Much of modern life has become about collecting experiences. Once it was buying the t-shirt (collecting objects) now, people take a selfie (collecting the experience) to illustrate where they are, and what they are doing. I have nothing against selfies as such. I do wonder what is actually happening when people dash here and there, seeing this and that, and take a selfie to mark the day. In sketching or writing in a journal, it forces you to slow down, to think a moment, to make connections between this idea and that idea, to internalise the experience, so it can be part of your history, your story and who you are. It is these connections made in a journal that make the experience more solid. It is more solid because you have slowed to focus on it. The journal is just the tool. In writing about something it allows me to clarify my thoughts. In sketching something it allows me to understand how something exists in the world.
Contemporary journaling frequently combines visual elements such as photos, sketches, and collage with written text. Journaling has been heavily influenced by book arts and artist books. Some modern journals are more about the images between the pages than the written content, exploring the format of a journal with pages that fold out, have concertina pages, or hold memorabilia in pockets. This format shift can be taken to an extreme with journals that are on filing cards, or postcards instead of notebooks. As a genre, contemporary journaling is behaving like a teenager, with all the passion and energy of a young life, rebelling against tradition and conformity of lined notebooks.
I do not mean that journaling is for the teenage years as the people I know, who keep a journal are well into their adult years. As people they are not interested in too much introspection and recording angst. Instead their thoughts and interests look outward. They witness events in their community, recording their reaction to life. They are externally focused paying attention to what happens on their patch of the globe, recording by sketch or photograph the places they live in and what they see.
Technology has also influenced the genre as digital journals which can include photos, video and sound. The internet has also influenced journaling as people seek out others that keep a journal and share prompts, ideas and techniques which means a genre journaling grows producing many interesting hybrids. For instance groups such as Urban Sketchers, and Everyday Matters encourage people to stretch their creativity regularly by developing a habit of illustrating their lives or where they live.
I have had an interest in contemporary journaling most of my adult life. Since 1989 I have kept a journal every day. There are 2 exceptions or breaks in this record. each is a break of about 6 weeks. I stopped journaling for a while after the Canberra fires and again when my mother died. Both times were a crisis point in my life and although many people use a journal to work through points such as these I found I did not want to. So I followed my gut and did not. I enjoy seeing what people are doing with their journals, how they are using them and why. At the moment there are are sites that focus on sketching and art journaling but not much on writing and the practice of keeping a journal. There are other sites that focus on writing but not on the visual elements. I plan to mix the two topic areas as I do in my own journals. I figure I may have a few tips to share that may be useful for others. Creativity sparks in the form of prompts, books read, gallery visits and travel may help others with journaling ideas too and since my own journal practice is always changing as I try out various techniques in my own journals I will share them with you.
As a side note – one area I don’t plan to go is the angst ridden navel gazing stuff under some disguise of honestly working through issues. If you have metal health issues dont pick at the past like scab that wont heal, see a professional and get real help. A doctor may suggest a journal for health reasons but the internet is not the place for it.
Apart from the genre being interesting to track, explore and participate in it is important for creative activities to be validated. Creative people need to know it is OK to be different. In the last 18 months I have had the wonderful experience of seeing a local group of Canberra Urban Sketchers grow and in the process people have learnt new skills, the experience of sketching has been enhanced by being part of a group. A common interest validates the activity. It’s nice to feel that what you enjoy is not so weird, or out of place. Sometimes if you read about an activity online and it is something you have half thought to do – seeing someone else do it helps you take the first step. Knowing someone else does it validates the desire to try something. If you encounter a group interested in the same thing it can be very powerful as well as educational. A group can expose you to new ideas that leads you to trying out something new which in turn leads to developing skills.
So the reasons behind me focusing on Contemporary Journaling are
- The genre is shifting and changing quickly which makes it interesting to track. The internet has led to groups forming and different forms of journals.
- In order to constantly write about a topic I need to look for new stories. Research always leads to learning new things. This will improve my own journaling practice.
- After many years of journaling I hope I have something useful to share
- Creative activities of all types need to be validated – it makes a better world
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