Traveling Journals: Changing the Rules

When I decided to create four traveling journals, I kept the idea pretty close to the 1000 Journals Project because that was a good model. As the journal entries unfolded, several interesting events took place:

Red traveling journals

Red traveling journals

1. Creative Insecurity. The person who started one of the journals has a great deal of art talent. In a class, one of the participants said, “I’m glad I’m not following her.” I didn’t understand, so she explained, “Well, if I saw this great art, I’d feel bad. What could I do that would be as great?” I had never thought of the journaling experience as being competitive, I had thought of each person contributing something new and different, a new perspective. But I’m sure that competitive perspective is not unique.

2. Not enough journals. With four journals, I can’t have a class work on them. If a class has a dozen people, no one will have enough time, and keeping the ones not working on the journal busy will short-change the one who is working on it.

3. Time constraints. Each person keeps the journal about 10 days. Mailing takes about three days. I have people from Australia, Bosnia, the Phillipeans and other countries signed up. The waiting list for one journal is already four months. A long waiting list was one of the problems that people told me about with the plan.

4. Lack of meaning-making in the concept. Circulating the journals is an administrative task that I don’t find compelling or packed with meaning-making.  I have to ask people not to create pages that are too thick to keep the book from closing comfortably. I hate restricting imagination and creativity.

What to do? I asked participants in the creativity incubator, I thought it over, and came up with some great alternatives. If I circulated loose pages, most of the above problems would be solved. If I circulated loose pages to create on while people were waiting for the books, and encouraged people to do both, the resulting creative rush could be exciting and fulfilling.

If I gathered the loose pages and created inventive ways to bind them, well, then, I could also have a creative experience. This sounded like a workable idea. It also changed the art experience to a completely different journaling experience than the one created by Someguy, the person who ran the 1000 Journal project as an art experiment.

Solution that re-tooled the project:

  • You can still sign up for the red traveling journals. You sign up for them, and I
    Re-purposed book

    Re-purposed book

    manage them, scanning and posting the pages as they come in and sending them out again to the next person on the list. You can see the list of where the books are, and who will have it next here. You can sign up for more than one journal.

  • You can also sign up for loose pages. You won’t have to wait for them, because I have them pre-cut and ready to go. You can create FAT pages (layer papers, add photographs, use multi-media techniques) or FLAT pages (writing, drawing, watercolor, thin collage) depending on your style, art, ideas, and imagination. You can use one of the themes from the red traveling journals (travel, dreams,  or Summer in the Sonoran) or make up your own.
  • There is only one rule: Because I will use different binding methods, some of which I haven’t invented yet, you will need to leave a half-inch margin all around the edge of each page. You can run color or collage up to the edge, just keep words and important image parts one-half inch aways from the edge.
  • The re-purposed book. One idea I have is to re-purpose books. I’ve snagged some books from a future in the landfill. I’ll cut out the pages, leaving a margin. I’ll send you a few pages along with some art paper. You can choose to use some, all, or none of the existing book pages. When you send it back, I’ll re-attach it to the pages I cut out. A re-purposed book!
  • Re-inventing the book. Another idea is that I will choose pages that relate to each other and find inventive ways to bind, stitch, rivet, or otherwise attach them to each other. This gives you the joy of creation and it gives me the chance to explore the meaning of “book” and play with the form. Everyone is happy.

I’m excited and eager to see how this adventure unfolds! I plan to continue this program as my main creative work for the foreseeable future, so if you are reading this and wonder if I’m still running the program, ask.

Sign up. You do not have to be able to draw to participate. The only requirement is a hunger to communicate with people from around the world in a culturally interesting project. You can read more about raw art journaling on my website.

You can sign up for the red journals, fat or flat pages, or both by sending me an email: rawartjournals [at] gmail [dot] com. Or use the link at the bottom of the left column or top of the right column on this page.

—Quinn McDonald is an artist, writer and certified creativity coach. She is managing this project our of her own funds and hopes to take the completed books on tour to museums and libraries. You can contribute to the project by using the button at the bottom of the page, here.

