all ask ourselves occasionally. Not feeling sorry for myself as in “why me?” But more in terms of “why not?” Why aren’t we counted? Why do we still need to die from metastatic cancer?” Why, indeed. Even if you aren’t a great artist like me, just let your colors and your hands do the talking for you. You may find out some things you didn’t even know you were thinking about. It’s visceral and gut level and it’s also a great way to purge negative emotions in a positive way and you just may have some fun.

Go ahead, be a kid and doodle. I’ve taken up trying my hand at mandalas, too. They’re not very good yet, but practicing focuses my mind away from everything and into the art form and coloring in the interesting patterns that emerge. And share them with me here if you decide to create something. I’d love to see what others are using their art journals to express. New ideas to generate ways of thinking about my life and my cancer are such a welcome gift.

Writing Prompts: Some great tools for those not so fresh days

Help me.

Writer’s block sets in slowly and as unpredictably as does productive bursts of semi-genius. Rare is the latter, the former happens at least once a month. Blame the cancer writer’s block occurs far more often than it used to back in my “normal life.” But cancer became my go to writing prompt for the simple fact that it became my life. It’s neither fortunate nor ever what I’d choose to write about but it’s clearly important. Still, I run out of ideas or my chemo brain or brain fog if you prefer robs me of ideas. I am compelled to jot everything down now. My running list of writing prompts helps me get out of the wet cement and so I can run with my output.

While writing typically comes quite naturally, poems can take years to get right and essays can become stale before I’m finishing the final paragraph. I always go back to my old expired or uninspired writing to take another whack at it or to just not begin with a blank stare at a blank page. I keep it in my journals scattered all over the house, and car, and in purses, in between books I’m reading. You get the point…but I don’t toss away or delete anything unless it’s pure drivel. The white page glaring at me keeps my mind dormant at times.

So if you take a single piece of my advice, for what it’s worth, it’s don’t start with a blank page. And reused writing is only one way to get the job done.

Using writing prompts does as well. Keeping up a self created running list isn’t necessary. You can feel free to use some of mine listed below or check out the web by searching up “writing prompts.” Specific or general you’ll find something to write about or to get the old noggin in gear. So dig deep or tread in the shallow end of the pool, but write. Your blog needn’t be the final goal, nor your work on some overdue white paper for work. Using prompts might just surprise you, though.

My prompts ran away with my homework

In the mirror this morning…

If I had wings…

The universe…

The concept of time…

Kindness…

Laughing…

My expectations of…

When I think about (place) I think about…

If tomorrow…

Changing my mind about…

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day…

I want to grab a flight tonight to …

If I could predict the outcome of…

When it rains…

At night I love to…

The first thing I do every day…

I want to change my…

I woke up…

Sunshine…

Full moons…

Mythology character…

Music gives me…

A letter to…

If I knew at 20 what I know now…

Death…

Birth…

If tomorrow never came…

I am so afraid of…

Spiders…

The last thing I ever expected was…

My skin feels…

I wish ____was here because…

Suddenly…

My patience…

The best possible way to…

Under a microscope…

In a telescope…

I grew up…

I feel like a little kid when…

The best age to be is…

If I were born in the year (past)…

If I were born in the future…

When I cannot fall asleep…

I think about____all the time…

Ice cream…

I want to live to see…

It’s no use, I…

Finally…

Walking along the ocean…

Driving in the mountains…

Rollercoasters…

Beginning…

Endings…

Nighttime…

Mornings…

Secretly I love…

I’ve always loved…

I never did like…

Flowers…

Technology…

My favorite musical genre is…

The best day looks like…

My best day to date…

My partner…

Being (religion)…

Museums…

This song brings me back to…

The scent of/ odor of reminds me of…

I finally learned how to…

Cats are better than dogs…

A group of ravens is called a murder…

My top 3 online prompt resources

In my experience, these websites provide fertilizer for sprouting ideas of your own, with straightforward, self explanatory, yet engaging writing prompts. Although these sites focus on poetry, you could eagerly apply most of them to prose, non-fiction, even science or psychology.

