Category Archives: Journal Pages

All about journaling, journal prompts, visual, art and soul journals.

Distilling the Journal

Small words and short sentences are powerful. Half a thought can pack a lifetime into a few words. Your mind fills in the rest, and that can be more color, action and more imagination than a long line of words.

I’ve been playing with distilling journal entries. (Distill is my word for the year, I switched to it halfway through the year.) Yesterday, I talked about using lists of words to journal. Today, they wind up in a tiny journal.

Trader Joe has tiny, cute metal boxes that hold mints. Re-purposing them into tiny journals is fun. I found some cardboard 35 mm slide mounts, and they fit perfectly into the box. (35 mm slides were pieces of film projected onto a screen before the digital age.)

Box7Empty, the slide mounts are just, well, cardboard. Using small pieces of paper, I created a front and a back for each slide. One side has words, the other a small image taken from a larger image–distilled.

Box2First I painted the slide mounts with Neocolor II. Then I took the words from journal entries, and let them be their own possibilities.

Box3

For some of them, I use pressed petals or pieces of fern. When you look closely, you see a lot more than if your eyes just pan the horizon looking for something new.

Box6After the paper is cut, I write a phrase on it, which may become a story on its own, or just a way to get me started thinking more imaginatively.

Box5Some papers are handmade, some printed. In each case, choosing just a few words or a small piece of beauty. It is both a way to focus and a way to let go of seeking perfection in the whole.

Box1The box holds five or six of the slides. They can tell a story on their own or be taken out and used as journal prompts. For right now, they are simply fine the way they are. They don’t have any more work to do.

How is your word of the year doing?

–Quinn McDonald is a distiller of words. She’s glad she changed her word of the year half way through this year.

 

 

Journal Entries in Shorts

The tag Lisa uses for this journaling challenge.

The tag Lisa uses for this journaling challenge. Don’t click, it doesn’t work. Use the link up on the left, in the text.

Journaling every day is tough. Staying current on Lisa Sonora’s 30-day journal challenge is even tougher. So far, I’ve made it through 22 days. It has not been easy. A lot of the prompts are interesting, but for me, there are some that don’t jump start me.

Now, I’m a writer, but some times I do not like to write essays on a prompt. In fact, I hardly ever like to write an essay when I’m told. It sounds suspiciously like work. Admittedly, Lisa is encouraging art journaling, but I wanted to try getting down to content, not allowing myself to hide behind color or hand lettering.

This is hard. And then I had a weird idea and tried it. And it is working, although not quite fully developed.

Rather than writing down my thoughts about the prompt, which can be kind of thin, I created a list of words that the prompt made me think of. It didn’t matter if they made sense to someone else, or how I connected them. Simply words that jumped to mind.

journalWhen I read the list, some of them were strange, almost-poems. One of the prompts was a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke:

“Let nothing in me hold itself closed. For where I am closed, I am false. I want to be clear in your sight.”

Without over thinking (a habit of mine), I wrote:

Closed
silent
strong
false

Clear
windows
sunlight
warm
hot
burn

balance

Certainly not a poem, but also certainly an idea for one.

Another quote was “Solitude is the cure for loneliness.” –Caroline Casey.

And the list:

Solitude is peace
Loneliness is heartbreak
Welcome solitude
Inner warmth
Comfort

Loneliness runs from itself
can’t escape
runs to others
who can’t hear you

in their solitude
which they want
to protect.

Again, not a poem, but certainly the blip on a radar screen of one. If you are a list-maker, this idea may be something that works more than writing three pages a day. Just a list of words that come to mind. Then leave it alone. When you return, it will have done some work on its own, and you can take what you need for your poem.

--Quinn McDonald is developing an affection for list journaling.

Visual Journals Need Visual Edits

She handed me her journal–pages splashed with color, thick with found items and inserts. “What do you think?” she asked eagerly.  Tough question to answer. It doesn’t matter what I think if she is satisfied. If she likes her work, if she found meaning in the activity or the result, then my opinion has no importance.

A journal, like a suitcase, can be over-packed. At that point, it's not luggage, it's baggage.

