Creative Spirit: Laura Thoma on ‘Mastering the Art of Self-Expression’ (Q&A w/ event details)

I’ll be in conversation with Laura Thoma, author of Mastering the Art of Self-Expression, at the Book Club Bookstore & More in South Windsor on Friday evening, July 7, at 5:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public; please reserve seating by calling the store at 860-432-7411. Copies of the book will be available for purchase / signing. More information can be found online. Location: 869 Sullivan Ave.

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Today, I’m joined by a true dynamo: Laura Thoma.

Laura is the author of the newly released book, Mastering the Art of Self-Expression: A Creative Journaling Workbook (SassyQuackProDucktions, LLC). A speaker, certified coach, and artist with an extensive background in both performing and visual arts, she also co-founded Road to Success, a personal development online school. Laura designs and facilitates her online classes using a whole brain approach that implements structure and focus as well as imagination and creativity. She makes her home in Connecticut.

Laura Thoma
Laura Thoma

Praise for the author:

“I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your Creative Journaling 101 workshop! As a professional trying to find more creative ways to approach my job, I was looking for a way to charge up that side of me. Your workshop was thoroughly enjoyable. I found myself playing more, thinking more and quite frankly doing things that I hadn’t taken the time to do in years. Not only did I realize how little time I actually take to do things for myself, your workshop opened up a creative, inquisitive door that the adult in me had closed years ago. Your energy and enthusiasm is contagious! Thanks for the fun and inspiration!”—C. Giampa, Real Estate Broker

From the publisher:

Mastering the Art of Self-Expression is an interactive full-color workbook based on Laura Thoma’s successful in-person and online workshop, Creative Journaling 101. This instructive workbook takes you on a journey to reconnect with your creative spirit through self-exploration and play. You practice non-judgment and mindfulness while reclaiming your refrigerator art. The exercises show you your strength and courage while freeing your sense of humor. Also included are mini-motivators, reflection pages, and space to doodle, ponder, and brainstorm.

Mastering The Art Of Self Expression

Now, Laura reveals her creative inspirations …

John: What first inspired you to write Mastering the Art of Self-Expression?

Laura: It was an amazing group of women who were in my very first Creative Journaling “Club.” The club had evolved from a one day in person workshop that I taught at Blick Art Materials in Wheaton, Illinois called “Creative Journaling 101.” At the end of the workshop I gave “homework” and the women wanted to meet again to discuss it, so I spoke with the store manager and we started a monthly group called Creative Journaling Club that met the second Sunday of each month. The group flourished for four years until I moved to Connecticut. As we explored Creative Journaling and I continued to create new exercises and challenges, I wanted a way to keep track of them and compile them. At the same time, the women were asking for something that would keep them connected to their journaling between sessions. So the first incarnation of Mastering the Art of Self-Expression was born. It was a spiral-bound workbook that I sold at the group and at workshops. By that time I had three different monthly Journaling Groups. The participants loved the workbook and shared it with their friends. I continue to get requests for the workbook, so I decided it was time for a more substantial version and one that people can order online.

John: I love the concept of “refrigerator art.” Please explain this notion, and how embracing it can set the stage for mindfulness.

Laura: Ah, refrigerator art…one of my favorite concepts! When I first started trying to explain what Creative Journaling is it was really challenging. Many people would hear the word “creative” and stop listening and loudly proclaim it wasn’t for them because they are not creative, so don’t even talk to them. So, I began looking for a term that everyone could relate to or that would at least stop people’s automatic responses, something that would create an opening for conversation. I pondered, when was the last time that most people displayed something they had created that wasn’t “perfect”? Probably when their Mom or Aunt or some other adult hung their “Art” on the refrigerator. Ah, ha! Refrigerator Art! The thing about refrigerator art is it’s from a time before our censors and critics had a chance to take hold, when we created for creation’s sake. And that is mindfulness. Being in the moment while we’re creating, not worrying about the outcome—how it looks, what it means—we’re just enjoying the process of creating.

