Forget It? Remember It! Journaling Does Both

Writing to Remember
If you keep a journal, you fill pages with detailed memories and ephemera to remember events or people. You had a wonderful reunion with a friend. You write it down so you’ll  remember that evening years from now. In your journal are all the details, ready to replay in your imagination long after your memory records it as fuzzy.

Writing holds your emotions and memories, it heals and creates.

 Writing to Forget
Pouring emotions on paper lets you release it. Have a disagreement with a friend? Pour your feelings out in your journal, and you will leave them there, because there is no reason for you to want to hold on to the hurt. Writing is an act of healing, and the healing begins when you release the need to rehearse the pain over and over again to make sure it’s still there. Knowing it’s in your journal is reason enough to quit rehearsing the details.

How can journal writing do both?
How can writing help you both remember and forget? Writing is a creative activity, and the act of forming words carefully, with a pen, creates a reaction between your brain and hand that lets you think through the emotional impact while you are writing. Writing by hand slows down your thoughts and helps you concentrate. (Some recent studies have shown that people who have learned to use a keyboard at an early age may get the same release from typing.)

Writing helps you forget, because you can vent on the page, examine your motives and reactions, and decide what to take with you as you move on. You learn from your hurts, as long as you don’t nurture them to feed anger and thoughts of retribution.

In the same way, writing down a to-do list allows you to forget, because you have the items written down. No need to keep rehearsing the list in your mind. Keeping a to-do list reduces anxiety and feeling overwhelmed because you no longer repeat what you haven’t done yet over and over.

When you write down to remember, something different happens.  You write to enforce a memory, to recall more details, to bring a full range of emotions to the top of your mind. As you feel an enjoyable emotion or physical pleasure, the words you write create a path to feel that pleasure again, in full measure.

Keeping a journal is both a creative act and and act of healing. It can do both at the same time. Visit your journal often and allow your creativity to fuel healing.

—Quinn McDonald keeps a journal. She helps people learn how in her book Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art.

Day 2: What’s Deep Writing?

Wisdom from yesterday’s comments, without additional comments from me:
From  Kelly Davies, The Naked Executive: “Today- I write myself whole.”

From Mary Ellen, a reality-check on why to participate: ” I can get caught up in “shoulds” and lose track of what my real goal was to begin with. I am at point in my journey where there are many twists and uncertainties; the path ahead is not clear.”

Jackie Dishner wrote about her first day of experience and included a great photo to think about.

And SimplyTrece discovered this piece of wisdom, “Write Myself Whole”. I may also transmute it into “Write Myself Home”.

“Day 2 of what?” you ask? Find out, join us if you feel called.

*     *     *     *    *

You see the shadow first, then the stick. The stick looks straight, the shadow doesn't. What's going on? It's just like reall life.

“I’d like to join,” said the email, “But I don’t know what Deep Writing is.” Good point. I was thinking of calling it Heart Writing, or Truth Telling, or even Authentic Writing, but the term authentic is so exhausted, it wouldn’t even raise its head when I called. And yes, I did think of calling it Raw Writing, but that just didn’t sit right with me. When I asked my book,  Raw Art Journaling flapped its pages at me in disagreement.  I’m open to suggestions.

The best way I can describe this soul-deep, clear-heart writing is the word “truth.” It’s a relentless exploration of your emotions, the truthful details of an event–without spin, without excuses, without bringing in someone else to shoulder some blame. Some questions I asked myself when I sat down to write last night:

  • What are you worried about? (It can also be angry, bitter, jealous, or ‘what can you not forgive?’)
  • What happened (a full description of the incident(s)
  • What did you feel (a full exploration of emotion)
  • What was your part in this event?
  • How do you feel now?
  • What needs to happen to set this straight? (you may not know, or have extravagant ideas.)

By writing down the blood-deep truth, there is no need to spin or dress it up, it’s just you and the journal. I do know it’s important to capture both the left-brain (event description) and right-brain (emotional) parts, to work toward a clear understanding and a resolution.

