Looking Back. . .

In May of 2009, I bought four red journals and joined the 1001 Journal Project. It was an extension of the fascinating 1000 journal project done by Someguy. You can see the fascinating documentary by Andrea Kreuzhage on Netflix. Being just a teensy bit controlling at the time, I created a spreadsheet of people who wanted to work in the themed journals (travel, dreams, summer in Phoenix, and general) and sent them out, asking each person to return it in two weeks.

At first, it worked fairly well. But within a month, I had requests for journals from schools and church groups who were only together for a limited time, asking if they could have it next, so they could work on it together. I began sending out loose pages of heavy art paper, figuring I’d bind them together when they came back.

And suddenly, instead of participating in an interesting art project, I became an administrator and the book police. The books came back, and I’d send them to the next person, but first, I’d have to make sure they were actually at the address they had sent me. I had no idea people moved so much. Or were so scheduled. People asked if, instead of today, I could send it in 10 days, but ask first. Or in a month, but to a different address.

An illustration from one of the journals.

One email read, “I’m on the list, don’t know when, but send it to first address, not second.”  Of course, I hadn’t kept the first address, because it wasn’t going to be used. I began to spend two to three hours a day in administrative work, separate from my business and artwork. It wasn’t art, and it gave me a huge understanding why Someguy, the originator of the project, abandoned his 1,000 journals in public places, with no expectations of ever getting them back. It all made so much more sense.

And then the first book disappeared. I wrote the last person who had it and she swore she had sent it back. Another person said he’d sent it to the next person on the list, and since I kept the list, that couldn’t have been one of my red journals. I sent out over 200 cut-to-size pieces of paper. After six months, I had back about a dozen. People are busy.

After I got emails from people telling me they didn’t have the money to send the book back and I should have provided postage, I drove to pick up one of the books. At the house, I was rebuffed and told that there never was a book. Defeated and having learned a great lesson about control and art, I let the project go.

Two of the books found their way back about a year later. I shelved them, guilty about my poor art organization skills.

And then yesterday a padded envelope arrived in the mail, self addressed. I recognized it although it has been three years since I sent one of them out. No return address. No note. But it was the third journal. No worse for wear. It had the illustrations I still remembered and loved.

I pulled out the other two and looked at the three journals. Wondered what i should do with them. And then I had a great idea. It made sense, it closed the circle, and it is so about letting go of control. Tomorrow, Monday, September 3, 2012, I’ll explain the next adventures the journals will take.

Quinn McDonald is building on what she learned.

15 thoughts on “Looking Back. . .

    • That’s what “Someguy” did with his books. He took 1,000 journals, put instructions in them to do a page, then put it back in a public place. On the last page was his address. I think he got back a dozen or so. It’s pretty amazing.

      • I just went back and checked out the sites, read an exerpt of the book – truly inspiring! I wish we could get Netflix here but perhaps it’s just as well I can’t as I’ve probably made myself a little late for work as it is . . . just as well I have a slightly later start time today!

  1. Having participated in several swaps and round robbins I have learnt … not to. I´m so not ready for the stress of people not doing what they are supposed to (a big issue with me at the moment in different aspects of my life, I´m tooooootally grumpy about it).
    Best wishes on your new plan.

  2. Like the others, I’m curious to learn your plans for the journals.

    But the “Oh, wow!” factor for me in this post is the recognition of your issue with control and art. Seems to me that for a project like that, it would only make sense for you to exercise a certain amount of control, but at the front end, rather than the back.

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