A New Way to Journal

Journaling is more than an art; it’s a habit. A practice. A way to process whatever happens in life; a way to become more self-aware. Art journaling is a wonderful way to add the visual to the words, and because I’m a writer, it i satisfying to add sketches, collages, paint to the written page. I’ve done it for years, and now it’s time for me to move on to a different way to journal.

Background in progress. Monoprint on watercolor paper.

Background in progress. Monoprint on watercolor paper.

The new way of journaling is immensely satisfying. It started as a solution to a teaching problem. When I teach, I like to show samples of my journals, but much of my journaling is private, not to be passed around in class. So I had to make samples to show. Some of the books I passed around had only a few pages of samples.

Landscape, in progress.

Landscape, in progress.

I began to work in different books at once–watercolor for wet media and collage, lighter-weight pages for pencil sketching. My life would jump around several journals. It made journaling while traveling hard. Which one to take?

I cut back on journaling to create samples.  That was unsatisfying, but it brought me to the answer.  Through years of practice, I can type fast–about 100 words a minute. Because I work at the laptop for many hours a day, I began to type a journal at odd moments, often in the middle of a project. Five minutes of typing makes an interesting break and makes returning to work easier.

For years, I’ve explained that handwriting is a different process and necessary for right-brain journaling. And I still believe that. But I also believe that typing a journal is better than not keeping one at all.

I print out what I type, and keep it in a small (9″ x 7″) three-ring binder. I also re-purpose binders that were once cookbooks or home-improvement how-to books, but that’s another post.

Collage from monoprints. The chameleon can hide from predators using protective coloring. It can also miss out on opportunities by blending in too thoroughly.

Collage from monoprints. The chameleon can hide from predators using protective coloring. It can also miss out on opportunities by blending in too thoroughly.

The binders are grist for studio work. I’ll read through what I’ve written, distill it, and polish out the thought or idea that is a handhold in the upheavals of life. Or an open window into a great insight. Sometimes what I come up with was better said by others. Then I write down the quote in my quote folder to use later.

My studio work is looseleaf journaling. Usually collage of some sort, combined with illustration and words. Always words and letterforms. Usually there is writing on the back–either a deeper explanation, or the rest of the quote.

Creating looseleaf pages allows me to work on several pages at once, have pages in different stages, and, because they are not connected, take some pages to class and leave others at home. I’ve created several ways to bind different size pages. Each page is dated, so I can always put them in narrative order to check on progress or problems that show up (again) or just what color seemed to be my favorite in 2007 (sepia).

This new way gives me freedom to write, process, make meaning, create, share and keep private, as is necessary. It’s satisfying.

—Quinn McDonald teaches journaling and writing.


6 thoughts on “A New Way to Journal

  1. I just love the landscape in progress. But I would leave it like that, frame it and put it on my wall. I think it is perfect just as it is as it encourages my imagination to complete it. Right now it is the Monument Valley or some other place like that right before the sun falls down below the horizon. The moment when everything is coloured in golden reds and yellows and oranges, and when the sky is tinted in that weird, special kind of greenish turquoise that you kind of see but find hard to grasp as it soon changes into blues of the night sky.

    • I agree with you. I love it the way it is. I did add one element that completed it for me. I put down my signature wavy lines and ran a slightly darker color on the bottom. That was enough. It looks like Monument Valley with a heat mirage as you drive through it. Thanks for helping me leave it alone.

  2. I am sure you will love this way of journaling!
    I have a 4 ring binder (A4) as my journal which contains printed pages (when my neck hurt sand I can not write). written pages and a collages and drawing and paintings. whatever I want to put in there. After having searched for the right journal for ages this works fine for me

    • I’ve been toying with the idea of a larger binder, for both printed and drawn pages, but have not worked my way there yet. And right now, I still do a LOT of 5 x 7 pages for the Inner Hero work.

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