Another Look inside my Wreck this Journal: Doodles and Disasters

It’s a thunder stormy kind of day, so I decided it might be fun to crack out my Wreck This Journal for a little artistic expression. I hope you enjoy!

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Oh my goodness was this page ever fun. A while back I stumbled across Vi Hart’s blog and was enchanted by her Math doodling videos. I was inspired! So of course I used what I’d learned in her doodling infinity elephants video to fill in this page with an infinite number of circles! I think it turned out pretty well, although my triangle page is a bit of a mess.

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Here’s an example of a time where, despite my best efforts, the book turned on me. After drawing a rather lovely fishy (kind of a theme in this journal), I allowed the book a full day to dry. But upon shutting it, the glue managed to seal the pages shut regardless. Can’t win them all!

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I love this doodle. My significant other and I went all out trying to out-draw each other… resulting in this crazy barking-dogs-and-chemistry-glassware drawing. Oh scientists.

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Gah. Another fail. This page was all about gluing items found items. I went with the theme of “Things I Acquired While Studying Abroad”: my Frosh bracelet, pretty stickers, a fudge menu from a store in Edinburgh… and those 3D glasses that I almost always want to use for one reason or other (case in point – cool 3D youtube videos). Too bad I glued them in AND used staples to secure them.

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This page is a sign – what do you want it to say? NEVER GIVE UP! What does it really say? That I’m clearly a terrible sign-maker. Regardless, this page makes me smile because of the sheer desperation to it. It’s the perfect mix of optimism and exasperation.  A perfect note on which to end this post. ;)

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Real-life Inspiration Journals: Everything You’ll Need For Graduate School

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My Inspirational "Everything You'll Need For Grad School" Journal

As I have previously mentioned, I love journals.

One of the many journals that I have kept over the years was entitled “Everything You’ll Need for Grad School“. I bought this journal on the day that I was accepted into a graduate program in aquatic biology at Edinburgh Napier University (Scotland). The very first thing that I did was write myself a letter about my thoughts and expectations related to the program. I stapled this shut and decided to keep it preserved.

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The First Page: A note that I wrote to myself on the day that I was accepted into grad school - still stapled safely

I wrote this journal during my final semester as an undergraduate. It was a place to keep track of the main points that I would be taking away from each of my classes and make notes about concepts that I expected to see again in grad school. Summarizing important concepts provided a great opportunity for me to reflect on the most important aspects of each class and how they might relate to future studies.

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Important terms from my undergraduate studies - writing these down helped me to study for exams in addition to being reference materials

I also used this journal to organize important ecological definitions into categories. This was a great studying strategy in my final semester as an undergrad because it got me making connections and defining the most important terms that popped up in my readings. Strangely enough, when I look back on the definitions that I thought were so important in my undergraduate studies, I find myself smiling inwardly because they seem so simple and engrained in my mind. One of the big differences between my undergraduate and graduate studies was the shift from a rigid, memorization-based learning environment to a more holistic, knowledge-based approach.

This was also my first journal where I started to use a lot of diagrammatic interpretations of biological concepts such as phosphorous, nitrogen, and carbon cycles related to freshwater. This marked a significant shift in the way that I studied and took notes in all classes to come.

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A diagram interpretation of the phosphorus cycle. Drawing these out helped me to master the various interconnected phases in the phosphorus cycle as they relate to lake ecosystems.

All in all, the entires that I wrote in my “Everything You’ll Need for Grad School” journal were not as important for my graduate studies as I might have expected. However, the skills that I developed from reflecting and reinterpreting the concepts that I’d learned in my undergraduate studies were a huge part of my success as a grad student. I learned to see the big picture and how the various parts of undergraduate classes could fit together and be used in times to come. It’s a journaling exercise that I would recommend for undergraduates who are in their final year of studies.

Did you keep a journal in your final year(s) as an undergraduate student? Are you interested in a guide for starting your own? Let me know in the comments!

Elle

How I Stifled my own Creativity

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One of my few artistic creations this month - a seahorse drawn in chalk pastels

If I have learned anything this month, it’s this:

You can’t rush creativity.

This month, my personal challenge was to put aside some time each day to get creative. I wanted to encourage myself to get back into art and to try out some new DIY projects. However, despite sounding like a fun way to spend time, I made art into a frustrating activity that had to be completed at the end of long work days and on weekends. Creativity became the challenge.