You may well write for days or weeks without knowing what to do, and that’s fine. Just be open to dreams, ideas, and well, the possibility that you will write down the solution right out of your pen tip without being ready for it. That’s one of the potential results from this kind of writing.

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who helps people deal with change in their lives.

Raw Art Journaling with Poetry

Raw-art journaling is the combination of abstract art and words. It’s an art form for everyone, from writers to artists who aren’t illustrators. For those who love the written word in content, but aren’t calligraphers, raw art is a deeply satisfying journaling experience. You can work on it for minutes or hours, add color or leave it in black-and-white.

Here are two recent journal pages from my raw-art journal. The one below is a quote from

The quote is from Anthony Machado, about the road you create and can look back on.

The quote says, “Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, nothing more, there is no road. the road is made by walking. On glancing behind, one sees the path that will never be trod again.”

The second one is a quote from Lorna Crozier. Also about walking, but in a completely different way. The vertical orange lines are the book binding stitches holding the signature in place.

Poem by Lorna Crozier. Art by Quinn McDonald. Pitt Pen, watercolor pencils on paper.

The poem is called “Plato’s Angel” and is from her book, “Inventing the Hawk.”
It thinks the world
into being
with its huge mind
its pure intelligence
On the curve of its crystal
skull
you see yourself,
you see your shadow
One of you will put on shoes,
will walk into the world.

Quinn McDonald is writing a book to be called Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art. It will be published in 2011 by North Light Books.

The Pencil is Mightier than the Disk

I love pencils. Cheap, available, usable. I have a pencil on my nightstand next to some index cards–in case I wake up and need to remember something but don’t want to turn

Yellow pencil. Colored pencil, ink. © Q. McDonald

Yellow pencil. Colored pencil, ink. © Q. McDonald

on the light. A pencil always works. In the dark, without looking, the pencil will work. Ballpoints and fountain pens, which I also love, sneakily need to be warmed up and I don’t know when they’ve started working.

The other night, I wanted to remind myself to take the white board to a workshop. I used a ballpoint pen (the cat had absconded with the pencil to blissfully chew the eraser to bits) and the next morning I read “uh tc bca d”because missing halves of letters looked like different letters–half of a W turned into a U, the O into a C.

When I got to the journaling workshop, I was asked the most popular question I get–why not just blog? Why not keep a journal on your computer? I love tech toys. But I also have a shoebox full of diskettes in various sizes that no one can open and read. Some are in word-processing programs that pre-date MS Word or Wordperfect. Anyone remember Multi-Mate? Of course not. Some are on formats for which there are no matching slots in computers. The big 5.5-inch floppies. Punch cards. Those computers are long gone.

Lascaux cave drawing

Lascaux cave drawing

It’s true that I lost a pile of journals to a flood in the basement, and to another to a fire in the attic. (Ah, the Old-Testament years.) But in each case, the journals I found were still readable. For that matter, so are the drawings in the Caves at Lascaux, which are about 30,000 years old and made with charcoal, an early pencil-substitute.

My son’s first drawings, love notes I scribbled, my parents notes to each other (my father favored light poetry directions and directives to my mother), in fact, my father’s sketches from when he was 6 years old–over a hundred years ago–are all still intact because they are in this simple medium. Pencil on paper. Timeless.

Quinn McDonad is a writer, trainer, life- and creativity coach. She teaches what she knows–how to write, give a presentation and keep a journal.

Raw Art Journaling (Online) Starts April 22

Raw art journaling (an online class) is for everyone who can’t draw and wants to keep an art journal. You’ll learn to express yourself in ways that include framing your words, creating a focal point on the page, and using abstract designs to express emotion.

I’m starting an online class on April 22. It’s a 3-session class and will continue on April 24 and 29. Once you sign up, I’ll send you a Yahoo Group address (different from the creativity incubator I moderate).

Raw-art-journal page © Quinn McDonald 2009

Raw-art-journal page © Quinn McDonald 2009

The class will be held on the Yahoo Group. I’ll post a lesson and example on each of the 3 lesson days. The lesson will be a visual and a prompt. You’ll practice and post your results, comment on other people’s posts and see what develops.

