Margin Notes in Your Journal

The English Patient's journal, stuffed with stories and sketches

In the movie version of Michael Ondaatje’s  The English Patient, the main character, Almasy, has a journal. Instead of filling page after page of a blank book, Almasy is writing in the margins and over the pages of  Herodotus‘s book, The Histories.  Almasy stuffs the book with sketches, including the haunting Cave of Swimmers, and information on the Bedouins who saved his life.

The book may be the most famous visual journal. One of my future projects will be to turn an existing book into an art journal. Not just the cover, I’ve done that, but the whole book.

Meanwhile, the idea is encouraging one of my best bad habits–writing in the

Proof of my bad habit. © Quinn McDonald

margins of my books. When other people avoided buying used college texts with other people’s notes, I loved them. I wanted to see what was important to them, to read their ideas, to see what appealed to them. I’d add mine in another color ink.

Writing in the margins is finding favor again, in a way I’d never do it. People are now happily sharing their searches on various search engines as a way of finding people interested in the same topic.

I”m sticking to writing in the margins. It makes a book more real, more personal, more interesting. A few weeks ago, I was looking through an old journal of mine, as had a new idea about the original post. My idea of layers in journaling is adding more notes to the old page. It’s a marvelous way to show that as you grow, so do your ideas.

Marginalia, ink and colored pencil on paper. © Quinn McDonald

Quinn McDonald is addicted to art journaling. Her book, Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art will be published by North Light Books in July of 2011.

Image of English Patient’s journal: Iris Watts Hirideyo.  Both other images: journal pages © Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved. 2011.