A journal, like a suitcase, can be over-packed. At that point, it’s not luggage, it’s baggage.

In another way, I’d like to know why she’s asking the question. Is this the art journal equivalent of “Do these pants make my tuchus look fat?” Is she asking for praise in a hidden way? Is she looking for suggestions? Approval?

I turned the pages of the journal. I’d heard of the technique–do anything. Some pages were sewn chaotically, combining junk mail and lace, tulle and magazine pages. The bobbin thread had become confused with the different tension needed for the different papers, and there were big loops and knots of thread. One page had a piece of ruler glued to it, the next one an angel next to which was stamped the word: guardian angle. When I smiled at the typo, which seemed to make sense along with the ruler, I thought (to myself): What this needs is visual editing.

It’s fun to slap things together and see if it makes sense. Occasionally.

It’s also interesting to ask yourself what you are doing and are you presenting a message or searching for one.

Visual editing is much like word editing. It’s done in stages. When you edit your -1writing, you first look for content, logic and flow. Does it make sense? Does it unfold logically?  Is it interesting?  Next you look for typos, meaning-gaffs, punctuation errors. Next you make sure all the visual elements–headlines, image credits, page numbers are in the same font and style within each category,  Three passes and you’ve done some editing for clarity and understanding.

Visual editing works the same way.  Is the journal going to be shown to anyone or is it private? (Since she showed it to me, it became public.) Is there a theme to the overall journal? If so, is it obvious or does it need an explanation? While turning a page and moving from front to back is the normal order of Western books, does this one create an order? If there are inclusions, attachments, found objects, how is space created for them?

There are guidelines for visual editing just as there are for word editing. To break the rules you have to understand them first. Yes, ee cummings and James Joyce broke the rules, but they first followed them, then knew why they wanted to break them. And some well-read people are still grumbling about that decision.

Personally, I’m not fond of splayed-out books that are sewn, spackled with gesso, layered randomly with paints and papers, and weighted down with found objects that don’t create a narrative that can be followed. But then again, I’m not the art police. If that makes meaning for you, it is your meaning. If you are satisfied, that is an important step for you.

In the end, instead of giving an opinion, I asked questions. “How did this book come together for you?” “What did you like best in making this book?” “What caused problems for you?” “How did you solve those problems?” “Will you keep this for yourself or will you give it away?” The answers told me a lot, including that my opinion was not required. So I kept it to myself. And we both parted with our perspectives intact.

Quinn McDonald understands visual editing, and knows that sometimes, no matter how much she loves that page, it doesn’t belong. Sigh. So she saves it for another time.

What to Put on the First Page of Your Travel Journal

It’s summer and vacation time. Travel journals and vacation go together. But what to put on the first page? If you make your journal ahead of time, a printed map of the location is a good beginning. If you are going to share your journal, it helps to orient your friends to where you were.

Map4For my travel journals, I favor 6″ x 6″ square watercolor journals. Even with the wire binding, they make practical sketch, writing, and storage journals.

On the cover, I placed all the suitcase identification, a name tag, and a small sticker that showed my suitcase had been opened by the TSA.  I love the contrast of those stripes as well as the starting and completion airport identifications.

You can, of course, put those on the first page of your travel journal, too. Another good start is the boarding pass (you’ll have to remember to print it out the old-fashioned way) if you are flying.

I write my contact information around the edge of the page.

I write my contact information around the edge of the page.

I start every journal the same way: two crossed and curved arrows and a request that the finder please contact me if I lose the journal. My email address on the page, and I’ve had two lost journals returned to me.

The arrows represent different paths, interests and the constant demand to consider more than one view in my journals.

If you don’t fly, the first page can hold

  • A snapshot of everyone who went on the trip
  • The checklist of what needed to be done before you left
  • Information you found about the vacation location
  • Places you hope to visit or sights you want to see while you are on vacation.
  • And of course, there are always maps.
Map: Phoenix to Las Cruces, August, 2014/

Map: Phoenix to Las Cruces, August, 2014/

I’m a fan of drawing my own map. It’s neither to scale nor accurate in any other way, except that as I drive, I note interesting sights along the way. Once I arrive, I complete the map with the notes I take.

