Motivational journals aren’t anything new, but Kara Cutruzzula chalks the opportunity to write her own to serendipity. “I’ve always been interested in ways to make dreams edge a little closer to reality,” says Cutruzzula, who had spent the last three years writing a newsletter called Brass Ring, when an editor at Abrams Books reached out. For Do It For Yourself, Cutruzzula teamed up with Tessa Forrest, the graphic designer behind the wildly popular Instagram @subliming.jpg to create the 55-page guide full of prompts meant to guide you on your productivity journey — whether it's encouraging you to engage in a minute of freewriting, or asking you to reflect on a time when you felt really stretched in the past and how you pushed through.
We flipped a few of the journal's prompts on its co-creators to find out what that self-care means to them during this decidedly weird time and place.
Kara: Every morning, somewhere in between my first and second cup of coffee, I roll out a yoga mat, get down on the floor, and count to 25. Maybe I'll do 25 crunches or 25 push-ups or simply lie on my back for 25 seconds with my eyes closed, but this tiny half-minute moment clears my head and sets my intention for the day.
Like many other people, I'm glued to a desk chair in front of a giant monitor for 8-10 hours a day. Having the yoga mat out is a welcome invitation to lie down or stretch anytime when things — either my back or my work — start getting tense.
Tessa: Doing something creative every day. Being creative is my job, and while at times that can be a little exhaustive, I love being creative and exercising that muscle every single day. Whether that be for designing for work, for play on Subliming, painting, drawing, or daydreaming what my next creation will be. I never skip — even on days off.
Kara: You know how most of our conversations sound the same these days? How are you, how are you hanging in, what's going on, etc. I've found a big boost to my mental health comes from the simple act of collaborating. Tying friendships to a kind of shared goal keeps you both active and working toward something outside this moment. Maybe it's reading a friend's novel-in-progress or taking an online class together or learning how to ride a bike on city streets. Sharing in the joy of something new gets me thinking less about what's going wrong — and more about what's right.
Tessa: To be transparent, it’s been really hard for me. I think isolation is tough, but the state of the world at large is tougher. I have been trying to remind myself what I am in control of and what keeps me happy and make it a priority to do those things. Journaling, meditating, stretching or gentle exercise, relaxing TV, or being creative always seem to ground me to the present moment.
Kara: I've been known to rattle off a bunch of motivational techniques and tips on the phone to friends, so the other day I thought: Should I start a podcast?! Then, of course, came the seedlings of doubt, all starting with "but": But there are already thousands of other podcasts, but you don't have the right equipment, but what would you call it anyway?
It's almost funny how consistently fear and doubt can stop us from taking the first step. The best response to feeling doubt is always, "But what if I tried?" You probably have your own little inkling of something you want to try. I've found that if you have a little hum of a question in your ear, it's essential to answer it.
Tessa: Ceramics! Although, I took it in high school and was very obsessed with it. But I’ve never done wheel throwing, and I think I’d love that. I always joke that when I get older I’m just going to quit my job and life and make pottery.
Kara: "Comparison will kill you." Sounds dramatic, but it's true! Holding up your first draft against someone else's final creation will squash your drive to move forward. Our prompt in Do It For Yourself is a sort of antidote to that comparison envy: Write a fan letter to someone you admire. It feels more productive to admire someone for their brilliance than curse them for it.
Tessa: “The Only Way Out Is Through” is one of my favorites. It really just sums up how to get through a hard time or a period of being stuck.
Kara: This is going to sound silly, but I just changed a lightbulb. This tiny task took about 30 seconds, but then a corner of my world that was dark suddenly had light. An easy metaphor, but a true one. Self-care is all about small acts of illumination.
Tessa: I just finished making an amazing breakfast. It was so good.