Category Archives: Journal Pages

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

Kickstart Your Journal

Yesterday, my friend Marit said she was “waving from her journal page to mine,” and I thought, “what a great idea!” Need something to focus on? Need a jumpstart on writing?

Dialog can intersect and circle around, like this path in King's County (Washington)

Dialog can intersect and circle around, like this path in King’s County (Washington)

This is more than a journal prompt. It’s not a word to write about, it’s a whole technique. And it’s powerful. Let’s get started:

1. Warm up by focusing on your emotions: Right now, I feel [fill in the blank.] One word may be all you need.

2. The reason I feel [blank] in 20 words: [describe how you reached this emotion.]

3. Almost always, someone else is involved in this story about your emotion. Whether you are happy, anxious, excited, or skeptical, most of our emotions are connected to other people, often for reasons we don’t understand.

4. Use the next page to write a dialog between you and the other person. Writing dialog means you will make things up. That’s fine. You want to figure out a reason for the emotion and what your role is and what the other person’s role is. By putting words in someone else’s mouth (and you know you are doing this), you are resolving old issues, exploring new ways to happiness, or clarifying ideas.

Example: I’m feeling anxious. A friend has asked me to help her in a way that I feel uncomfortable with. I want to help my friend, but I want to hold onto my values.

Q: I’m not sure I can do this, Friend.

F: But it will help John and it will be a big favor to me, too.

You can also draw speech bubbles and fill them in.

You can also draw speech bubbles and fill them in.

Q: I think speaking up at the Writers’ Club and supporting John as another member isn’t a good idea. The club rules say you have to be a published writer, and John isn’t.

F: It’s not about you, Quinn, it’s about getting John into a place where he can find business. And the club is great for that. You’ve gotten business that way. John is a good guy.

Q: I have gotten business from the club. But I was a published writer when I joined. And John isn’t.

F: He writes his own blog, and that’s publishing. You are just afraid he’s a better writer than you.

Q: A blog is not publishing. And I want what’s best for John. But getting him into the club is not in his best interest.

F: What’s wrong with you that you won’t help this friend? Haven’t you needed a hand before?

Q: I’ll be happy to help John in some way that helps John. Being dishonest doesn’t help anyone. Least of all John, if he gets a job he can’t handle.

. . . .the dialog can go on as long as you need it to. In this example, I see my own stubborn character, but also my clarity in not being dishonest. Yes, it’s a small thing, but I can see that if I vouch for John, and he doesn’t do well, the lie I told will be the reason John got in over his head. What I am understanding from this dialog is that my need for approval is pretty big, not not big enough to lie for someone.

Is this the dialog the way it really happened? No, but by making up the other half, I’m giving myself the opportunity to dig into my own emotions in ways that help me see my own motives clearly.

The dialog exercise is a good way to find out more about yourself.

–Quinn McDonald is an explorer in her journal

Journaling as Building Block

I’m working on the journaling process again. I’m focusing on writing and Commonplace Journaling for right now. I got a 5 x 8-inch journal in which I can’t draw (paper is too thin) so I would write more. I’m fond of doing mind maps, and I’m doing a lot of them, too. Why writing instead of art journaling? Right now, I have a lot of ideas to clear, a lot of inner critic arguing to do, and that (for me), is done by journaling.

Yes, I’m still working on my art. The latest piece is also about writing, though!

Book of letters. © Quinn McDonald 2015

Book of letters. © Quinn McDonald 2015

The collage uses an older idea I had, but the letters around the book actually are words that relate to writing. I often sit in front of a blank journal while my mind writes and my hands don’t. That’s what gave me the idea.

To make myself focus and write, I create a list of problems, worries, and ideas at night, right before bed.  (That goes in the journal, too). The next morning, I choose an item from the list and set the timer for three minutes. When the timer rings, I finish the sentence and shut the book. No re-reading. That comes later.

mindmapOn the left is a mind-map from Journaling from the Inside Out by Susan Borkin. I use mind maps to capture pieces of a big idea when I don’t know the connection yet.

The mind-map helps me grab all the pieces of the brain dump. Sorting them comes later. I’ve found that mind maps are still maps, another one of my favorite concepts.

When I’ve got a book filled, I can go back and distill ideas and save them. The books have cardboard covers and have about 50 pages. They aren’t attractive, but they allow me to be messy and not try to design a page. Sometimes, quantity is as important as quality.

It doesn’t matter how you tackle journaling, it always helps. It always heals. As long as you keep writing, your life will begin to make sense.