Raw art doesn’t require any special tools–a journal you don’t mind experimenting in and a pencil or pen. That’s it. You can get much more complicated, but you don’t need to.

Please join us for this exciting, fun class and learn how to keep a Raw Art Journal! More details and registration on the raw-art-journals site.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She runs workshops in person and online on writing, presentations, and raw-art-journaling.

New Journal? What to Put on the First Page.

New journals are exciting–the possibility, the fresh approach, the hope you will be as filled with opportunity as the journal is filled with pages. And then that clutch of fear: the. first. page.

Suddenly the possibility, joy, newness, excitement is filled with panic. Your inner perfectionist starts up on full volume. “Well, once you ruin the first page, the whole journal is ruined,” or, “Sure, go ahead and make a fool of yourself on page one.” It goes downhill from there.

No worries. Here are five suggestions of what to put on that first page. Even your inner perfectionist will love these. (Oh, and send the IP off to some area of the house that needs attention–the tub will do nicely. Or the laundry. A busy perfectionist is a quiet perfectionist.)

1. Write your name in the journal. Along with an email address so people can reach you if you lose it. Some people offer a reward. Some use phone numbers. I think an email address is enough. I don’t plan on losing mine.

2. Write the starting date and a dash to be filled in later. When you are done with the journal, you can add the second date. Notice I didn’t say “when the journal is full” — being done and being full are two different things.

Raw Art arrows

Raw Art arrows

3. Put in a simple design. I start my journals with the design at the right. For me, it signifies the many directions my journey may lead, but it’s all in the journal.  It’s hard to mess up a simple design.

4. Write a meaningful quote on that empty page. It doesn’t have to be famous, just meaningful. A friend of mine copies a paragraph from Pride and Prejudice on the first page. She figures it will not interest sensation seekers, and by the time she’s old, she’ll have a stack of journals and half of Pride and Prejudice copied. Jane Austen would have loved it.

5. Leave it blank. Once the journal is half full, it’s easier to go back and fill it in.

See five more (and different) things you can do with that first page.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. Visit her two websites: QuinnCreative is her business site, and Raw-Art-Journals is for people who can’t draw but want to keep an art journal. (c) 2009 All right reserved.

What do I do with my journal?

Are you afraid that someone will find out your journal secrets? That when you die your life will be there for all to see? If this is keeping you from writing in a journal, could you reconsider? There are steps you can take to protect your privacy, and some things to think about before you cut off your connection to the past.

If you feel strongly that your privacy not be invaded, you can rent a safe deposit box at a bank. Put your completed journals in this safe deposit box and give the key to a trusted friend.

open journalJulia Cameron, the author of “The Artist’s Way,” and the proponent of writing three pages of whatever you are thinking every single morning was asked at a book signing if she keeps her journals. She said she did, they fill a storage locker. She has an agreement with her daughter, her executor, that she be cremated. “But first, burn the books. Then burn me!” Cameron said.

Before you choose to keep your life such a secret, let me encourage you to let go. Once you are dead your past is not going to haunt you. And it might help others. My mother’s life was a mystery to me. I was born late in her life and only knew her as angry and manipulative. Sure, she had bright moments, but they were short and quickly dispensed with.

After her death, I found a packet of love letters she and my father had exchanged. So strong was her hold over me, even from the grave, that I seriously considered destroying the letters, unopened. When I read through them, another woman emerged. One I had never known. A young woman, the woman who was the mother to my brothers. She seemed eager to live her life. I never found out what had shut her down, although she had many reasons.

Without those letters, I would have never had a chance to see this other person. This person with hope and humor. This woman who suddenly had more in common with me than I ever believed. It was a generous gift to discover.  I’m sure she would have hated my prying into her past, but now that I know, it is also easier for me to be easier on her.

Before you lock up your past, think about the help you might be. That event you are ashamed of might help someone else, might change their mind, might leave a word of encouragement. Once you are gone, your life in this world is complete. Leave some clues for the next generation. You might create a picture of yourselves for people who are not even born. Give them a view into your life, and into the status of life in a time period they never knew.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who teaches journal writing. See her work at QuinnCreative.com You can also read about Raw Art Journaling for journal writers who can’t draw.

