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One Stroke at a Time...

One Stroke at a Time...

Julie writes...

I often find when writing a blog post, the underlying theme is how the characteristics and philosophies of the Zentangle Method have made their way off my tiles and into my everyday life. Things such as gratitude and appreciation come easy to me, but the “No Mistakes” took a little more time to embrace (and I am still working on it!), but the one that I think has affected me most is “anything is possible, one stroke at a time.”

I’ve always had a flare for the dramatics and for as long as I can remember, my first instinct when faced with an unknown situation was to get all worked up and try to figure out how to solve the whole problem or situation all at once. While in the end, things usually worked out how they were supposed to, it was not without some unnecessary self-induced stress.

However, that is not how the Zentangle Method works. When you sit down to begin a tile, you don’t know what the end result will be. Perhaps, you have an idea of where you want to take your tangles, but as you begin to tangle, you take things one stroke at a time. You can’t finish a tile without first putting down the first stroke, and then the second and so on. This is one of the greatest lessons that practicing the Zentangle Method gives us. It creates a path for us to take things, one stroke at a time.

When I first began working at Zentangle HQ, I came in one morning to begin processing and printing orders only to find that a clock had fallen off the wall, landing on the computer and ultimately damaging it and making it unusable. If I remember correctly, we had just released a new product, so it was a busier day that usual and my first instinct was panic. I distinctly remember though how Rick and Maria handled the situation. It was unfortunate, of course, but they very much took a one stroke at a time approach, which was calm and productive. Over the years, that small incident has stuck with me and is always a reminder to take things, one stroke at a time.

Fast forward, and my husband and I find ourselves on an exciting, new chapter of life. While we are more than thrilled, we are faced with many unknowns. Unknowns and uncertainties can lead to fear and panic if you let them, but the good news is you don’t have to. In the beginning of this journey, my husband and I began to discuss preparations and decisions we would have to make and all of sudden everything felt very overwhelming and I just wanted all of the answers all at once. That is not how life works though, so I took a deep breath and told him we were going to take this one step at a time. We looked at what decisions needed to be made first and figured out what did we need to know to begin and then focused on those things first.

We have repeatedly reminded ourselves of this mindset over the past six months and will continue to do so whenever necessary, all while being grateful for this wonderful and exciting adventure full of unknowns and opportunities.

I was inspired to write this blog before recent world events, I just had not gotten around to putting my thoughts into words yet. Given all the uncertainty in the world right now, I think these principals are important to remember. We cannot solve every problem all at once and there are going to be things out of our control, so now it is as important as ever to take things one stroke at a time. Updated May 27... Reading through this blog again, I can feel all of those feelings of excitement, anticipation, worry of the unknown, uncertainty all over again. I have a very clear memory of sitting at my dining room table writing this blog. Even then, I did know how much the “anything is possible, one stroke at a time,” mantra would become a part of me over the next two years.

Updated May 27...

At the time of writing, I was pregnant with my first child and my husband and I were planning and preparing the best that we could. That is what I do, I plan, and I prepare. My default mode is not “one stroke at a time” it is, “all the strokes, all at once.” Well, motherhood has tested all of my abilities to plan and prepare (it is very humbling in that way). For the past two years I have been forced (in the best way possible) to take things, one step at a time, one day at a time, one minute at a time. I sit down on Sunday, and I plan my week, full of work, chores, errands, exercise and such. What I can’t plan for is cleaning the crayon off the wall, the toddler tantrums (being 2 can be tough), the extra load of laundry because he will only wear that one shirt with the dinosaur on it, or a horrific tragedy that makes you just want to sit down and hold him tight and not let go.

It is in these moments that I lean on the “one stroke at a time” philosophy. I push all of the lists and plans out of my mind and focus on the moment that I am in. A feeling that is still a bit foreign to me but one that is both calming and energizing at the same time.

Yesterday I pulled out a tile and I began to tangle. I had no plan. No list of tangles to use or things to accomplish. I was not even sure I was going to finish the tile so there was no use in wondering what it would look like when it was completed. I sat, and I tangled one slow and deliberate, good for the soul, stroke at a time.

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Leave us your thoughts on taking things one stroke at a time and we will select a commenter at random to receive an “Anything is Possible…One Stroke at a time” Zentangle MantraBand.

Julie Willand


  • Thanks for your important story Julie. It’s a great reminder & actually it’s the only way I can function well!

    Rimona Gale on

  • I also have knee jerk responses to try and solve a whole problem or situation all at once. I just try to be mindful to take one step at a time or in Zentangle, one stroke at a time. When I do this the solutions will appear.

    Jackie on

  • One year Anniversary for me😍! I started Zentangle about one month before I became a CZT. I started teaching my friends casually in December and now have a very small class ❤️! But the joy when they say “ooh” or “Aah” or “that was so peaceful “ ! I am more obsessed every day! Thank you 😍

    Missy Keller Czt 37 on

  • Did the voice tile by Molly ? Just the calmness in her voice and setting the vibe for the session with breathing exercise was great. I got in the zen zone and created my

    tile. Thanks for Zentangle – it’s a life lesson!