--Quinn McDonald keeps journals. In many different ways and styles.

 

Book Review and Giveaway: Journalution

Cover

Cover

Sandy Grason wrote Journalution in 2005, and it still stands as one of the best books on deep-writing journaling. She writes in an easy-to-understand way, and combines the wisdom of Julia Cameron with the emotional nurturing of Shakti Gawain. (One of my favorite lessons from Gawain is, “to feel more love, you have to let go of more anger.”)

Grason handles journaling in a simple, direct way. If you have been swamped by the responsibility of art journaling, if you are tired of trying to think of something to journal about, if a sketchbook journal disappoints you because you can’t draw, you will enjoy this book.

The subtitle of the book says it all: “Journaling to Awaken Your Inner Voice, Heal Your Life, and Manifest Your Dreams.” That’s a lot of journaling, but it’s packed into 200 pages that you can dip into, study, or read from front to back.

Table of Contents, page 1.

Table of Contents, page 1. Click to enlarge the image.

If you haven’t been deep-writing journaling, start now. Grason helps you getstarted and answers some simple-sounding but meaningful questions like “Where do I start?” and “Why do I need to journal?”  The answer to that is in a quote from the introduction:

“You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.” –Margaret Young

Grason gives you tips on writing when you don’t feel like it, figuring out what’s important to you, getting to your truth, and facing a blank page. There are tips for keeping track of your hopes, dreams and visions. There is an index to find all the exercises, from playing small to living large and how to set intentions and remain detached from the outcome.

The book is gently used, and from my book shelf. It’s time for it to bring ideas, clarity, and inspiration to someone else.

Table of Contents, page 2.

Table of Contents, page 2. Click to enlarge the image.

Quote from the book: “Inside, we are all just little children trying to heal, trying to do the best we can in this world. Many times it doesn’t look like that to others, though. Often, the child inside is angry and resentful; it may even want to hurt others.”

Giveaway: Leave a comment telling me why you want the book, and you’ll be in the drawing. There is just one book. The drawing is random, so you don’t have to be brilliant. International entries are welcome. I’ll announce the winner this coming Saturday, March 14, so stop back and check in!

Quinn McDonald is making room on her shelf for more books.

 

Milking the Word

The first week of January has stumbled off and here we are, in what becomes mid-January in a few days. Now that the decorations are packed away, school is back in session, and work is swinging along, it’s time to unwrap that Word you chose for 2015 and take a closer look.

It’s probably written in your journal a few pages back. Take a look at it, and spend some time with it.

What called you to that word?

What would you like the word help you do this week?

How can that special word help you make 2015 remarkable?

How will this word help you change?

It’s fun to ask different questions about the word and invite it into your life and journal in different ways. Writing about it helps clear away the “just a word” aspect and brings in into your lap, where you can make it come alive.

Quinn McDonald is seeing her word show up around every corner.

Make Something

Once you learn how to make something–a pot, a story, a song, a video game–it changes how you see things forever. Once you write a story, you hear pieces of dialogue in conversations, plot lines while walking down a busy street.

This parabolic curve is made of nothing but straight lines. Your eyes don't lie, but your brain does.

This parabolic curve is made of nothing but straight lines. Your eyes don’t lie, but your brain does.

Making something allows you to fail while learning, build something better, and not be at the mercy of a boss who doesn’t understand you and work you never liked.

When I worked in advertising agencies, I learned how to set type. This is a skill no one needs anymore because computers do it. Although it has been decades since I spec’d type, I have a deep appreciation for typefaces, their subtle differences, and the shape of letters. Still. It makes a difference on my taste, my judgment and my idea of what matters. Just because I learned that skill.

A few days ago, I signed up for a drawing class. I have to draw in ink. I hate it. I want to go back to drawing in pencil. In my homework, I thought about drawing in pencil, then going over it in ink. But what would that teach me? I signed up to learn something new, something hard.

It’s hard to follow the rules. But that’s the point of learning. How I drew before taught me something, this method will teach me something else. My eyes don’t lie, but my brain does. “What do you need this class for?” “Draw the way YOU want.” “You don’t need someone to force their way on you.”  That’s my brain, trying to get me to go back to what I know instead of stumbling along in something I don’t.

I won’t learn a thing by looking at someone else’s artwork and judging it. I need to try and fail drawing with ink, try and succeed, learn what works and what doesn’t. When I practice, I learn something. Something about drawing. Something about myself. Something about the creative process that my clients struggle through.