Journaling With Strangers and Friends

NOTE:  This project has been completed, please do not join. Every artist needs to tackle a big creative project and jump into it without a safety net, at least once in life. My time is now. I’m leaping into a journaling project with no idea where it will go, what will happen, or what the result will be. I have a teeny, tiny need for control (OK, a semi-Prussian control ideal) and it is hard to let that go. But I’m doing it. I’m journaling with strangers, all over the world. In a standard journal.

Here’s the project: I took four red, unlined, Handbook journals, and am sending

The red journals before they hit the trail.

The red journals before they hit the trail.

them into the world, to perfect strangers, to let them do what they want with the journals. Write in them, draw in them, paint, collage. Anyplace in the world that can be reached by mail. And then return them to me.

Three of the four have themes, one is unthemed. Some people are happier if they have an idea to work with, some have an authority neurosis and don’t want to be hemmed in.
Here are the themes:

  • Travel, real or imagined
  • Dreams, daydreams, night dreams and wishes
  • Summer in Phoenix (You have to live in the Sonoran desert for this one, the entire Valley counts)
  • Unthemed for free spirits or writers or artists with creative claustrophobia.

What happens to the journals? This is the great part. I belong to the 1001 Journals Project. Each time the journals come back to me, I scan the pages and post them on the 1001 Journal Project site, as well as the What’s New page on my own Raw-Art-Journals site.

Eventually, the journals will be full. If I’m lucky, and there is a good response, I’ll add journals and themes.

At least three libraries are working with me to create a class, and then have people check out the books using the information/reserved book desk for about a month or so.

Once the books are complete, they will go on tour to libraries and possibly museums.

Leave your mark by journaling

Leave your mark by journaling

There are more ideas, all still in development. For example, in some classes, rather than hand around the book, which would require people to draw under pressure, I’m handing out individual pieces of paper. The person draws on both sides and returns it to me. I’ll bind these into a book, creating a new journal in an unusual way.

Where are the books? Right now the books are in their second round of journalers. One is in Maryland, and the others in Sedona, Mesa, and Goodyear, AZ. All of this will be tracked on the What’s New  page of the Raw-Art-Journal website. There will be a list of the people waiting for the journals (first name, last initial to protect privacy), so journalers will know when to expect the books.

What’s in it for me? The immense joy of knowing that writing or drawing in a book is still valued and important enough for people to wait, write, draw, send back a real-book journal. Acknowledging our culture in ways history books do not and cannot.

I’ve read hundreds of journals written by immigrant women and women who crossed the country in covered wagons. Overwhelmingly common to their books were tales of birth and death, food and fashion, all starting with “this is just a day to day track of my life and not important.” Their stories are detailed and fascinating, and I want to help that happen in our time.

My grandfather's journal, c. 1899

My grandfather's journal, c. 1899

I have computer diskettes in every size that I can’t open because I didn’t update the storage and retrieval system on my computer, but my father’s first art journal from the beginning of the last century is still in my bookcase, paper and drawings intact, ready and available. For me, that’s worth it.

Where’s the money coming from? For right now, I’m funding the project. I bought the journals and the pieces of loose paper and envelopes. I’m mailing them out at my own expense, and asking participants to pay the postage back to me. I purchased the domain and built the raw-art-journals website.

And yes, you can help. I’m hoping that there will be organizations who pay me to talk about journaling, teach raw-art journaling (for people who want to keep an art journal but can’t draw), bring the journals and create classes. I’ll look for grants. I do know that I can’t support the project forever, or even for a long time. I’ve got about $400 of my own money into it, and for me that’s a lot. I believe in journaling, I believe in this project, and I believe in its success. People will contribute (there’s a button on the website for donations), doors will open, opportunities will arise.

You can read about the updates of the journal’s travels on the What’s New page of the website.

You can join the list of journalers and  sign up to write in the journal of your choice.

You can leave ideas and suggestion by leaving a comment to this post.

If you prefer to email me, you can do that by sending an email to: rawartjournals [at] gmail [dot] com. Writing it out like that slows down spammers and phishers, so it’s not a direct link.

I’ve always admired people who believed in art and took part in something meaningful, and then do it. For me, this is more important than the 15 years I spent selling my art work at art festivals. Because it is not a marketing tool or an income producer. It’s simply art for art’s sake. And for me, that’s making meaning in life.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and journal keeper. © Quinn McDonald, 2009. All rights reserved.