    Mimi Roberts on

  • What a gift Zentangle is and I love sharing it with others. People who feel that it will be stressful are often surprised at the Zen in Tangle. Of all the arts and crafts and other fine arts I have dabbled in…Jack of all, master of none, Zentangle finds its way into my life every day! It brings joy, comfort, and satisfaction. I am so grateful for it and for all of you who keep it alive and glowing!!


  • Julie I find I’m much like you were, needing to solve problems all at once. I’m so grateful to have the Zentangle family in my life right now. I’m a work in progress. Trying to take life one stroke at a time. Thanks for your post.

    Betty Card CZT on

  • Julie I find I’m much like you were, needing to solve problems all at once. I’m so grateful to have the Zentangle family in my life right now. I’m a work in progress. Trying to take life one stroke at a time. Thanks for your post.

    Betty Card on

  • Thank you for your inspiring words and reminders of the precepts of the Zentangle Method. My life has been richer since I found Zentangle.

    Bette Abdu, CZT on

  • Thank you so much dear Julie for a wonderful story and reminder, especially now in these awful Coronatimes!

    Matheussen Ria on

  • I am very grateful to Zentangle for providing me with an artistic outlet as I face MY major problem with COVID-19, which is phyiscal and mental isolation. I`m over 70, so am not supposed to go out of my apartment except as necessary to buy food and other necessaries (and I am presently well supplied). So thank you all for helping me and others like me with much needed mental and emotional support!

    Rosemary Turpin on

  • Julie, thank you for a lovely post, and congratulations on your new adventure!

    Becky J on

  • Great story, I relate to the bit about no mistakes I have got to the point of only doing a huff sound now in tangles as in life. The other important thing I have got from you guys is life is always about perspective. The turning of the tile allows one to look at things from a different angle and often sets one off on a totally different line of thought. Taking that on as a life lesson has broadened my outlook on many issues. I practice not only tangles everyday with focus but also changing my perspective. Love being part of this tribe.

    wendy tann on

  • This is so beautiful, thank you Julie!! I’m filled with gratitude and love. Many blessings! 💕😊

    Tzujung Lee on

  • Since my husband and I are hibernating here at home, I’m leaving my drawing tools out for random free access in between other household duties. A time to meditate on all things good and beautiful one stroke at a time. Thank you to the Zentangle family for sharing the joy.

    Linda Barnes on

  • Dear Julie, thank you so much for this inspiring story. “One stroke/step at the time”, very simple guidelines. Not allows easy to follow, but best followed. Someone ones told me: “does a tree need help to drop its leaves?” Simply said: life takes care of everything, if you allow it. And there are no mistakes in life. Just breathe… Bless you. May you be safe.

    Karin Godyns, CZT20, Belgium on

  • Thank you, Julie, for this timely and open hearted message. You nailed it! The not knowing and trusting in one step at a time is at the heart of being alive. I am so grateful for Rick and Maria and the whole team who demonstrates this to us over and over. My heart is breaking for the difficult times surrounding canceling ZenAgain and trainings sessions. Sending you all love and heart energy as you and the Zentangle community navigates this pandemic.

    Georgianna on

  • Always appreciate your blogs and all of the insights that come from within them! Thanks for that!!

    Shawna Oertley on

  • Rather than forced to be housebound APPRECIATE all the beauty around you. More time to tangle when you shut out the bombardment of news – cook – garden -walk – pet your cat – breathe – please add your ideas & pass it forward.

    Debbie Shepard on

  • Wise words, Julie. Love the story and lesson you shared about the printer. Even happier for you and your husband. Congratulations! I was pretty certain I heard a reference to a kick in the pp08 video you did. As for your timing of this post with the world’s events, it serves as a perfect reminder. Thank you!

    PamS on

  • Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” [or stroke]…thanks for your thoughtful reminder Julie. Zentangle has become an important tool in helping me manage my life, especially when things seem to suddenly careen out of control. Your blog message, especially the gorgeous tangle, came at just the right moment to calm my anxiety…over things I cannot control, of course. Thanks again, I needed that!

    Jake on

  • Shout it Julie!!! People need to be reminded.

    Kathy on

  • Thank you so much for your reminder about one stroke at a time. My husband and I are both in the high-risk category and last night it was easy to get into a panic. But I definitely can see ways of using this Zentangle philosophy, at least for today.

    Leah Sauer on

  • Thank you Julie! I am “cloistered” by choice. How pleasant not to be expected anywhere and to have all the time in the world to create, organize my studio and keep in touch with friends! I’m not enough of a Pollyanna to welcome misery into the world! But each of us can try to see this as an opportunity for growth and perhaps restoration! Mary

    Mary D'Angelo, CZT on

  • Over the last 8 months there have been several major upheavals in my life as I knew it. The philosophies of gratitude, appreciation, and “one stroke/day/moment at a time” have sustained me throughout.

    It is a good day to tangle.

    Ginger White CZT34 on

  • Brilliant, just brilliant!! Julie, your words are so very gratifying and helpful. I will call them back often in the coming days and weeks to remind myself to take things one step at a time! 💕💕

    Lise on

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