From the Page to Reality: Thoughts on Finishing One of My Everyday Journals

 First, let me define “everyday journal”.

My everyday journals contain Anything and Everything, from stream of consciousness journaling to sketches and paintings, from project ideas and lists, to habit charts, church notes and handlettered quotes, all stitched together with the cord of my neuroticism. They are handbound, with pages made of thick, toothy bristol paper, and are usually (but not always) small enough to fit in my purse (favorite size 7×8.5) All the smaller ones have covers that are made using kitchen chipboard, like cereal boxes, and the covers of the larger ones are actual book covers taken off old books and covered in decorative paper.

I have other books which I consider to be “art journals”. They  are made with 140lb watercolor paper and contain more acrylic paint and no pages that are exclusively writing (although I do write on my painted pages). They usually feel more forced to me than my everyday journals, more like I am trying to “make art” and perhaps am failing at it and so should stop right away.

In my everyday journals, there are no “rules” and Little Miss Perfectionist isn’t welcome. Paint sometimes bleeds through the paper, some (or maybe most) of the drawings totally suck and there is a lot of boring sameness in my constant desire to Manage My Time and Improve My Self and Get A Lot Done, and I succeed in that for a while and then I fail, and then try again, etc. etc. ad infinitum, and that’s pretty much what I chronicle in my everyday journals.

Here are a few pages from the past three years:

1) a habit chart (which usually cover about 2 weeks)
2) a self-portrait I did over some journaling
3) some dried rosemary from our 2014 garden (stashed in an envelope page)
4) a diagram of my circle of influence vs circle of concern.
5) some sketches for printable ideas for “freebies” to get people to sign up for my Rough Edges Life mailing list
6) covers that are decorated with “engraved” aluminum tape (a very easy technique that makes it hard to believe your cover used to be a cheezit box)

From the Page to Reality

My current journal has taken me almost four months to fill. When I got to the last-ish page, I noticed that there were a lot of ideas that kinda “went somewhere” quickly. That doesn’t necessarily happen with every journal. I am telling you this not so that you will think I am so impressive Dahlink, in my accomplishments.  But rather, so that you can see what a good tool a journal-based creative practice is for a person like me (and maybe like you too), someone who has limited time to create/achieve/produce and is not known for high levels of focus. I am a self-improvement junkie, as you may already know.  This disorder, if left unmanaged, can lead to excessive reading about self help, rather than actually helping oneself and perhaps might even lead to wallowing in one’s most unhelpful habits. But keeping journals like this, which have no rhyme or reason or expectation, has helped me more than any other “technique” to be steadily productive on a sustainable level. Maybe because all these ideas would have vanished into the ether if I didn’t have my journal around. Not to mention the little snatches of memory or personal insight jotted down randomly or contained in a few sentences of writing. (I still have a lot of bad habits though, this isn’t a miracle process by any means).

What Came to Fruition In This Journal

  • Here are the first and second stages of the idea that became the banner image on this blog (although ideally it is for my new business website, which is unfortunately NOT one of the projects I have completed):

We won’t talk about the fact that I actually prefer the middle image. When something gets too polished I don’t like it as much. Plus in the final image it looks like my cup hand is amputated. But since my “brand” is all about persevering creatively through imperfection, I allowed that to remain.

  • A few days after the Mockingbird Conference last February, I was still trying to figure out what the Mockingbird fundraiser zine would evolve into. On the right is a list of my motivations and fears about the project. It was not a big success financially, but it’s not true that No One Bought It (which was one of my fears). It did just break even. Also I may presell them at next year’s MBird Tyler conference. So a new opportunity did present itself even if I didn’t sell as many as I’d hoped.

And here is the completed MBird zine. Hopefully I can master watercolor skin tones by next year. I am not crazy about the stark whiteness of the Magills, who are stunningly attractive and always have the glow of health, but who would have undoubtedly looked piggishly pink under my “artistic ministrations”. THIS ZINE CAN STILL BE PURCHASED HERE:

  • Another wonderful providence is that I bought Anne Kennedy’s book Nailed It and I fell, immediately, deeply in love with it. I don’t remember how it happened now, but Anne and I started corresponding, and now we are friends. I even had a guest post on her blog, which was not even on my fantasy radar of what might possibly happen, ever, even in an alternate universe, between me and such a cool person as Anne. Here is a page whereupon I made a sketch inspired by the cover of Nailed It, probably a few days after I received it. I was thinking about writing a review Praising It to High Heaven (which I have not yet done because I haven’t made a zine since that time, and I would not relegate such an important piece of writing to the ephemeral blogosphere) :

  • And here are my first ever notes about Jordan Peterson, who I heard for the first time in mid-March. I had no idea at that time how he was going to become one of the Grand Obsessions of my life.  These notes I took while listening to him are intermingled with notes from Sarah Condon’s Tyler talk, and in both sets of notes is the word Suffering (with Sarah Condon thankfully having the word of Grace as an oh-so-necessary foil to JBPs almost neverending Law)

Dr Peterson pervades the rest of the journal, although there are some mind maps, a few pages with brainstorming for the upcoming habit chart/everyday journal making class that will be out by the end of August, and a painting or two:

I have many notes to help me as I create the Jordan Peterson Fanzine during the long, hot Texas summer. I’ve done sketches of him lecturing, and he never stops moving, so that’s a real challenge for me with my rudimentary sketch skills And in his honor, my habit charts are now titled with the admonition “Sort Yourself Out”

  • Another thing that began in this journal, and that seems to have become (for the time being at least) a semi-regular activity – church sketchnotes done using a template for an orderly layout (which pleases my inner zinemaker):

Three Days On, One Day Off

In addition to “being productive”, I learned something useful about myself near the end of this journal. I figured out that one reason I have always had a problem with time management is that planning or scheduling within a 7 day week doesn’t work for me. Maybe it’s just rebellion, feeling like I am expected to just fit into this RANDOM social construct that I didn’t even ask to be born into, man! But whatever the reason is, I decided I was going to buck convention and try a four-day structure.

In case you have ever wondered, there are 91.25 four-day-periods in a year.

On each of three days I have been having a loose focus, and then on the fourth day I do whatever the heck I want. I need one day for grocery shopping and other errands and for housework. Another day for creative but “business focused” work and a third day for whatever seems pressing in the family or household – maybe, if I can ever break through my annoyance and resistance, I could do some reading aloud or take better care of the household finances.  Those are two squares on my habit chart which rarely get filled in with pretty colors.

In the little snatches of time apart from the day’s focus, I have been “fitting in” the things that too easily slip through the cracks, like reading real books, (most notably, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge) and also exercise, salads and brief but blessed moments of silence and inactivity.. Then on the fourth day/evening I can drink alcohol, or binge watch TV (which for me might mean three episodes) or just sit around all day reading Nordic crime fiction. But I am just as likely to spend an “off” day rearranging some room in my house, which is one of my favorite activities and technically would be considered both housework and exercise on the habit chart.

I hope your interest in making and keeping your own everyday journal has been piqued, and that you will let me help you in that endeavor 🙂

Be in the Rough Edges Life Creative Loop

If you have any questions related to journaling, personal excavation and/or creative practice (or if you just want to ask me some random question or tell me something) please email me at samantha@roughedgeslife.com

On my next “creative work” day I am going to make a video to go with this blog post. If you’d like to see that video, or be kept abreast of the progress on the habit chart class or the Jordan Peterson Fanzine, please sign up for my mailing list.