Essentially I had stifled my own creativity. But at least I’ll take away some realizations. For one, creativity isn’t something you can plan. At the beginning of the month I complied a delightfully long list of potential projects – lists being my personal favorite inspirational tool. Unfortunately, this list stood as a sort of insurmountable mountain of tasks. With the sunlight dwindling,  snow storms, and -30 degree weather, I didn’t feel like working on projects when I could curl up with a good book (the Hunger Games), enjoy a hot bath, or spend time with friends. How could I possibly be inspired to start the longest list of tasks ever?

The second thing that I cam to realize was the variety of different projects that could count (even loosely) as art. I could dance to music, bake cupcakes, doodle on my computer, and even day dream – I mean those count as art, right? In fact, the work I do as a salesgirl, arranging sweaters on a table, or as a research assistant, creating graphs with just the right level of contrasting colors, these are artistic tasks too. At least in the sense that not everyone’s final product will be visually appealing.

There is art and creativity in everything we do.

The third thing I learned… Well I would like to say that it was to relax and let art happen. But it obviously isn’t that (yet?). I was so upset about my lack of follow-through on my art projects this month that I couldn’t think of anything to write last week. I felt so much pressure to live up to my challenge that I stifled my own creativity. And a positive feedback cycle ensued – the more I worried, the more stressed out I became about my challenge, the less I could accomplish. Perfect. I can see now that I just need to step back from life and stop stressing the little things.

So what about the rest of the month?

I’ve decided to just relax. To stop thinking so much about every little thing that I could/should/would be doing if… well you get the picture. I’ll leave myself free to enjoy art if and when I want to. And blog about other stuff in the meantime.

Have you every over-thought a personal challenge? Have you ever stood in the way of your own success? I’m pretty sure it happens to all of us from time to time.

Elle

5 Favourite Ways to Spend Time With Loved Ones

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I made this lovely pop-up card after seeing a similar one on pinterest <3

Hello readers! Happy Valentines day to all of you!

I’m usually pretty indifferent when it comes to Valentines day. I don’t go all out crazy for it, but at the same time I don’t voice an unprompted opinion of it being too materialistic or commercialized. It’s just another fun pseudo-holiday to me, like Halloween or St. Patrick’s day, and it provides the perfect excuse to spend more time with loved ones and eat chocolate. What’s not to love?

In previous years I have found myself spending Valentines being single-in-a-group. However, this year I have a special someone to spend it with… and that’s made me more than a little giddy. Heck, I made a pop-up card! So to celebrate my giddiness, I’ve decided to list my 5 favourite ways to spend time with the people I love.

Here goes… <3

  • Playing legos/video games. Seriously, I am such a kid at heart.
  • Late night gossip over dessert. Usually with the girls, but who doesn’t love sharing a dessert (or two)?
  • Ice skating. Or any outdoor activity really – swimming, kayaking, rock climbing, snow shoeing, snowboarding… it’s all good!
  • Baking. Or cooking. And the inevitable eating (of course).
  • Dancing. In all its forms. Just without the weirdos trying to cut in ;)

Wishing everyone a super Happy Valentine’s day – whether you’re in a relationship, single, or ‘it’s complicated’.

Elle

Making Inspiration

Having survived through the dark, frigid days of January, I had expected that my life would quickly become more wonderful. I guess I set myself up for disappointment.

Instead of getting down about it, I’ve decided that a new project is in order. I’m creating an inspiration board.

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My inspiration board so far... I've got plenty of room to dream <3

Oh yes, I am most definitely talking about one of those boards where you post pictures of things that inspire you or represent your aspirations. It’s an idea that seems to have originated from the movie/book/franchise, the Secret, and I’ve been told on countless occasions that it’s definitely a worthwhile creation. So please don’t hate ;)

So… what to put on this board? Well, to start, I purchased a glass-enclosed pin-board that opens like a cabinet. It’s absolutely my style – I adore things that are neat and clutter-free. Now for the hard part: filling it up with my aspirations!

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Readers by @ellefeeney

I’ve tried to represent my goals using abstract representations of them. For example, I really want to gain more readers for my blog and my scientific work, so I’ve made a tiny model of a book entitled “Readers” by @ellefeeney. Now I just need to pick out some other goals and pop them in!

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A while back I made this cue card of possible blog topic tags to inspire me to tag my posts. The next day my blog post was freshly-pressed on wordpress.com. I believe in physical representations of inspiration.

Anyway, it’s still a work in progress, but I hope that it helps me to focus my thoughts a little more. And who knows, maybe all that “Secret” stuff is so popular for a reason? I hope so…

Do you have an inspiration board? What are some things that you’ve decided to include to inspire/motivate yourself?

Elle