Creative Journaling

I'm coming to the end of a class I've been taking at BookWorks: Creative Journaling. It's less a class about keeping a journal than it is about being aware of the types of information that are important to you and making sure that the information stays accesssible so that you can find it when you need it. That usually means creating a variety of journals, each with a specific purpose. And it means thinking hard about what you'll house in the journal, so that the journal serves its content well.

The students are encouraged to address our "relationship to the journal," as our instructor (textile artist Heather Allen-Swarttouw) puts it, and deal with issues we've had with journals over time [The photo is of Heather (right) and Laura, one of our students, in class]. For me, a long-time, albeit intermittent, keeper of journals (I admit that I still cringe at bit at using the word journal as a verb, but I'm getting over it), it's not about getting myself to write, it's about using more images and fewer words. Heather, for example, is almost exclusively a visual journaler. Her journals are filled with sketches; some -- her "flip books," usually -- hold only images that she's particularly drawn to or that resonate for her.

So I've been working on preparing my journal pages in various ways before I write on them: painting with watercolor washes, making images with rubber stamps, applying inks, and otherwise allowing myself to "mess up" the pages. It's really a treat to write on color pages. The trick is to stay ahead of yourself by setting aside time to prepare surfaces in advance. The next step, I figure, is to doodle and find other means to create obstacles on the page so that I'm forced to write around them; anything to keep me from a constant diet of neat, text-filled, symmetrical pages.

I've ended up with a half-dozen or so journals. Initially, I thought I'd make them all myself, but in most cases I found notebooks and journals that I've collected over time that worked well. With those, I've personalized or am in the process of personalizing each cover with collage, paint or, in one case, recovering the journal using paper I'd painted in my class with Traci Bautista at Art & Soul.

Here's the rundown of specialized journals to date:
  • Daily - this is the standard, smaller, carry-around-with-me-everywhere-I-go journal that I've been making for myself for at least a year now.
  • Art Experiments - for trying out techniques, making mistakes and generally allowing myself to make marks on a page without judgment.
  • Art Ideas - one-half of a larger journal (the other is for ideas on books I'd like to make). It's for jotting down my thoughts on projects I'd like to work on, techniques I'd like to try, etc.
  • Book Ideas - takes up one-half of a larger journal shared with 'Art Ideas.' It's for random thoughts on books to make and for more specific plans and details as they emerge.
  • Relationship with the Book - What is this journey into book arts taking me? How are my views, thoughts and process evolving? This journal isn't mean to be technique driven; rather, I'd like to focus on where the road leads and what I'm learning along the way.
  • Flip Book - It's called a "flip" book because you flip through it for inspiration -- or at least that's how I'm going to use it. One side will house images I'm taken with, the other will include articles and other stories about women in (successful) transition.
  • Techniques - details of techniques I've used and liked so that I don't forget them!
  • Digital Art - more prosaically titled my Photoshop Elements notebook. I'm slowly, very s..l..o..w..l..y working my way through this program.
This is a good class to take in a group. I'm learning from other's styles and approaches to journaling and their issues with the process. Perhaps most important among these is that there ARE other styles, and that you're not doomed to walk in the same rut through eternity, by which time the rut is carved deep enough to be your grave.


An Odd Duck said...

Wow, this is so inspiring. I need to start journaling. I've been saying that for years, but it's those things that seem those most paralyzing which can in essence, if used for their purpose, be freeing. That is an awkward expression of what I'm thinking, but thanks for sharing.

Clara said...

I think you're exactly right, and your expression of the concept isn't awkward at all. The most freeing part of this process for me has been altering the way I view journaling. I used to think of it as an "I have to do this every day, come hell or high water" kind of thing, which can make the whole process pretty daunting and unpleasant. This approach isn't about making yourself do anything you don't feel like doing, and it certainly doesn't mean having to journal every day. It's more about becoming your own librarian with respect to things that you WANT to do, remember and refer to.

I should point out that I have by no means turned into the "perfect journaler." I have the same issues that I've always had about being afraid to confront the blank page to create art. But it's become just a bit easier, and my journals are a lot more inviting.

I'm glad you found the post helpful.