January 30, 2020

Letting it all out

Life has been busy for the past couple of months. Work of course, the Meetup I organize, the kids at home, the house itself. Like everybody. It’s been hard to carve some moments where I can think and breathe a bit. I’ve noticed that in these few moments, the activities that bring me joy all have this in common: Letting something out.


I enjoy writing. I like revising my writing much more than I liked revising my music (it was painful). I’ve been invited to write pieces for a trade magazine (they flaked on me, so I posted it here and on LinkedIn) and a vendor’s blog. Nothing “creative” per se, but still some writing work.

About 5 years ago, I thought that I was really going to get into writing: take classes, workshops, etc. And then it didn’t happen. I might try again later. At this time, though, I found a tool that I really liked: Ilys.

The idea is simple: You start a session and decide right off the bat how many words you want to write. Once the session is started, you can only see what you type one letter at a time, you cannot go back, and you will only see your copy once you’ve reached your word goal. Brilliant.

The thing that slows me down the most when I write is the constant real-time editing. Ilys prevents that. It’s a bit annoying at first and then it’s liberating. I was able to write the second piece much faster than I anticipated thanks to Ilys. I was just letting it out and it was very enjoyable.

A screenshot of Ilys showing a black screen with just one large letter at the center--the latest letter that was typed.

A screenshot of Ilys.


Arguably another form of writing, except that I only write by hand in my journal. Even If I never followed Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way I kept the idea of the morning pages. Journaling is another place of flow and letting out/letting go that brings me joy.

A master of the art of journaling is Austin Kleon and a practice that I’ve started yesterday is keeping a logbook. I also see it as a gratitude journal, and a way to look back on the day and extract what was delightful and inspiring (there’s always something delightful and inspiring; sometimes we just need to look harder).


Finally, a third practice that puts me in the same mental place is drawing. I enjoy sketching ideas or simply doodling. I treated myself with Illustrator artist’s markers by Spectrum Noir. They are alcohol dye based and the colors don’t bleed when I write on top of a pencil line. I also treated myself with a graphics tablet that I use to work in Blender and it’s another kind of freedom.

If you want to get started, this article by Ralph Ammer was trending a lot two years ago and is still a good resource:

I feel good about connecting these three practices. Now I just need to find a good balance.

Photo by Chris Abney on Unsplash

Thomas Deneuville lives in Upstate NY with his wife and two sons, where he writes about creativity, draws, codes, and plays the bagpipe.