Trip from Denver to Colorado Springs.

Trip from Denver to Colorado Springs.

You can just sketch in a few notes, and add more as you go along, too. The second part of the above map (not shown on the blog) lists places I ate, shopped, and who I met, all detailed with small sketches.

Map3If you aren’t into maps (what?!) you can add photos from flyers, postcards, notices you find in coffee shops or museums you hang out in. This photograph of sandhill cranes reminds me that I want to see their migration again this fall.

For pockets, I use placemats, menus, or other ephemera found in coffee shops or restaurants. The Corner Bakery has cute 2″ x 5″ bags for cutlery that just fit into a small journal. OK, they also have menu items for diabetics. But those cute brown bags! They wind up in the travel journal and hold movie or concert tickets or other memorabilia you pick up.

I also tuck 6″ x 4″ watercolor postcards into the journal before I leave, so I can make and send postcards to friends and to myself. It’s fun to come home, find some postcards you sent and add them to the journal. Enjoy your vacation!

—Quinn McDonald also adds trips to her Commonplace Journal.

 

Choosing a Book by its Cover

Handmade-Butterfly-Journal-India-P15814619

The journal as it was originally

Digging through my piles of partially-started journals, I found one I really liked. Why didn’t I continue using it? I liked the paper inside–heavy enough for sketches and light washes, provided they don’t require a lot of scrubbing. The top paper layer did dissolve, but I generally don’t soak my journal pages.

Why had I abandoned this journal? After staring at it for a minute, I realized the cover was too busy, the paint stencil over the newspaper-print butterflies didn’t suit the delicate swirls on the cover.

Most of my journal covers are dark brown or black. If I make the journal myself, I use a dark color–it shows less wear. Even when I loose-leaf journal, the covers or carriers are usually dark.

The big circle is much greener, but color correction can only do so much.

The big circle is much greener, but color correction can only do so much.

Yep, I was that shallow–judging a book by its cover. And not using it because I didn’t like the cover. Milliseconds later, I grabbed paper and collaged the cover, leaving the pretty purple color and swirls in space and covering the butterflies with geometric shapes.

Some color richness is missing here, too, but you get the idea.

Some color richness is missing here, too, but you get the idea.

Since then, I’ve been using it regularly. Who knew that such a small thing could make such a big difference? As an artist, I should have. But I was embarrassed at 4972f961f1e56b004aaa0323977ed746my own “shallowness.” Until I thought about it. We buy by preference–color, texture, shading.  I wouldn’t buy the shoes on the left, for example, although someone did. And wore them with great flair.

My experiment of book-cover altering bring up another idea: the things we use have to fit our hands, our hearts, and our pleasures. Or we won’t use them. It’s not always about practical and usefulness. Sometimes it’s about sheer pleasure.

--Quinn McDonald judges a book by its cover. She tries not to do the same for people.

 

 

Creativity Prompts: July 19, 2014

On Saturdays, I’m posting some journaling prompts to get you to enjoy journal writing. My favorite way to handle these are to set a timer for three minutes, what+will+you+write+4read the question, and then write until the timer rings. I don’t go back and re-read while I’m writing, I don’t edit or listen to the inner critic. I just write. It’s freeing to not pick apart each sentence as you write it.

—You go see a doctor. What questions can you ask to make sure you get the best care, and not just a six-minute session and a prescription?

— Many birds are raised by their mothers alone. Write a letter from a father bird to his fledglings, explaining what they need to know and how to learn it. You can do this with different birds: hummingbirds and robins, for example.

—There are four-legged animals and two-legged animals, but no three-legged animals. Why did evolution favor even numbers–at least in legs?

—If you were handed a sealed envelope with the date, time and cause of your death inside, would you open it, even if there were nothing you could do to change your fate?

Have fun exploring your ideas and writing!

-–Quinn McDonald is a writer still in love with writing.

Saturday Prompts

It’s time for a switch. After years of posting links to art and artists, this Saturday I’m posting journal prompts. A lot of art journals are being painted and a lot of journals being bound, but not a lot are being written in. No surprise. Writer’s block strikes a lot of people. Stare at a blank page (no matter how many colors or layers it has) and your mind goes smooth and blank.

