For many (many, many) years, I looked outside myself for answers to very important questions. Somehow I assumed that other people had a better idea of what I needed and wanted. I didn’t spend much time pausing and checking in with myself. When it came to making decisions, I essentially conducted surveys to see what everyone else thought — well before I actually consulted myself. (This, of course, wasn’t very effective. I typically just got more and more confused and my self-trust took a nosedive.)
“Every answer is inside you,” writes Brooklyn-based self-taught artist Meera Lee Patel in Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration. I write something similar in my own creativity book. Because we forget this sometimes. We forget that our voice is important and powerful. We forget that we have the ultimate say. An we forget to listen to ourselves.
Creativity can help us sharpen our listening skills. This is why today I’m sharing my interview with Patel, whose new book invites and empowers us to gain a deeper understanding of what resides in our hearts. Start Where You Are is filled with inspiring quotes and self-reflective prompts, which include writing, drawing and list-making. Below, Patel talks about why she created her beautiful book, the power of creativity and what inspires her personal work.
Plus, I’m giving away one copy of the book! See below for details.
Q: What inspired you to write Start Where You Are?
A: I created this journal as a way for people to better connect with themselves. I grew up in the early 90’s, when the Internet was just beginning to take off and computers were starting to become integrated into our daily lives. It’s easy to see the immense differences in how I used to spend my time (reading, exploring the outdoors, thinking, wondering) and how time is spent now that life revolves around a screen.
It’s also become very evident that the more people distract themselves, the harder it is for them to listen to themselves. The distance between their heads and hearts grows larger, and the space in between is often filled with confusion, anxiety, and listlessness.
Start Where You Are takes people by the hand and helps them regain a sense of Self, building a concrete foundation that will allow them to navigate through life with strength, purpose and inspiration.
Q: What do you want readers to take away from the book?
A: I’d like readers to gain better inspiration, motivation and a better understanding of themselves. From the very beginning, I hope that readers will learn the most important lesson of all: that every answer comes from within.
Q: Why is creating — no matter how small — key to our mental health and to moving our lives forward?
A: When you create — whether it is a poem, drawing, thought, or connection — you are also creating self-worth. Looking inside yourself and asking important questions is difficult, but it’s often the most uncomfortable questions that offer the most insightful answers — the sort that lead to self-acceptance and understanding.
Creativity is a process, and each time you create, you uncover a little bit more of yourself. Introspection, like all things, is a practice, and one that strengthens only when you try a little bit harder each day.
Q: You note that it’s important to start a creative project before you even have a clue what you’re doing. You say it’s productive. I think that so many of us worry it’s the opposite. We worry that we’re wasting our time. Why is it so important?
A: Creating is a cleansing process. It’s easy to point focus on the end project — on what’s being created — while forgetting that the process itself is often the most important part of all.
The process is where all of the learning takes place: It’s where you discover how you work, where you want to go, and what it is that’s inside you waiting to come out. It’s OK to begin in the darkness: Trust that the knowing will find you along the way.
Q: What personally inspires you to create? What inspires your work?
A: Most of my work is influenced by the earth, all of its flora and fauna, as well as the interconnectivity between all living things. I enjoy exploring my relationships with other people, the small moments in everyday life and the wonderful mysteries found in nature.
Q: What are your favorite creative resources?
A: I enjoy looking at the colors, patterns and miniature artwork rooted in India. I’m largely inspired by my culture and both how I am connected and disconnected from it.
I’m also really interested in children’s books and how they shape young minds — a few of my absolute favorites are The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey, and A Hole Is to Dig by Maurice Sendak and Ruth Krauss.
To enter to win a copy of Start Where You Are, simply respond to this question in the comments: “What inspires you?” You have until next Tuesday, August 17th, at 11:59 p.m. EST to leave your comment. This is only open to U.S. readers (sorry about that). Good luck!
And stay tuned later this week when I’ll be sharing my favorite quotes and prompts from Start Where You Are.
Update: The giveaway is closed. The winner is Stacey A. Congrats, Stacey! Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments!