Ann, Author at Annjournal
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Recently I’ve just stumbled upon something I didn’t know I would need: Nature journal.

I have always loved nature and felt a special kind of connection to nature. I do like the act of journaling, but somehow I don’t prefer writing journal; by that I mean writing down my emotions on paper. I’d love to journal the surrounding world in motion – as I have been doing by taking photographs and filming videos; and nature journal seems to be another medium in which I can do so.

After taking the first online courses on nature journal on Skillshare by Rosalie Haizlett, I felt intrigued and started reading more about this subject. One thing leads to another, I kept on researching about forest bathing, the art of foraging, urban sketching, the healing power of nature and way more. I decided that nature journal would be a new habit that I would love to adopt. In order to keep track of my journey, my pieces of work would be uploaded on my Gallery here, if you’d like to have a sneak peek of this journey.

To whom would I recommend this activity?

Almost everyone, but I think it would be more helpful (and more interesting) if you:

  • love nature and want to find a way to be more connected to nature;
  • love getting your hands dirty, using whatever art mediums;
  • are seeking for a light-hearted activity to keep you grounded and calm;
  • are naturally curious about your surroundings. 
Nature journal fern
Nature journal fun pattern

Where should we start?

You can find a range of helpful sources below:

It is a scary feeling. When everything seems to go quite right the other day and suddenly, one day, when you wake up, you feel lost. You feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, you have no idea where you are heading and as you have no clear direction, you don’t know what to do.

In that blank moment, you just want to figure things out, to have something look like a blueprint, a roadmap to show you your current location and your destination. From that, you can figure out your pathway.

But no, you don’t have that map. There is no such thing called a map of life. You can kind of have a rough idea of it when you reach the last moment of your life. For now, you are just somewhere.

So, what can you do?

The first thing you can do is find your point of focus to shift your mind away from getting panic. Don’t try to figure things out, because the harder you try, the more lost you feel. You’d probably end up in that black hole of pressure, comparison, and self-doubt. Instead, find something simple, easy and enjoyable to do. Something that you know you can do and enjoy doing, which doesn’t pressure you, like making a cup of tea you love, reading a light-hearted magazine, going out for a walk, and picking up some weird-looking leaves. These are process-oriented activities that help you focus on the moment. No goals, no results are needed.

Next, you can proceed on having a look at your journals, your portfolios, your past works. There are beautiful moments embedded in your trace of history – and they will ensure that you are not lost. It is just a foggy day, If you keep a journal, take a moment to look back at your highlights, your gratitude list, or your vision for the future. Maybe, you can find your sense of direction back. But don’t stress yourself in any way.

Remember, it is just a foggy day. So if the sun is taking a break, you’d want to give one for yourself too?

I wonder if there is any human on earth who doesn’t have this kind of pressure:

…the nerve of facing a perfect blank white canvas, being afraid of making a mess.

…the pressure of entering a meeting room, joining a brainstorm session, trying to contribute an appropriate idea.

…the hesitation of starting a new project, of trying out a new hobby, thinking that we may not be able to follow it through.

This article is for those who are feeling this kind of pressure every day, with a scary message: let’s focus our energy on making a mess, not perfection.

Messiness is a (huge) part of the creative process


To be honest, not just in a creative process, it is a part of every process.

We all have to deal with a cluster of data before getting it all together to form an actionable insight.

We all experience a table full of flour here and there, tins, spoons, and ingredients laying out everywhere before we have that beautiful bread sitting in the oven.

We have piles of fragmented ideas in the note-taking applications before a comprehensive article be published – or sometimes we toss it for more suitable, impactful content. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I find it rather unfair to call that beautiful process a mess, just because it is unclear, undefined yet. But as I haven’t found a better for it, let’s just call it “a beautiful mess” – which should not be mistaken for Jason Mraz’s song.

Why we are so uncomfortable with being messy


The antonym of ‘messy’, in this case, is not ‘organized’ or ‘clean’. It is ‘perfect’.

Whether it is an unrealistic standard that we set for ourselves (and our works) or it is the fear being seen as “imperfect” that makes us scared of making a mess, it sure holds us back from having creative confidence.

“Think about how kids play: They don’t think, they just do. And if the whole contraption comes crashing to the floor, they laugh at the mess and start over. (Or throw a fit, but hey, they’re learning about emotion, too!)” (Ideo Blog)

It is because they know no standard – or don’t even care if there is one. They also don’t have a concept of self-image. And because of that, they are free to be creative. They are free to be as messy as they can and to learn from their trials and errors.