My coaching clients do important work. I cannot allow myself to do less.

Quinn McDonald is struggling in a drawing class to be a better coach.

 

Brain Freeze

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 11.18.35 PMThree nights of freezing weather has done damage. The bougainvillea turned black at the top, then the middle, and finally the bottom–one section per day.  The top third of the lemon tree caught the cold air and the lemons at the top of the tree froze, then rapidly started disintegrating. Freeze cloth protected the pencil cactus and agaves, but the last night, when it was not supposed to freeze, caught me by surprise. Living in the desert prepares you for loss, but generally, it’s the summer heat that does a plant in.

The arborist was here the day after the last freeze. He was here to trim the cypress hedge, which is dormant and can take the trim right now.

I asked about the citrus trees–should they be trimmed now? “No,” he said, “Citrus trees will leaf out when cut, and that shouldn’t happen right now, or they will be badly damaged if there’s another freeze. And it’s early January.”

Similar to writing or drawing. There are times that my journal pages are trite and boring, and somehow the effort doesn’t show. I could rip out and discard the page, but that will just put a lot of pressure on me to make the next page “make up for the loss,” or to make the next idea the perfect one.

Like a killing frost requires me to leave the dead plants alone, it’s a good idea to leave a displeasing journal page in place. Give it time to teach me what I need to learn. Keep me from deserting the whole idea or branching out in a different direction too quickly.

Instead, I’ll become used to the imperfect page, and grow around it. The roots of the page will still be there, and new ideas will grow from them. And once I’ve learned what I have to learn, I can choose to cover the page with gesso and start out in a new direction. Just like the bougainvillea. Loss isn’t always a bad thing here in the desert. It can lead to a new, thriving, growth.

-Quinn McDonald keeps a journal in all seasons.

New Year, New Journal?

Now that you’ve slept in, recovered and started the year, should you start a new journal? Should you continue in the one you already have? How about the ones that have three pages filled in and abandoned?

Maybe a journal is too ambitious, too much work, not interesting. In that case, you might want to consider some other choices:

JoanDidionWrite yourself a letter, summing up 2014 and writing down what you want for 2015. Write down the big, crazy things you can never have and the small, pointy things you want but are afraid to own.  You only have to do this once a year. Put it in an envelope and put the envelope in your underwear drawer so you can find it again. Read it every now and then.

Whenever you feel ambitious, read through it and decide if you want to take a step toward one of the things you want. Figure out the smallest possible step that would move you toward it. As Martha Beck says, “Got it? Good! Now you can take steps to make it happen. And as you take one step toward the thing you want, it really does take a hundred steps toward you.”

Tear out the few pages in each of the many journals you started but never finished.  Staple them together, with a blank page in front and back and write the dates of the pages on the blank page. Put them in a drawer where you will see them. When you feel like it, write some comments in a different colored ink–what was right, what you see now that you didn’t see before.

Get a three-ring binder or other easy-to-keep folder with standard-size

The original cool calendar page. Just a year ago, a lot of people were convinced we'd all be dead by now. That's a good idea to review and see how it's changes. And where are those people now?

The original cool calendar page. Just a year ago, a lot of people were convinced we’d all be dead by now. That’s a good idea to review and see how thinking changed. And where are those people now?

pages so you never have to do more than print out your writing and put it in the folder. Add the date.  Don’t worry if you don’t do it often. Here are some things you can keep track of.  Imagine if you had kept track of interesting things for the last five years. You’d have fun comparisons and get new ideas.

Make a list of phrases you started using in the last three years. Cray-cray, bae, awesome sauce, totes. Where did you hear them first? Why did you start to use them? How do they make you feel when you use them? When others use them?

Make a list of phrases you would like to ban from the world. (See above). Why are you tired of them? What do they mean to you now? What changed?

The purpose of a journal is not to burden you by tracking every thought or action. The purpose of a journal is to help you figure out why you think, act, and dream the way you do. And then do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. That’s all. Keeping a journal not a religion, shouldn’t be a burden, and only works if you work at it and find it worthwhile.

If you decide to keep a journal, here are five things you can put on the first page. If you think those are lame, here are five different ideas for your first journal page.  And if you are afraid of making a mistake in your journal, here are some ways of fixing messed-up journal pages.

-–Quinn McDonald keeps a journal, but not everyday. Enough to keep track of the person she is evolving into.

Keeping a Journal

Does keeping a journal require keeping the journals?

