How to journal with art or pen, part 1

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”~Francis of Assisi, Italian saint

Journaling. If you’re a scrapbooker, you dread this word. You don’t know what words to write to capture the event, you hate your handwriting, you don’t have the time…you’ve got a pile of excuses as tall as your stacks of photos. Artists and writers approach this word from a different point of view. Journaling induces more positive thoughts, but that word can still be challenging. There’s an intrinsic impulse to do it–we just have to–but beginning is tough. Here are some ways to start:

1–Pick an inspirational theme or word.

Yeah, everyone says this, but that big empty page is swallowing you up with writer’s block as you stare straight ahead into blank nothingness. Being swallowed up is easier than finding your muse. “What do I find inspiring?” “Where do I find inspiration?” Themes can be too encompassing, so how do you narrow it down? How do you befriend the gargantuan unknown? Look around you. Unless you are in a jail cell, there is something within your senses that you find inspirational. Who knows; even that jail cell could be inspiring. Look around you, look up, listen to sounds, taste what you’re eating. What is it about your scene that you like, or hate?

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My Saturday view from Germack Coffee Roasting Co.

Yesterday I wrote in a coffee shop in Detroit. When writing, I often pause and look around, both to reflect on what I’m writing or just to give my eyes a break. Things I saw that intrigued me were: the coffee smell; the glass jars of loose leaf tea; the paper cup my latte was in, a cup with friendly words on it. I like writing in coffee shops; there’s always a buzz there, even if the store is empty. You’re never alone when you’re writing by yourself. I like distraction; it’s great journaling and idea fodder.
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2–Choose a format to create in and do it.

By this, I don’t just mean what instrument you write or draw with. What do you plan to do? If youre journaling with pen, maybe you write the sounds and senses around you. Make a list of words that begin with the same letter. Write a rhyming poem or haiku. Pair words with art and choose an easy medium. Maybe you doodle-sketch your surroundings, making a map of your place. Draw something related to one of the elements around you.

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Journal and pens for the writing

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My art journal for this project

Let’s take “coffee” as an example. Today I’m writing from home, but that coffeeshop image yesterday, the view from my table, is stuck in my mind. I don’t know why it’s so vivid, I really don’t, but something about that moves me. So at this moment, I’m taking a creation break to focus on that word. I’m pulling out my journal, the one I carry in my purse at all times, and I even opened a new pack of pens. I’ll share that below. Then I’ll do something in an art journal I fill up sporadically. Same restrictions or definitions as my handwritten work.
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Now if you think these ideas are a waste of time, to create with no focus or goal, then stop reading right (write) now because the next tip is going to blow your mind. What do you expect from your journaling? Do you think that if you’re not creating something relevant to another project you’re working on that this exercise has been a waste of time? After all, you’re being random here, just…well…just playing with yourself, not doing anything structured. If you do consider that worthwhile, read on…..
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3–Set a limit and when you’re done, put your creation away.

Maybe you set a timer, a challenge I heartily recommend. Maybe you decide to draw or paint using only one medium or just two colors. Maybe you type 100 words, or that you will handwrite one page in your journal. Whatever you do, make it short and manageable. Know that this is a one-time event. When you’ve met whatever goal, close your art journal and don’t worry about smudges. Put that pen down and don’t worry about spelling or crossed out words. This may not look pretty raw but it is authentic. Going into this knowing that when you’re done, you’re done, can introduce a sense of relaxation, a no-judgement zone. Also by planning this, when you reach the end, you may find whatever you did isn’t enough and feel the pull to keep going.

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Pages 2 and 3 of my journaling.

I decided to write in the first color that called to me–green, even though I’d just done an entry recently in a similar green. Must be some sign. I set my timer –a challenge I heartily recommend!–for 11 minutes and told myself I’d write that long or at least enough to fill a 2-page spread for a blog photo. I wrote my today’s thoughts, as I almost always do in journals. Then I chose the letter “C” to write from since I was tired of my reflections and coffee begins with the letter C. Every word was not a C-word, but that was okay. I actually wrote 4 pages and spent an additional 30 seconds wrapping up my final thoughts.

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Cute triangle crayons pointy-difficult to color with

My husband picked up these crayons when we were at dinner last night. he got me two boxes because “they’re different colors.” When I opened both triangular boxes, they each contained the same 4 colors and were packed so cute in a triangle within a triangle. How can I draw coffee in 11 minutes with only 4 basic colors? Green is almost a universal coffee brand starter. I began drawing the familiar green-logo cup of coffee and branched from there. I tied the page together with a red border, and I was done in 9 minutes exactly. I spent the final two minutes writing on the back of that page, explaining the inspiration, including the names of the crayons. When I grow up, I want to be the person who names car paint, nail polish, crayons and shirt colors. That could be a blog post–journaling fodder–someday. Look at what I’ve inspired.

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Fun with coffee and crayons

When I was done, I closed the books. I sipped my current cup of coffee, giving my eyes and mind a break. I opened the books back up only to take photos for this post, and now they are tucked away in my purse and in my art-laptop shoulder bag. This was fun!

Try this exercise for at least 3 days this week. I’d love to see what you come up with. Post a comment with a link, or connect with me on Twitter or Instagram.

I’ll be waiting.

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