John: The workbook is set up as if the activities are recipes. Why did you choose this approach – and, in your opinion, how does creativity nourish the soul?

Laura: As I was creating the workbook I really struggled with what to call the activities. Exercises seemed like drudgery and something you “had to do.” Templates seemed so corporate and cold. Activities seemed too big … you get the picture. I was stumped. I talked to the women in my groups … they were stumped. Then I saw the movie Julie and Julia … and I thought, YES! Recipes, what I’ve created are recipes. Recipes are delicious, loving, something we make for ourselves or share with those we love. Using the term recipe encourages following the directions the first time through to see what you think, then tweaking it to your own taste. I loved Julia Child as a kid. I watched her on PBS and thought she was inspiring. I would have never been able to say back then that what I loved about her was her fearlessness in creating. So, recipes it was. And because Julia inspired me to figure that out, I decided to honor her by paying an homage to her first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. To answer the second part of your question, I think creativity is like water, it hydrates us and encourages people to grow. It allows us to express things we don’t have words for and gives voice to our soul. Creativity makes us juicer and acts as a mirror that allows us to see ourselves from the inside out. Without creativity our soul and voice dehydrate and wither and we tend to function from a place deprivation.

John: We’re all busy people with competing priorities. How can we endeavor to find the time to indulge our artistic (again change to creative) inclinations – and what have you found to be the key(s) to achieving some semblance of balance in your own life?

Laura: Wow, that’s a BIG question. Firstly, I would say it’s not indulging. And this myth is part of the reason why so many people never learn to harness the power of their creative side to create the life they want. I would say creativity IS the key to finding balance, joy, and many other things in your life. To your original statement: We’re all busy people with competing priorities. Creativity is the key to working it out. We can get creative with our time, with our organization, and, specifically using Creative Journaling, we can become clear on what’s most important to us. I have found that by embracing my creativity my life feels more balanced. My creativity has shown me that every problem has multiple ways of approaching it. There is no right or wrong. I can find an approach that speaks to me and keeps me engaged and happy.

John: You are the Co-Founder of Road to Success, which uses a whole brain approach to helping others chart their journeys. How does this differ from standard philosophies – and what are the unique benefits of an online school such as yours?

Laura: Great question. I think many philosophies choose a side. Some appeal to more left brained strategies such as structure, organization, and analytical thinking. While others focus on right brained strategies such as visualization, spatial reasoning, and mind mapping. But in using a whole brain approach we encourage people to balance out their strengths and weaknesses. We have learned that engaging strategies for both right and left brain it is much easier for clients to stay focused, engaged, and excited while reaching their goals. Now, as for online schools, they are terrific. I myself love taking online classes. They allow you to take the class where and when is convenient for you. Our classes work across your devices so you can start the class on the train and pick it up at home or at the coffee shop. Each class is designed with an in person feel that lets you focus on you without comparing yourself to others or dealing with the logistics of going somewhere on a specific day. We offer communication boards so people can have a sense of community, they can connect with me as well other people who are taking the class.

John: You’ll be doing events to promote the book’s release. How might attending one of these help to enhance the experience for readers?

Laura: I love that adult coloring books have gotten people reconnected to their crayons and colored pencils, but many are looking for something more. They want to express themselves, but aren’t sure how and attending an event will help affirm that self-expression is a personal journey, something that feeds our souls, enriches our lives, and expands our horizons. It will also give them permission to fully embrace their creative side. Creative Journaling is what I call self-leveling and will meet people where they are. This is something that always comes up in conversations at events and is very helpful and motivating. Having a group conversation is always an empowering and inspiring experience. And who doesn’t love to come to a bookstore?

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With thanks to Laura Thoma for her generosity of time and thought and to Chris Wolak for her organizational wizardry.

Don’t forget: Laura and I will be in conversation at South Windsor’s Book Club Bookstore & More this Friday evening, July 7th, at 5:30 p.m.

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