PromptsHere are some prompts to get you started filling your journals. Set a timer for three minutes and choose one of the prompts below. Write without editing your own thoughts or censoring yourself. Write down what shows up.

1. Lots of schools require some sort of uniform. Would you like it if your workplace made you wear uniforms? Supposing you got to design the uniform. What would it look like?

2.You’ve been mugged. You aren’t hurt, but you are shaken up. There is a cell phone on the ground, but it’s not yours. What would you do with it?

3. Is intelligence inherited? Which of your parents (or siblings) was the smartest? What criteria did you use to get to your answer?

If you use any of the prompts and come up with an interesting train of thought, leave it in the comments.

Happy exploring!

—Quinn McDonald is a writer who is exploring the interior.

Books Remain the Same

Reading a book–in any way that thrills you–is an experience. There are books that I have read more and more slowly as I came to the end because I couldn’t bear to not have the characters in my life. Pillars of the Earth. The Cider House Rules. The Women’s Room. The Thorn Birds

books1

There are books I forced myself to finish because I knew I should. Middlemarch. Bleak House. Portrait of an Artist as  Young Man. The Red and the Black.

There are books I could not force myself to finish, even if they were short, and popular. My eyes rolled so hard I was afraid they would get stuck in the top of my skull. The Bridges of Madison County. Anything by Nicholas Sparks.

books2

And years later, the opinion formed the first time I read the book becomes how I think of the book.

Lately, I’ve taken to re-reading books I loved or hated years ago. There have been some big surprises. Books that I thought were complex and deep suddenly seem less nuanced. Books that I thought were silly and trivial now seem to strike the heart of human experience.

books3

Slowly it dawned on me. The books are the same. Same words. Same content. But the reader has changed. Life does that to you. And as the reader changes, so does the opinion of the book. As true as it is that one does not step into the same river twice, it is true that a reader does not read the same book twice.

And that is why every room of my house has a bookcase jammed with books. Because I keep going back to read books that have changed while sitting patiently on the shelf.

-–Quinn McDonald also reads ebooks and listens to audiobooks. She loves it all.

Aside

Super-specialized art supplies are fun and can ease the tedious part of creative work. What makes special supplies most useful is combining them with the basics you love and use every day. Here are my four new favorites for everyday … Continue reading

Cleaning Up Your Act (and Creativity)

A few weeks ago, when the studio was still a paper dump, the big decision was not to clean it, or even how to clean,  but what to keep and what to scrap.

Cleaning out the bookcase was a choice-struggle, but it worked. And then the hard work began. Here’s what I did:

Collage_Couple

“Inspiration,” collage © Quinn McDonald, 2014. Monsoon Papers on mixed media paper.

For three days, I worked on projects that spoke to me. Carefully chosen, they were the result of a lot of thinking about expressing my creativity in ways that resonate with who I am and who I would like to become.

The next two days were spent in listing the materials needed to make the artwork. Another list for teaching materials. Everything else was considered and put in boxes to give away.

One of my big realizations was that I often buy an art supply thinking it will make my art better: “If I have this glaze, I will be a better painter,” or “If I have this tool, it will make me more creative.” Neither is true. But that “hope in a tube” belief is the foundation of a lot of art and craft supply companies.

Out went the rubber stamps I never used, the watercolors I hoped to get good at, and single-use tools. Out went a lot of brand-name toys I rarely use and bought to make myself feel better. A lot of my purchases fell into the emotional-eating equivalent of chocolate.

I kept everything I use to create collage–papers, inks, paints, watercolor pencils, watercolor markers, different glues, and rulers, cutters, and corner rounders.

My studio is now much airier, brighter, and less cluttered. The equipment I use is at hand, and a school is going to be a lot happier with the art supplies that fill up my trunk.

Creativity needs some good tools, but emotional supply buying is much like emotional eating. It feels good, but it’s not supportive of growth and health.

–Quinn McDonald is a collage artist, writer and creativity coach who lives her belief in creativity.