Learning how to use a journal

The subject is probably a bit confusing; how to use a journal? Easy, write in it! Allow me to take you on a journey through my mind.

To me, a journal has always been a continuous flow of text. Regardless of my age, that’s what my mind pictured when I heard the word “journal”. A 14 yr old girl sitting in her room writing in her journal/diary? In my mind I saw that to mean sentence after sentence of how she’s in love with (insert kid at school here) and nothing more. Someone of a bit more experience in the world who journals? I figured they must be writing about their day or taking notes on ideas they have floating in their head. A journal held a massive amount of words and nothing more.

About 2 years ago I discovered fountain pens and was suddenly plunged into a world of creative folk who used their pens for more than just scribbling notes on a 79 cent notebook. These are the people I always imagined would use a journal. I imagined them wielding a fountain pen and writing their innermost secrets on creamy ivory pages of their expensive leather bound journal. They spent their time chronicling their every move so they’d be able to look back on it in years to come and see the a portrait of their mind at the time, frozen in place on paper.

Then I started noticing people who weren’t using their journals as a boring line by line record of their life, they were writing poems, doodling, drawing, and painting.  Everything on their pages reflected something, whether it be a moment in their life or a picture in their head, they were journaling in a way completely foreign to me. I myself stayed locked in the line by line idea of the journal and, try as I might, could never get away from it.

I simply must experience this form of journaling. If you were to sit down and read my current notebook/journal, you would see a progression over 2 years (yes, one notebook in 2 years.. sad isn’t it?) where I fill the pages with sentences and paragraphs don’t deviate from that style. Then you’ll see a page from last week where I filled a page with nothing but random thoughts. It sounds simple yet it was oddly invigorating. I was breaking the “rules” of journaling in my mind and it was a whole lot of fun. I can’t seem to switch myself over to that method yet, but I’m trying.

I’d like my journals to be a collection of my current mood, feelings, pictures in my head,  etc..  I don’t want only sentences,  I want something visual that does more than bore you to death with poor grammar and spelling. I want my journal to be full of spontaneity and feeling, and one day I’d like to be able to sit down with my journal and doodle on it. I don’t know why that’s so hard to do, perhaps I fear the finality of ink on paper and not being able to correct the thing I’ve written or drawn. It’s as if my mind has set up a fence at the edge of boring journal entries and demanded I not cross it for fear of failure.

But what can I fail at? It’s my journal, it’s my paper, it’s by my hand. There should be no fear involved here, it should be organic and free, it should flow from my brain uninhibited by these crazy thoughts of failure. If you don’t want someone to see it, lock it up. If you’re afraid of what might come out, perhaps you shouldn’t worry until that happens and just let your brain go free!

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go try to climb this wall my mind has put in my way. See you on the other side!

Any suggestions on how to make this transition would be greatly appreciated!

4 thoughts on “Learning how to use a journal

  1. I have done the doodling thing in a journal. Except once I had that concept I tend to force myself to stick to it. So my recommendation is don’t pidgin hole your self into a certain way of journaling. There are no rules if you want to draw circles for an entry you can. But don’t be afraid to change it up from one entry to the next.

  2. you are not alone in this battle. i wish we could go back in time and undo the ‘brainwashing” that happened… somehow many of us have images of written words in neat lines, within margins filling fancy books.

    i’m fighting to free my journaling self too. lately, i find myself writing more and drawing/collaging less but it is needed.

    the only piece of advice i can offer is “follow your heart” . some days you may need to write out three pages of feverish text other days, gluing in a ticket stub or dried flower may be all you need 🙂

    here is my first blog post regarding my quest for journaling freedom: http://diysara.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/275/

    take care and be well. 🙂

  3. Fear comes, just do it anyway. Discover gesso. You can cover up any page and do it again if you want. I never do, but it is helpful thing to know to get past fear.

  4. Seems like the common theme is “just do it!” 🙂

    I’m going to rip out a page from my Rhodia pad and force myself to doodle on it. The beauty of that is that the page is unattached from the pad, so it can be thrown away. It doesn’t feel as connected to my journal. In fact, I could even use the excuse that the paper doesn’t even belong to my journal which is in an entirely different notebook.

    Here goes nothing!