I’m not perfect. But sometimes I try to be.
And that is one futile battle. Salvador Dali said it best:
Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.
Yet even though I know that in my head, oftentimes my actions and heart-attitude reflect otherwise.
And perfectionism can be paralyzing, lemmetellya.
It can stifle creativity. Confuse our motives. Prevent us from ever beginning.
So, when my brand spankin’ new Journaling Bible arrived on my doorstep two weeks ago, I knew that if I wanted to embrace this new form of spiritual and artistic expression with creative freedom, I needed to make a bold move. I needed to declare exactly what this Bible would be for and what it would NOT be for.
And so, on the inside cover of my ESV Single-Column Journaling Bible, I created what I call my Permission Pages. And they set me free!
In fact, it was such a worthwhile exercise for me, I thought I would dedicate this entire post to sharing about it so others might benefit from a similar exercise in their Journaling Bible (or journal of any kind). Especially those for whom perfectionism is a frenemy like it is for me.
…if you haven’t yet read my introductory post, Welcome to My Journaling Bible: heART in the margins, you may want to check that out, and then come back to finish the rest of this post. It’s a helpful primer for anyone who is new to the concept of using a Bible like an art journal. I also take a stab at any questions you might have about it because I certainly had a lot of questions when I first learned about it!
The Origin of this Concept
Back at Wheaton College, during one of my “office hours” with my theatre professor Mark Lewis, we chatted about how my perfectionism and fear of failure were getting in the way of my acting work. So, he gave me a challenge. And I took it.
Before beginning my next exercise in class, I looked at my classmates and declared these 8 words – – 8 little words that set me free in a big way:
“This is going to be ordinary and unimpressive.”
And just like that, the pressure was off. The crazy high standard for perfection that I had placed on myself vanished. And then, I was able to begin my acting work with a sense of creative freedom and abandon that I hadn’t experienced before.
And friends, it was life-changing.
What Permission Looks Like
Now, whenever I get a brand new journal, I like to make an “ordinary and unimpressive” declaration on the first page – – a reminder that my journal pages are safe places to play, make mistakes, make messes, be imperfect. By silencing the inner critic right out of the gate on page 1, she is less likely to reappear later on and twist something meant to be full of joy into something laden with pressure – – something I never want a journal or my Journaling Bible to be.
I also strive to pass on that permission to my students. At the beginning of each school year, I used to show my English students a clip from Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” (I urge you to carve out a few minutes to watch it if you haven’t seen it already.)
One of my favorite quotes of his that always sparked a fruitful discussion for us was this:
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
Let that sink in for a spell.
That, my friends, is why I personally believe it can be so valuable to take even just a moment to look your own fear of failure in the face and tell it, “You don’t belong here. Hit the road, Jack!”
Because once we free ourselves of fear and perfectionism, well, the sky’s the limit where creativity and innovation are concerned. And I love the implications of what that might mean for my Bible study and yours.
The Process of Creating my Permission Pages
I decided that I before I dove into art-journaling scripture, I wanted to created some Permission Pages in the front of my new Journaling Bible. So, I dedicated an afternoon to meditating on the prompt, “This Bible is for….” I did a wee bit of practice on scrap paper, but not much. Then, I set to work with *watercolors and my doodling pen, filling up that first page on my inside front cover. The style is inspired by one of my favorite Instagramers, Pepper and Twine.
The next day, I took it a step further and created a second page with two more decrees: “This Bible is not for…” and “These pages may….” I wanted to make sure I was 100% clear on my intentions, and that I didn’t give my perfectionistic tendencies any wiggle room. She’s a feisty one, she is!
For that second page, I used watercolors and my doodling pen on a rectangle of white cardstock, so I could cover up the text on the page that red “This Bible belongs to.” I figure I can recreate that page later on somewhere else.
Plus, I had started to paint atop it the day before and was scrunching my nose in disastisfaction at my results. So, it was a great excuse to cover it up and start anew!
And here’s God’s sense of humor for ya: when trying out my Trodat Economy Self-Inking Date Stamp for the first time on the bottom edge, I immediately made a mistake, thinking it was Wednesday 3/18 and not Tuesday 3/17. Oh well! It gave me a chance to put my permissions to the test.
And I figure I might as well embrace the imperfections right off the bat because by golly there are bound to be a lot more where this came from!
Case in point:
This week, I learned that washi tape is too strong to remove without damaging the pages of my Journaling Bible. But rather than get down on myself for “messing it up” I remembered that I had written down on my Permission Pages that “these pages may rrrrrip.”
So, this was all a natural part of the process! I didn’t get hung up on it as an error, but rather just reached for my pen to complete the verse where it had gotten mangled. Permission granted, right?
I made the decision to believe that the rips adds to the beauty. And it was a much more freeing experience than if I had let my perfectionism take the reigns. That’s some major growth right there for this recovering perfectionist!
Aside: Rather than call myself a perfectionist all the time, sometimes I choose to use the term “recovering perfectionist.” It’s a reminder of how much I have grown in this area and God is redeeming that part of me…one messy page at a time.
Tips for Creating Your Own Permission Pages
If you have a new journal or Journaling Bible and feel reticent to begin because of fears of “messing it up,” then I dare say it could be a really worthwhile exercise for you to create your own Permission Pages.
They can be anywhere you choose: in the front, in the back, scattered throughout, in a big frame near your workspace, or in a separate notebook.
And here are some prompts to get you started:
- “This Bible is for…”
- “This Bible is NOT for…”
- “These pages may…”
- “I’m afraid that…” After brainstorming a list of fears, think of them one by one and decide for yourself which are valid, distorted, or flat out lies. Label them as such.
- Inner Critic exercise: your inner critic is the voice inside your head that tries to stop you from creating. Try to imagine what your inner critic looks like (human, animal, monster?) and draw him/her on paper, surrounded by the things he/she likes to say. Then, cover up the entire page with different post-its that say, “YES!” Or perhaps create a separate page with a drawing of your inner child artist along with what he/she might shout in rebuttal, such as “You can do this!” “Get messy!” “Be authentically YOU and don’t apologize for that.”
- Make a list of your own “Rules” for your Journaling Bible and shape them so they are the sort of rules that free you from the pressure for perfection. So, one rule might be that you will celebrate mistakes! Or that you only sit down to read and journal when you leave your fear of failure at the door.
- Make a list of your weaknesses and your strengths followed by a written commitment to bring all of you into your Journaling Bible experience. Because that’s what God wants! All of you!
- Choose a verse or passage from scripture that focuses on your freedom in Christ or God’s grace and write it big and bold so you don’t forget it! Here are some good ones to explore: Psalm 34:4, Isaiah 43:1, 2 Corinthians 12:9.
My hope is that my story in conjunction with these permission exercises might help get your heart and head in the right place to shove off on your own journey of encountering God anew through your Journaling Bible.
Are you enjoying this series on My Journaling Bible? Hooray! And thanks to the lot of you who encouraged me to share more.
Also, you can click HERE to subscribe so you receive updates about my latest posts in your inbox. (Also, I have a free printable gift for all of my subscribers…woot woot!)
Update: Thanks to the overwhelmingly positive response to my first two Journaling Posts, I created a Flip-Through Video Tour of my first ten entires. Check it out for more inspiration!
More Creative Recklessness
A year ago, I shared a post called, Wreck This Journal: A Perfectionist’s Nightmare. If you want some more great exercises that will help break you of your perfectionistic tendencies all in the name of creative freedom, well then you deffers want to check that out!
Have a blessed Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday!
He is risen.
He is risen indeed.
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