Category Archives: Journal Pages

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

Confronting the “Story” Critic

QUNN’S NOTE: This is Day 5 of  a 7-day Write Yourself Whole journaling class to discover your Inner Heroes and name them. It’s free, but if you want to donate something because you like that idea, there is a donate button on my website. You can read Day 1 Getting Started details here.   Day 2–Distort and Shrink Inner Critic.  Day 3–Perfectionist Inner Critic.    Day 4: You Are Not Enough Inner Critic.

The Scene: Everyone has a “story.” Your story is the belief you build your life around. “I’m the organized one.” “I was always the class clown.” Sometimes the story it stuck onto something that happened in the past. “Of course I can’t trust anyone. My father abandoned the family by drinking.”

Stories can be interesting, tragic, bold, brave, or amazing. What makes them tragic is our own belief that other people’s decisions still guide our life.

Paqui_highlightHere’s what that sounds like: “Well, no wonder I can’t ever get to work on time. My Dad was so undependable, it is all I know.” Or, “You can’t blame me for not getting this book started, I’m a perfectionist from birth, and we have trouble getting started.”

The Tactic: When your story begins to run your life, when you make other people bear the burden for your own shortcomings, your life runs off the tracks. Your Inner Critic is quick to help you find blame with others. This is tricky, as your Inner Critic often directs blame that isn’t yours to you. So when you don’t take control of your life, because of others, it feels natural.

Write Yourself Whole Journaling Prompts:

1. What is your Story? This is rarely a fast answer. Spend some time making lists of how you see yourself. Look for big, sweeping explanations that pin the past to the future.

landoflongago2. What part of the story is holding you back? How do you blame yourself for this? How do you blame others? Your Inner Critic will help you with both of those answers. This is also tricky. Your Inner Critic is not always wrong. Watch for two part sentences with logic flaws. “You can’t blame me for not getting this book started, I”m a perfectionist from birth,” is an example. So is the same sentence with someone else “turning you into a perfectionist.”

Even if you are a perfectionist now, you can become a recovering perfectionist. See who you are blaming for your story.

3. Re-write your story with the ending you want. It’s OK to want (and write) a happy ending. Look at the characteristics you need. Those characteristics are the ones your Inner Hero (and you) have. Maybe you are “Discernment” or “Positive Attitude.” Or maybe it’s more complex, like, “One who does not let me confuse the past with the present.” Or, “One who is authentic, even if that means losing friends.”

Moving  Ahead:  Your Story may have been started in your past, but you get to write the ending you want. Your authentic self is not who you are right now, it is your best self, which may need some dusting off and a quick rinse. Take a look at the way you want your story to end. Call on your Inner Hero to boost you up when you begin to slip into old ways.

—Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer. She knows it is hard to re-write your story. But you are the only one who can. Quinn is a writer, trainer, creativity coach and author of The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal.

 

 

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Confronting Your “Distort and Shrink” Inner Critic

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QUNN’S NOTE: This is Day 2 of  a 7-day Write Yourself Whole journaling class to discover your inner heroes and name them. It’s free, but if you want to donate something because you like that idea, there is a donate … Continue reading

Discovering Your Inner Heroes

Starting today on this blog,  you are invited to go on a week-long adventure HorizonCollageto discover some of your inner heroes.   The class is called Writing Yourself Whole, because it is a deep-writing journaling class. There are six inner heroes you are going to discover, and you’ll do it by facing the inner critics you know so well.

For new readers, “Inner critic” is the negative self-talk we use to beat ourselves up about our shortcomings or skills we don’t have. Often we are scared of the skills we do have, and fear they are not enough. The inner critic is always about what we feel we don’t have enough of (lack) and someone taking our ideas or mistreating us because of our creativity (attack.)

Some inner critics are ones you may not have thought were destructive to your creativity. Sometimes inner critics show up in people we know, people we work with or in our family.  The negative self talk we use on ourselves is much more easily heard from someone else. They are being “helpful” or “fixing” us in someway. We don’t know how to handle it because they keep telling us that they have our best interests at heart or that some idea they are proposing are “industry standards,” and we don’t quite measure up.

We will learn about inner heroes through knowledge of our inner critics. It’s easier to discover where our bravery grows if we have the inner critic leads us to the places we need to be brave.