Journals: Write to Forget, Write to Remember

If you keep a journal, you may well write whole pages to remember events or people. You had a wonderful reunion with a friend. You write it down so you’ll  remember that evening. In your journal are all the details, ready to remind you of the warmth of the reunion.

 Writing to Forget
Pouring emotions on paper lets you both capture the emotion and release it. Grab a strong emotion and wrestle it down on paper. Your feelings will pour out, you will see them on the page and leave them there, because there is no reason for you to want to hold on to the hurt. Writing is an act of healing, and the healing begins when you finish with your need to rehearse it over and over again and feel the pain all over again. Knowing it’s in your journal is reason enough to quit rehearsing the details.

How can journal writing do both?
How can writing help you both remember and forget? Writing is a creative activity, and the act of forming words carefully, with a pen, creates a reaction between your brain and hand that lets you think through the emotional impact while you are writing. Writing by hand slows down your thoughts and helps you concentrate. It doesn’t work that way if you use a keyboard.

Writing helps you forget, because you can vent on the page, examine your motives and reactions, and decide what to take with you as you move on. You learn from your hurts, as long as you don’t nurture them to feed anger and thoughts of retribution.

In the same way, writing down a to-do list allows you to forget, because you have the items written down. No need to keep rehearsing the list in your mind. Keeping a to-do list reduces anxiety and feeling overwhelmed because you no longer repeat what you haven’t done yet over and over.

When you write down to remember, something different happens.  You write to enforce a memory, to recall more details, to bring a full range of emotions to the top of your mind. As you feel an enjoyable emotion or physical pleasure, the words you write create a path to feel that pleasure again, in full measure.

Keeping a journal is both a creative act and and act of healing. It can do both at the same time. Visit your journal often and allow your creativity to fuel healing.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. Her book, Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art helps people enjoy their art journals even if they can’t draw.

Image: Forget/Remember. Ink and resist pen on paper. ©Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved.

The 1000 Journals Project

The Phoenix Art Museum was host to the 1,000 Journals Project. Today, the museum ran a documentary about the project, with commentary afterward by the documentary filmmaker, Andrea Kreuzhage.

the 1000 journal project is a book and a DVD

the 1000 journal project is a book and a DVD

Here’s the story: In June of 2000, a graphic designer, known in this project as Someguy, had an idea for a collaborative art project. He would distribute 1,000 blank journals, allow people to fill them in any way they wanted to, and return them to him. Read the rest of the review of the book and documentary.

Read about the 1000 journal project.

See if the film will be shown at a location near you.

Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach and journal keeper.

Wabi-Sabi Journal Prompts

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that values the time-worn, the aged, the imperfect. It is a philosophy and a way of accepting and giving up control. Bringing wabi-sabi into your life allows you to make room for daydreams, for accepting a simpler life and for valuing the riches already in your life.

A wabi sabi journal is one filled with authentic you, the one that hungers for simplicity, nature, the organic flow of life. Here are a few quotes to help you open your mind to Wabi-Sabi. They make great journal prompts.

You are the person you are when no one is looking.

Anger is only one letter short of danger.

No one can give you abilities. For example, an Olympic athlete works with a trainer to develop her abilities, but the trainer only helps manifest what was inherent all along. Likewise, no one can give you happiness. At most, others simply help manifest the joy that was always within you.snail

Happiness does not mean ‘absence of problems.’ There has never been a life free from problems. It is not the presence of problems, but how we tackle them that determines the quality of our lives.

Blind faith is no faith

One does not win by making others lose.

–All quotes from “Open Your Mind, Open Your Life.” edited by Taro Gold

–Image from Still in the Stream, a site reflecting on Wabi-Sabi in nature.

-Quinn McDonald is an artist, writer and certified creativity coach. In March, she will teach “Wabi sabi journal writing.”  Visit my other website: Raw Art Journaling.