One of my favorite personal artifacts is my writer notebook from 2001-2003. It is a beautiful cobalt volume of lined pages with a thin indigo ribbon to mark a page. It has scribbling, drawings, collected quotes, and overheard conversations. I carried it everywhere and it has paperclips and all kinds of dog-eared issues. I filled it to the end. Now it collects shelf-dust beside a packet of cinnamon to keep the silverfish bugs at bay.
I think about this concept of journaling. I distinctly remember being embarrassed of my diary as a kid and then later, petrified my journal would be stolen if I brought it in public. I can pinpoint the issue where it changed from a daily diatribe of my mundane existence to a playground of abstract thinking and imagination. It seems to be compulsory for many creatives to keep tabs of thoughts/ideas/observations. (Or at least the hoarder creatives, like myself.) I was told that journaling is a waste of time, that it is self-serving, a form of emotional masturbation. I was inclined to disagree strongly at first but that’s a knee-jerk reaction to the concept of masturbation being shameful. Maybe it is self-indulgent but that’s not necessarily unhealthy.
It isn’t just the journaling though. Throughout my life I have had the whole great debate a bunch of times: pen do you use, do you have a ritual, what is your creative space, what paper, can you work on your computer, or do you need to sketch it by hand, outline or no? Gardener or architect?
One of my favorite things about being on Neologian staff is reading the On Writing – the process quips from our contributors. As an artist I think it’s important to sort of qualify or be able to express intention, outcome, lessons. At some point practicing becomes experimenting as you improve so, identifying your path becomes very important. Of course, as an art consumer I want to know these things; I want to connect to the work and then pull back that curtain on the artist.
Here are just a few excerpts from some of my favorites:
- Care Morency On Writing: Rather than a room of my own, I have trained myself to write anywhere although my preferred place is on my balcony.
- Lizz Donnelly On Writing: It became a way to explore, through irreverent humor, some possible outcomes for something we can’t know anything about:
- Kaley Francis On Photography: I use photography as a middle ground between the real world, and the one I create in my head.
- Jane Adrian On Writing: When the image materializes in my mind’s eye, I am prepared to give myself over to the paper. Courtney Hitson On Writing: I write poetry because I like how language guts the meat right out of experience.
- Paul Michael Thomson On Writing: In this way, the work is still grounded in reality – in the reality of what it felt like to have that experience – but is not about me.
There are moments where I know exactly what this artist means or have to explore my own ideas around the topic. Am I trained to write anywhere? What triggers me to give myself over to the paper, as Jane said? It offers up a new line of thought not just about what I do, but how, and maybe even why? These are my mental chew-toys where I can cut and gnaw until I ache and it’s time to grab my pen (or crayon, keyboard, whatever).
That’s what that Writer’s journal was for me; it was the creative equivalent of dancing naked in the living room. Very free, very wild, and so very messy. The further I get from the time of that journal, the more clearly I see my own evolution and my need of it wanes. Because of course, the one I am using now is just so much more sophisticated….