We don’t learn from getting something right.

We learn from getting it wrong so many times.

Let’s embrace the beautiful mess


Not like kids, as we have learned grown-up stuff, we experienced standards and setbacks, it might not come naturally to us to just make a mess and forget about everything else.

We all got that tension already, now we need to learn to loosen it up first.

At IDEO, a design company that created the first usable computer mouse for Apple, introduces a warm-up practice to get team members to release perfectionism tension in the brainstorming sessions called The Really Bad Ideas Brainstorm. Instead of trying to contribute with good-to-great ideas, all the team members focus on producing the weirdest, most hilarious, seemingly impossible ideas. By doing so, we can lift the pressure and lean towards getting the creative juice flow while at the same time, gain insights from those weird ideas.

After all, we just wanna have fun, and so does our creativity.

Recommended activities for getting messy





If something you own is broken or shows some signs of imperfection, would you try to mend it, give it another chance, or discard then replace it with a brand new one?

Thanks to the rapid development – which we hear quite often – in mass production, supply chain, and logistics in the past few decades, we are experiencing the luxury of convenience that our previous generations could never imagine, sci-fi novel is an exception: two-hour shipping, same-day delivery and few business-day shipping for items that are stocked half-the-globe away. The availability, easy access to a wide selection of products at reasonable prices, without doubt, has changed our relationships with things.

Previously, we might have dreamt of having a cup with a certain glaze colour, hand-crafted by a local artisan that made just a few dozens of mugs per month. We happily waited for days, or even weeks, after making a pre-order. The mug was not necessarily expensive, while it sure cost a few bucks more than mass-produced mugs in supermarkets, yet the excitement of the long wait plus the fact that we knew the artisan in-person and how the item was brought to life made us become more sentimental to it. And then the day came, the mug arrived at our front door, beautifully wrapped with a hand-signed note. We had coffee in that cup every morning. We packed it with us every time we moved to a new place, and sometimes on business trips, when we were drinking coffee from a disposable cup, we wished we could bring that mug with us.

Life went on. One day, we saw a slight crack on a side of the mug. It was not perfect anymore. We were sad. Even though the old artisan was still making mugs and offered something quite similar, none of them was the same mug that has gone through so many mornings with us. What would we do about it?

Repair or replace (4).png

Nowadays we may have a new cup with the same exact design (as the cup we already have at home) delivered to us the next day. Or, we even have so many mugs that we are not even bothered with a broken one. Sometimes, the craving for “newness” even urges us to purchase one after another, and let all of our old cups sit on the shelves or hidden in a cupboard, covered with dust – those that we were once craved for, too.

“We Protect What We Love.”

“We protect what we love” is a saying that was quoted quite often on Slow blog, as we truly believe that only things that matter to us, do matter.

But, what makes one meaningful to us?

It’s something that we know its origin, the story of how it was made, and who made it. If it is a hand-made item, the person behind it could be us, our friend or a loved one, who gave it to us on a special occasion. We have a connection with that person through the item, and that is why it is special to us.

It has been with us through so many events. It may not be an item that we would use on a daily basis, let’s say a leather suitcase. But together, we have shared memories – some good ones, some not-so-good ones. The suitcase has been our companion with memories.

It makes us happy, or sometimes nostalgic – that bittersweet feeling when we recall something from the past. That item can ignite something in us, something that a brand new item that has just been delivered to our door is not yet able to (not that it will never be, just it is not capable of at this moment).

In order to be with us through thick and thin, that item, that mug, needs to have some kind of quality that can stand the test of time – another proof that it was made with care and users’ experiences in mind. And with that reason alone, should it be worth a second chance?

Repair or replace (6).png

This is not just about our relationship with things. Isn’t our relationship with “relationships” going through a similar stage?

With all of the new convenience of meeting and interacting with someone new, would our seemingly cracked relationship stand a chance of being mended, and given a new life?

Remember, only what matters to us would matter in the end. Should the old story be dropped, or should it be reviewed and continued, in a new way?

What is your favourite part of going to a cafeteria?

Is it the coffee itself, the vibe, or the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with your friends?

Whatever it is, I believe it’d be beautiful.

For me, it is zoning out, watching the passersby.

