I’ve noticed over time that each journal has it’s own personality. It’s impossible to doodle on most computers, and certainly an iPad isn’t going to retain the ring from the coffee cup you set on the page in that Parisian cafe. The different ink colors from different pens I end up using are another reminder of the time and place. When a journal is full, it feels like an accomplishment, but it’s also sad. I’ve actually mourned a few notebooks, which were very good companions for a time.
With some notebooks I look back through them I feel so impressed with myself and what I put in them. Those are the happy journals. The book looks happy. It makes me happy to read it.
Others seem empty by comparison. They’re drab, boring. The journal is sad, or at least bored. It makes me think about how I was during the better time – what made it better? How do I get back there?
Sketching makes for a happier journal.
I think the amount of sketching and drawing I do makes the difference. Even the worst sketch brightens the page. I have one page where we were in St. Augustine Florida, at a cafe getting ready to have lunch. I tried to start a sketch of Susan holding our daughter Riley. It’s half a step above stick figures, and neither of them are even close to identifiable. But when I see it I remember that day, the place and what it was like.
Other sketches turned out to be purely functional, like the sketch of battery cables on the same trip. My brother in law was trying to charge the batteries in my father in law’s golf cart, and had to remove some of them and we needed to make sure we got it back together right. Again, it’s ugly, and really just served a purpose, but now it’s a nice part of the tableau.
Sketching is hard because I always hate it when I’m done. I hate it even more when I’m doing it. It’s never quite right, and if I’m using pencil I would end up erasing a hole in the page if I corrected myself until I was happy. I supposed that would be a great way to get better, but I don’t have the patience for it. Instead I do the best I can, grit my teeth, and either get bored making that picture or decide it’s unreclaimable and move on.
Usually I come back to it half an hour later and am pleased. Pretty funny, no?
There are times when I do enjoy sketching. I find myself drawing without thinking about it much, and those are usually the better ones. But while a good sketch is better than a bad one, a bad one is better than none at all.
I have some notebooks where I haven’t drawn much. Compared to those with sketches they seem cold, barren, and boring.
Sometimes I just want to write. What mean is, sometimes I want to use a pen on paper. So I write a lot of drivel – switching inks, switching pencil grades, whatever. Sometimes I write a lot of bah about should I do this or that or whatever. It’s filler. I’m doing it because I crave the act of using a writing instrument, but I don’t really have a purpose. This crap makes journals unhappy.
Ideas, plans, narrative about my life or my kids or travels or whatever has some purpose. This is useful stuff. It makes the journal happy.
I need to make my journal happy
My current book, for instance, is full of writing. No sketches. Ok, maybe a couple, but not many. And the writing isn’t of great ideas, or revelations, or even a nice narrative of what i’m doing. It’s meta journaling – writing about writing, or do I really like this book or not kind of drivel. The journal is unhappy, and I need to fix that.
How about your journal? Is it happy?