Monday, November 2, 2009

On Keeping Journals

You've probably been there: Sitting in front of your computer with a Word document open and nothing to say. You've tinkered with the margins, messed with the fonts, even titled the thing so so you have a topic, but nothing is coming. Or you've dug out the paints and a canvas and made a great show of clearing out a space and setting things up and now that blank white canvas stares at you. I had a similar moment of panic when I was planning to demonstrate linoleum block printing to masses of customers for three days. I cleaned, I organized, I set up, and it was looking good the night before when I realized I had not one idea what I was going to carve on that clean grey block at opening time at 10:00 a.m. the next morning.
But these moments don't last long for me because I have a vast disorganized collection of things that can only loosely be called journals or sketchbooks. I always have at least one in the car, usually sliding around dangerously on the dashboard, I always have a couple in in my computer bag, in the bag with whatever reading or knitting I am doing. I take one in a pocket on hikes and one of those nifty waterproof numbers when I backpack. When I get an idea for an artwork, I make a little sketch. Sometimes, I know it is an idea for a linoleum print or a felt, but sometimes it is just an image that could be done in most any medium, and in that case, I will try to find or create a photograph of it first, then the photos will serve as reference when I convert it to other media. I write down ideas for articles, ideas I want to bounce off friends for discussion, things I want to look up online and learn more about, even ideas for talks or classes that might be fun to teach. If I am working on a project of some sort, it is a way to capture ideas for it that occur at other odd times. I have kept one outside the shower if I am working really hard on a project and having a storm of ideas. My fiction always starts with an image or a few words that create an image. Working it into a story only comes later. Sometimes, when I am in a mood of prolific "thinking things up" they are in roughly chronological order with a blog topic next to an interesting image for felting next to a jewelry design next to a question about a prairie plant. Sometimes, I make an effort to put like ideas together in various parts of the book by making sort of a topic key at the front with blackened marks at page edges. The ideas scattered about the book have black marked edges to link them with the topic list.
So when I was ready to carve but lacking an idea, I got out a few of my journals and paged through them and soon had more than enough image ideas for the weekend of block print carving and printing.
You don't have to be an artist or a writer to benefit from a journal. Don't we all have moments out there were we wonder at the meaning or origin of something and then lose the thought once back home? Don't we all get ideas about things in our lives, even just questions we want to ask someone or stories we want to remember to tell someone, and then lose them once we move on in the day? Keep a little blank book in your pocket or bag or purse or desk drawer and jot those things down or make a little sketch or diagram. Give it a try. Than maybe I can call YOU someday and say "Hey, got any great ideas for a block print?"

1 comment:

XSarenkaX said...

I keep little scratchpads everywhere, just in case I need to write something down wherever I may be. Ideas can strike any time and anywhere!