I go on a coffee date with myself frequently. I guess most of my time spent at such a place would be on my own. I’m neither in a rush of having a cup of coffee nor busy doing something else. I would stop at my go-to coffee shop that has a huge window with a long table placed next to it. I would make sure there is an empty seat before deciding to step inside. After ordering a latte, I gather myself on a chair, and all set.

Photo: Unsplash

There is something novelty and poetic about watching the passersby through a window. I am safe, yet I am exposed to these strangers. They are so close, yet so far away. Taking a sip of coffee, I feel as if I am taking a long pause, I’m standing still while everyone is passing by like a stream of water. Such a luxurious moment, isn’t it? Sometimes someone smiles at you, and you smile back. Then your day is complete. Just as simple as that.

What are the odds of having an encounter with someone in your life? Having crossed roads, even just in a fraction of a moment?

I keep wondering that while looking through the window. Other than that, I don’t think much. I just observe events that are happening in front of my eyes.

I love it equally whether it is sunny or rainy. But at times, rainy days could melt my heart in such a sentimental way. It is a pure guilty pleasure that I do not need to deny anyway.

I love the rain.

Rain makes everything more sensual, a cup of coffee tastes better and music easier to sink in.

Oh, then how about the passersby?

Some seem to enjoy it, some don’t.

Things are just beautiful as they are, sometimes they don’t even need to make any sense.

Isn’t that what this post is all about?

“Rain makes everything more sensual, a cup of coffee taste better, and music easier to sink in.”

— Slow

What Should We Talk About When We Talk About The “Unknown”?

We are talking about the uncomfortable gap between “so far” and “not yet”. The gap is often overlooked by the media. We mostly come to know famous people and their achievements when they are already… famous. Though we may have a glimpse of their journey, it is likely a shortcut version, a story of “once upon a time”.

We never know what they have been through and how they have felt until we experience it ourselves.

Do you remember those movies that fast forward to 5 years later, 10 years later? As a child, I always wondered what happened in those years? However, we, the audience, most likely are eager to know “So what?”, “What happens next?”. We don’t have the patience to sit through the repetitive days, through the trials and errors, the boring days. But considering movies, shortcuts like that make sense. What does not make sense here is expecting our journey to be full of continuous events, as the gap in between – like awkward silence, is uncomfortable.

The uncomfortable gap is real. The urge to skip this messy unknown is also real. It is even exaggerated in recent years with the outcome-focused culture and extended peer pressure being some of the supporting factors. It might be because of the heavy reliance on the outcome as a measure of success that leads to a stressful search for a guarantee. We are reluctant to begin a new journey if there isn’t a guarantee of success. However, as Seth Godin stated in his most recent book, The Practice, this search is “endless, fruitless, and the end of possibility, not the beginning”.

There’s much to talk about peer pressure in the digital era. We, humans, have a tendency to compare ourselves to others. The diverse and unrealistic models we compare ourselves to, the more miserable we become. It is what happens with us today, surrounding ourselves with constant updates from influencers, entrepreneurs of all kinds, on every possible channel.

However, this discomfort does not seem to be all bad. In a way, it is what pushes us towards, as we know what we still have work to do. In that unknown, we are curious, we are eager to know more, to learn more, to be less confused. And since nothing is fixed, anything is possible (sounds a bit cliché, but having cheesy stuff once in a while does not hurt at all).

As we are aware of and accept this unknown, we come to how to navigate through this gap.

Notice: please do not try this at home!

Navigating the unknown

The above dumb suggestions are extremely… dumb (though we believe in you, we recommend not trying those at home at all cost!). However, the extremes can give us valuable insights. In this case, these dumb methods suggest we navigate through the unknown by either taking a shortcut that is not suitable for us, or skipping the gap, or avoiding experiencing it. The result? We have not yet conducted any serious research, though we suppose by trying to skip the gap, these dumb ways would just widen it somehow.

…By Trying To Skip The Gap, These Dumb Ways Would Just Widen It Somehow.

Not-So-Dumb Takeaways

Please don’t mind our dumb ways to solve this problem. In fact, it is not a problem, to begin with. It happens all the time, in every journey. What not-so-dumb suggestion here is, shift your perspectives towards your intention, instead of the outcome. In that way, hopefully, the discomfort will be more comfortable.

Read more

Godin, S., The Practice: Shipping Creative Work (2020).

Nesi, J., Choukas Bradley, S., Prinstein, M., Transformation of Adolescent Peer Relations in the Social Media Context (2019).