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Sunroom Q+A: Laura Rubin of AllSwell

We're so excited to interview our friend Laura Rubin, creative mind behind AllSwell, a deck of deep-thinking questions to accompany journaling and self-discovery. In honor of the decks at Sunroom (shop em online here!), we asked Laura a few questions about her own journaling practice, her favorite rituals, and the other things sparking joy for her right now. 

Can you share a bit more about your own relationship with journaling? What magic do you find happens when we put pen to paper?
I started keeping a journal at age 8 and I haven’t stopped since. It’s where I process experiences, prioritize and focus intent. It's how I answer the question “how am I, really?” We’re moving through time and space with so many distractions and complications, when do you get to connect to your own voice long enough to know how you are (or, in some cases, who you are)? 

Sometimes I shed layers on the page. Dropping my baggage there and moving on, lighter. Soul exfoliation. But this isn’t “Dear Diary” territory; it’s how I dream and plan. 

What are some of your favorite questions in your deck? (Either for asking yourself or others)?
That’s a tough question! Psychiatrist Dr. Monisha Vasa and I really enjoyed the process of coming up with the content for The Deck. The prompts intentionally range from “gentle” to “varsity,” giving the user options depending on where they are in that particular moment. 

A good one to help open people up and get comfortable if they’re intimidated by a blank page is, “What is your favorite body of water and why?” It helps them connect to a sense-memory, triggering feel-good brain chemicals. In the writing workshops I lead I’ve gotten such extraordinary, wide-ranging responses to this question and they’re always beautiful. 

For me personally one that I’ve been using a bunch lately is “Write about a memorable road trip. Include details. Where did you go? Who were you with? What was on the playlist?” In this moment when our mobility is somewhat limited, it’s been nice to revisit experiences that included a sense of movement and adventure. 

What other rituals do you have around your creative practice outside the deck/journals? 
I will often read something and use that as a springboard for my journaling session. I’ll flip open a book of poetry (Rita Dove is in heavy rotation at present), read what’s there and see what comes to the surface for me. What does it bring up? I’m not necessarily in dialogue with the poem. I am using it as a jumping off point and in doing so it helps to by-pass the usual brain chatter. 

I’m also a proponent of choosing your tools with intent. Do you feel like the permanence of ink or the built in permission of an eraser? Do you want the solidity of lines on the page, or does the expanse of a blank sheet appeal? These are small decisions but in consciously picking your allies you’re helping to ritualize the experience and make it your own. 

Quick fire!
Small thing I’m doing right now to take care of myself (mentally, physically, and/or emotionally)
I’m active outdoors 3-6x a week - usually surfing and hiking, but even going for a long walk counts. It combines two of my go-to’s for mental health: exercise and time in nature. I’m a better version of myself for it. 

My creative ethos in three words:
Stories are medicine. 

I always start my day with:
A cup of tea (PG Tips lately) and a pen-to-paper session in an AllSwell notebook.

Secret talent:
Not so secret but I do enjoy shaking a cocktail at home. 

Song or musician I'm loving right now:
Jane Birkin’s cover of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon

The best purchase I’ve made under $100: 
Every book I’ve ever purchased. 

My ultimate escape - real or imagined:
Panarea in the Aeolian Islands. Beam me in.

Follow Laura + AllSwell on Instagram