I love these lists I reckon for several reasons. First, they get straight to the prompting. No book selling after a tease of a dozen prompts, no sign up forms for more spam email. Just the content without shameful self promotion. Next, no one site takes the same approach to growing your ideas. Furthermore, the sites are professionally written and edited. They’re not cutesy or too self reflective, such as say a goth self published novel writer and their five best steampunk writing prompts. Finally, and my all time biggest web click regret: as the frustration of writer’s block bubbles to the surface while you browse your search engine’s top results, some sites muddy the content with perpetual advertisements bombarding your overloaded or underused senses.

My short list of the three best sites ALL alleviate frustration and grant you FREE access to the articles. Novel idea! Also the links below open up directly at the best articles with writing prompts but do check out each site.

Writer’s Relief

Think Written

Think Written

Fly Away Home, Blessed Body

In Memorium, Jnani Chapman

“Blessed body heal this beauty,”
Her song flowed gently —
We lived longer in her hands.
Once, all at one time
She let fly love’s bounty:
The heart’s harvest floating on
A barge atop a boundless wave.
Rivers of tears flow beyond our sight,
Farther this time — please, to not return.
Within the star white
Light of the quilted night, sewn into
A blanket of every color
By her own hands.
Swinging movements to and back
Here, to find the constant:
Love equals gravity plus motion.

Calling to us on the shoreline,
With a Cheshire smile
We wave her back in, yet
Calliope, turned to me
Whispering in the wind,
“Wish her safe passage, instead.”
Lifting our eyes to the skies
Ethereal blue air filled
With the soft silence of
Dandelion feathers blowing
And billowing in winter’s dusk.
Everywhere, time to head home.
All the better for knowing
Grace once embodied us
With the cure of her touch.

Let night shine with a million bits
Of candlelit diamond dust and
Let her spirit dance and spin in
Swirling white wild robes.
We seek the wide eyed child
Instead finding her silk sails had set
A course just above the curve
Of earth, into the horizon.
Glimmering into the shimmer
Of the red ruby crystal day
Behind the shadow of the sun.
Landing everywhere together
Touching every space, untethered
To the mystery unseen,
Now shimmering in us and in between.

A blue velvet bag opened by this single
Movement – her hand reached
Into the spaciousness above
And all stars’ light unpacked, and
Secreted away in drawer full of daydreams.
Now the seashore glistens
With the promise of night, and
Eternally luminous
With all the befores,
And all the ever afters,
Moving our millions of tears
Into a single smiling river.
“Goodnight my beautiful bodies,”
And we fly away home, laughing.

Present Perfect

Ashen long shadow-colored faces stare back from my past.
Time sits in my lap a small child, hands raw and worried, consoled
Comforted by stories of never lands and ever mores.
Today, my words rendered illegible, erased nervously.
All the while
Darting back
Shoulder
To shoulder –
left right
left right.

Somewhere a darkened classroom with every wall covered
By blackboards waiting, vacant for me.
Now, turning deserted like a Western town,
With chalk wisps ghosts, picture the sentences
So long ago hung on a nail struck by an invisible hammer.
Tonight’s erasers let out old chalky coughs, like a smoker’s
Thick with phlegm and gravel. Cleaning the felt gills free
From years of numbers and letters,
I beat
Them
Together
Hard
And fast.
The remaining clouds too thin to grab hold
By the sky, shimmer, unlined heavy lids shutter eyes
So weightlessly, lashes feathery, they move too easily,
Then blow past us, like a divorce.
Folding myself in to bend at the cracked window,
Seeing a reflection in the mirror panes,
I shiver first at the draft, and as the stars give way to the day,
I see everything.

I find all the sunshine ever shined,
Filtered through my forests, my pin pupil eyes.
And I, without permission,
Acting out against all advice –
Finally stare into the sun.

Overcome by warmth in my extremities,
My silhouette against the wallpapers,
In a still house framed by night.
Looking over the unnatural hills a flutter appears.
No birds yet, not a song, no flights, no song.
Though late enough for a gray mourning dove.
Listing up over the trees, on currents along moves
The flightless wings floating delicately, white.
At my feet: paper with a single seam
Addressed to only me,
Retun to a boy named Eternally
I unfold but once, then read.

“Make one promise if you please: only now and for you,
if for want of love to capture the clouds,
snapped still like a photograph,
take just enough and give your heart to listening alone.
Talking creates your deafness of thought
and silences your laughter.”