Maybe it's not so bad, Mrs. Best.

Yesterday I went to 57th Street Books and bought a copy of "Wreck This Journal" by Keri Smith. I know I'm always saying, "You need to get this book." But seriously, get this book. It's only $12.00, and I bet it's even cheaper on Amazon. The first direction of the journal is to break the binding! What a liberating feeling!

And you also have pages with assignments like: burn this page (I did it last night during my Valentine's date with myself and overcame my fear of fire), write on this page when you are angry, and spill your coffee on this page. The book is dedicated to all perfectionists, so I knew I'd like it. The point is that when you're all done, the journal will be basically destroyed. Every page/assignment challenges the reader to be okay with being uncomfortable and nontraditional. I'll admit, as one who is overcoming perfectionist tendencies, this book is just what the doctor ordered. Especially in conjunction with "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron (just go ahead and order this one, too).

I made a couple of presents for people today as my Creative Everyday project. And I also did a page from this journal. Here it is:

I had no idea this assignment would impact me so immensely! In "The Artist's Way," the author talks about how we need to silence the voices from our past that turned off our inner creativity (as an aside, this author definitely confirms that EVERYONE is creative and it's actually God within us that is lighting that creative fire). Anyway, we all have voices from the past that told us that maybe we weren't artistic, or that we should focus on academics instead, or that only certain people are given creative abilities. Well, Julia Cameron (the author) says we need to silence all those voices!

And so with that in the back of my mind, I turned to this page of the journal. The page assignment is to: Color outside of the lines. Simple enough, right? But I was IMMEDIATELY sent back to a memory I hadn't thought about for many years. I journeyed back to my kindergarten classroom in Iowa sitting in a quiet room with Mrs. Best, my teacher. She'd kept me in for recess because she needed to talk to me about something I had done wrong. We'd had an assignment to color a bear. Looking highly disappointed, she said that I hadn't followed the directions and I needed to stay inside the lines. I said as I looked down at what appeared to be a perfectly nice bear with poking lines all around the outside, "Well, that was the bear's fur." I remember feeling terrible because I never got into trouble and I had clearly disappointed my teacher. I realize it's hard and dangerous to claim exactly which events in our lives shape who we become; but I can surely say that this encounter with Mrs. Best and the great bear tragedy of 1988 influenced me as I did spend the next 20 years doing EVERY thing I could to remain perfectly in the lines of an overachieving, perfectionist, obsessive life.

Doing this page of "Wreck this Journal" was surprisingly redemptive.

Because you know what, Mrs. Best? It's pretty awesome to color outside the lines once in awhile.


  1. When I got into Carleton, I got my application checks for other colleges back from my school's counseling office and burned them. It was very satisfying.

    I am shocked by Mrs. Best! Shocked! That was probably a great bear, Emily.

  2. yes!! it's great to color outside the lines. i love the art you did!

    that keri smith looks awesome. i've had my eye on it, but really need to grab a copy.

  3. I could never just stay inside the lines when I colored, and I always felt guilty about it. I've just recently learned to let go and let the color flow outside the lines without feeling guilty, and I love it. I've also found that trees don't have to be green, bears don't have to be brown, skies don't have to be blue, etc...and it's glorious!

    I agree with Maggie. You probably had a great bear. Mrs. Best just couldn't see that.

    The Wrecking book sounds great. Have fun!

  4. In some ways I always found the lines liberating. By no means, do I mean to contradict. Artistic creativity should never be shut down. But this all about liberation, no? In art class, I was overwhelmed by a blank project. I could never figure out where to start. For that I loved those lines. They gave me guidance, suggestions. I could choose whatever color I wanted and make that picture my own in a variety of ways, but without those lines I would have been lost. :)