Do you keep your journals? When one is done (or filled), where do you store it? Do you ever go back and look at them? What are you doing differently in your life than you did 10 years ago? What are you doing that is the same?

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 9.56.56 PMA journal will hold your grudges for you so you can get on with your life. A journal will hold your worries, so you don’t have to let them circle your mind. A journal will hold your big goals, so you can keep following them.

But a journal that gets filled and stuffed in a box and put in the attic–that journal might as well be a cannoli for all the good it is doing you.

Journals are like computers–they hold information, but the genius comes in interpreting the information. Learning from it. Acting on it.

Treasure your old journals. They show how far you have come.

-Quinn McDonald keeps a journal. It talks back to her.

When Your Journal Talks to You

Listening to your journal is a skill missed by the very people who would benefit from it. We write a lot in our journals, but then we put them on the shelf and forget about them.  We are used to writing, asking to be heard, seen–praying for answers. We often miss the answer when it shows up. And it will show up. That’s one of the benefits of  journaling.

someprayersFor a while, all the writing is pouring out of you in an endless flow. One day, you will find yourself thinking about what you are writing–the words aren’t pouring out on their own. You are paying attention. And all of a sudden, you write something interesting. Profound. An answer to a question you had. You are now in a deep connection to your own wisdom or a wisdom greater than yourself. You have tunneled deep enough to be away from the distraction, and you just dug up an important truth.

Truth is surprising. We recognize it and blink. Sometimes we wish it were something else. But the flash of recognition is the key. You will know. Maybe it’s not the answer you had hoped for, maybe it’s exactly what you need.

Your pen may race on, while your mind hangs on to the answer. You may not want to listen, but you will. You will be drawn back to those words, that flash of recognition. It can be an answer, a key to an answer, or simply a truth you have not believed.

And there it is, on the page in front of you. Underline it. Save it. You may have to finish your thought, your paragraph, your page, but the answer is right there.

You have created the start of a habit. A habit of writing and listening. And when you listen, you’ll find answers. You might have to write a long time to learn to trust yourself, but once you start to listen, you will hear your answers.

-–Quinn McDonald keeps a journal and is surprised when it shows her something big.

Notes from the Commonplace Book: Success

Note: If you don’t know about Commonplace Book or Journal, you can read about what goes into one, what mine looks like, 10 things you can put in yours if you want to start one, or the difference between a commonplace and visual journal.

Mine commonplace book is stuffed with notes and today, I thought I’d take the string of notes I have on success and put it here. Un-edited, just ideas I’ve jotted down on success. Some may resonate, some may sound completely wild or untrue to your experiences.

Comment, head off to your own journal to rant, or just think. It’s Friday and Halloween and I know you are busy.

Fear of success takes several forms
1. If I become successful, will it be enough? Don’t I have to become more successful then, and more after that? Too much work, don’t want all that.

2. Success breeds responsibility, like this:  If I become really successful, I’ll have to hire people—a bookkeeper, an admin—and what if I can’t support them? What if my income is reduced too much in the effort of supporting them? Gasp, choke.

3. Lack of definition of success. “Success” is a faraway goal. Here’s how my coaching clients tackle this thorny problem:  I can always run toward success and enjoy the chase. But if I catch it, like a dog chasing a car, what do I actually DO with it?  If I actually succeed, what if I don’t please my parents or get accepted by my friends? Most people want enough money to live on, but wealth isn’t what looks like success or happiness to them. And if they claim to be successful, their neighbors and friends will point out how ridiculous it is to call yourself “successful,” because you aren’t obviously wealthy. So it’s easier to avoid success.

I think of myself as successful because I’ve had a business for 12 years and have always managed to pay the bills, really love the variety of my work, meeting new people with different ideas, and being able to say No to those whose core values don’t line up with mine. But few people would agree that I’m “successful.” My success is based on my happiness and the ability to take some very strange talents I have and make a living from them, rather than celebrity or piles of cash.

4. Our consumer culture has a lot to do with “permission” in people’s lives. More of us look to the people around us–at work, mostly, where people are also in competition with us–for validation. No one who is in competition with you is going to help you be successful unless it also helps them.

5. Deserving success. This is very tied into #3 above, but it is for people pleasers who cannot define success for themselves. They don’t trust their gut, so they allow people to define success for them. So, of course, they are never successful. If you are, people may be jealous or hate you, and that’s not success. This is a really vicious cycle, but important.

—Quinn McDonald coaches people who fear success.