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.


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.



19 thoughts on “Distilling the Journal

  1. How brilliant! To find such a creative use for the slide mounts! I love them on both a creative and practical level!

    Now . . . I a big bag of opaque 35 mm film cannisters that are going into the recycling unless I can find a use for them soon . . . I’m trying to Keep It Simple Sweetheart but have come to the conclusion that when you like to muck around as much as me, the only simplifying that can be done is an adequate storage system . . . after all, those cannisters may come in handy some day!

    • That “handy some day” will be the death of my free space yet! I’d be tempted to write a few words of wisdom on nice pieces of paper, roll them up, tie them with some of that flax fiber and put them in the film cans. I might even glue them into a big square, the let the grandkids pull out a piece of wisdom when they come over. Or, have them write sentences and tuck them in the cans, then choose three cans and write a story, using the sentences. Yeah, I’m a troublemaker.

      • I’d thought of the scrolls inside them. Maybe the kids can do a weekend reflection and date it . . . to be opened in 5 to 50 years time.
        Maybe you and I could rent a warehouse . . . and someone to keep track of everything! “I’d like those wood chips I picked up from the girl’s school playground please.” Actually those wood chips are in a Twinings Earl Grey tea box on the top shelf in the office.

  2. I like the way you play with words and short sentences. I often prefer poems to novels nowadays too, there’s so much more power in them (poems are like “distilled novels”)
    In the same way I no longer liked my word of the year “little by little” (too much watered down) and changed it to “passion”:
    Too many things I wanted to do “little by little” but with not much enthusiasm.
    Your post on how to succeed resonated with me: I think that to some degree you can do anything if you really want it; but you have to like what you do, so you do it passionately.
    In my 40ies I could sew and quilt all night long without getting tired and now lying comfortably under my quilts I wonder how I could finish all those blankets. I am lacking the passion and patience to continue.
    Working for hours and hours on one drawing doesn’t work either and I am glad if I succeed to capture an impression and resemblance of what I see in front of me.
    I have more thinking of what I am good at ahead of me…..
    Time and life changes us; surrounded by illnesses and deaths I need to keep some passion alive – to feel more alive!

    • Oh Suzanne! I couldn’t go by without a comment. I understand . . . past passions sometimes don’t last but there are new ones to come and they’re waiting to be discovered. I found I have needed to learn to play again and my guides are my granddaughters. I watch their approach to creativity and marvel at how carefree they are, trying anything and everything, discarding what they don’t enjoy and embracing what engages them and allowing it to take over completely. Use your myriad skills in new ways and play until you find a new passion . . . actually, now I think of it, thatis my (current) passion!

      • Thank you Wendy for you encouraging words! I am excited to discover my new passions…. And yes Quinn, I should not forget that I am no longer 20 years old…

        • When I say that to my husband, “I’m no longer 20,” he always grins and says, “or 30, or. . .” But what I love is the ability we have to be curious and want to discover new things long into our lives.

    • The idea of being able to do anything if you really want is a thorny issue I love to discuss with people. For example, you aren’t quilting all night nor are you drawing for hours isn’t working for you either. Maybe passion, maybe just exhaustion. There’s a lot to think about there.

  3. Love the little journals.
    I, too, considered a mid-year course correction in my word for the year. But I stuck with it and truly seem to be settling into my word- SETTLE. Took some time but it is what it is…

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