The course will appear on this blog, for the next six days. Here is what you will need if you want to participate in Write Yourself Whole:

  • Something to write in. You can use a journal, or write on a series of index cards, to keep the inner heroes separate and in front of you.
  • This is not an art journal course. You can turn it into one, if you prefer. But I created it to open your heart through deep writing.
  • You’ll need a timer–a mechanical one or one on your phone, or an app.
  • A pen or pencil of any sort that you really like writing with. This is important. It has to be comfortable.

That’s it. Choose a time that works for you and get ready to write regularly (about the same time each day) for a week. You don’t need to post your answers on this blog. Keep them in a journal, where you will be able to use them in the future. Your inner critic doesn’t go away.

The class is pay-as-you-want. You don’t have to pay a thing. If you want to contribute, you might want to work through the first two days before you decide to contribute. That way, experience will help decide value. If you want to pay, you can use the buttons on my website.  WordPress. com blogs (like this one) can’t use pay buttons, so you will need to use the button on the website.  And only if you want.

Reach tomorrow’s class by clicking on the right-facing arrow above the blog post, or go here:  http://wp.me/p2H1i-3Iz

There are benefits to some of the contributing.

Contribute $30, and you will receive six postcards. (Two each of three different collage postcards). The collages are of a raven, a pear, and a tree, all done in type. You can see the collages here.

Contribute $50, and you will receive a copy of my book,  The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal.

Contribute $75 and you will receive both my DVDs “Art Journals Unbound”–ways to gather and keep your free-standing journal pages–and “Monsoon Papers,” making the beautiful, color-saturated papers that became my signature style.

Or, you can donate any amount you want. But again, only if you find value.  Go to the classes page and scroll down to the “donate” button.

–Quinn McDonald is a blogger, writer, and a certified creativity coach. She has a whole group of Inner Heroes, developed through confronting her own Inner Critics. She is the author of The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal.

Beyond Art Journaling

Nothing against art journaling. I still love it. But I need a break from it. So many people have piled on so many products, paints, stamps, stencils, embossers, hole-punchers that I got dizzy and had to sit down.

A page of William Blake's Commonplace Journal

A page of William Blake’s Commonplace Journal

I’m back to using my Commonplace Journal. The one that holds all the facts, ideas, quotes that pile up in my days. It’s so comfortable, like a pair of shoes that are soft and still can be worn to a teaching gig. My Commonplace Journal doesn’t demand painted pages, drying time, or planning. It holds whatever shows up. For me, that includes meaning-making.

Two deep loves for journaling (for me) is watching time pass on a big scale and nature. This time of year (fall for the Northern hemisphere) the days begin to get noticeably shorter. For Arizona, it is a huge relief, as the sun simply doesn’t pack the punch to crisp your skin in five minutes. The pool starts to get cool again. By the end of September, you will need hot water when you shower (in summer, the water comes hot out of the cold water tap.

Because my memory is keyed to weather, its hard for me to remember what happens when. It was easier on the East Coast–my memories were tied to cool weather or a coat I had on. Or mud season and black flies. But here, there is a giant blue bowl of sky above us 322 days a year, so I have to keep track of what happened, and when.

Calendar at the beginning of the month, pencil boxes still in place. Not much filled in.

Calendar at the beginning of the month, pencil boxes still in place. Not much filled in.

In the Commonplace Journal, I draw a rough outline for the month on a page that starts the month. I use a pencil to do this. Then I use a pen and box in days in which something is caught. On the first and last days of the month, I notice the length of the day.  In September, the day of the Harvest (full) Moon, the autumnal equinox, and the progress of my plants. Maybe I add sketches, maybe not. Depends on what happens.

At the end of the month, I add color (if I want) and erase the lines on days that I didn’t fill in.

Feb. 2010, complete with what i noticed around the yard.

Feb. 2010, complete with what i noticed around the yard.

Keeping this calendar doesn’t replace writing, I do that, too. But it shows at a glance what happened outside for that month. It’s great for gardeners, nature lovers, and hikers.

You can, of course, track anything. Birthdays, school milestones, heights of your kids, grandkids or how long you walked the dog.

Calendars keep track of items we want to remember but not use up brain power remembering. A simple, hand-drawn calendar is an excellent journal page.

-Quinn McDonald keeps journaling in ways that make meaning, whatever they are.

 

 

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.