Read: Journal Bliss ~ Creative Prompts to Unleash Your Inner Eccentric by Violette, softcover
Why I picked it up: I've had my inner eccentric on a tight leash for a while, and it needs some exercise. Also the book is very colorful and almost entirely hand-written, which I found encouraging and charming.
What I liked: When she says bliss, she means it -- this is without a doubt the happiest book I've ever read. There's so much positive energy coming off every page I think it reversed my magnetic field. It's also a lot of fun, packed with interesting ideas and suggestions, and not like any other how-to I've ever read. The author even made me laugh with the only depressing prompt (how would you spend your last day on Earth?) by writing Don't forget to put on a clean pair of underwear on her own list. I also liked that the author only uses one name; it's a terrific trademark, and I'll never think of the word violet again without remembering this book.
What I didn't like: It was hard to find anything I didn't like about this book. It's pretty basic in some places, but I really didn't mind the beginner stuff. For a well-rounded how-to, your content really should be suitable for all ages and skill levels. This is a book for everyone.
Reading: Journal Revolution ~ Rise Up and Create by Linda Woods and Karen Dinino, softcover
Why I picked it up: I read their book The Visual Chronicles a couple years ago and enjoyed it.
What I like: The book includes lots of popular techniques that are explained well using photo examples and text.
What I don't like: Journal Bliss is a tough act for anyone to follow, but the contrast between this book and Violette's seems pretty stark. The writing prompts and suggestions so far don't appear to be revolutionary or even especially original (or maybe I read too much into the title, or it gets better.) In the first chapters the authors are giving me the impression that truth in art journaling is ugly, distressed and/or unfinished, and imply that those who do otherwise are doing it wrong. I don't agree; if perfect pink pretty journals covered with sparkles and rainbows make you happy, I say go for it.
Will Read: How to Make Books ~ Fold, Cut & Stitch Your Way to a One-of-a-Kind Book by Esther K. Smith, hardcover
Why I picked it up: My coptic stitch is a little rusty, and I wanted to check out some new book-making techniques.
What I think I will like: The emphasis on craftsmanship, innovation and different levels of difficulty (seems to have a nice range on the latter.) I do want to teach my daughter coptic stitching, and from the section devoted to that I think it's a great teaching aid. I flipped through the pages and there are some really interesting and new-to-me book making ideas, as well as some facts about bookmaking like the origins of chapbooks that I didn't know.
What I think I won't like: Already I don't like the cover; it's basically a printed book board with a wraparound fiber tape spine (yellow, no less.) The cover made me think twice about buying it; fortunately I looked through the pages and was sold on them. I'm sure the cover theme was chosen to give the book a handmade look, but it's not attractive and it doesn't match the lovely pages inside at all. I think even the beautiful blue typo end papers would have served as a better cover.
Some final thoughts: the current trends in journal how-tos are all about self-discovery through art, but I've noticed that more often than not the emphasis is on one's baggage and what I think of as the never-ending self-pity party: My Pain/Struggle or Who Did What Damage to Me or the ever-popular Why You'll All Be Sorry When I'm Dead approach.
I used to think this was a good thing, but now I've seen via personal experience how it can get out of hand. During my recent sabbatical I spent two solid weeks venting every day in a personal journal. By the time I reached the last blank page I was ticked off because I wasn't even halfway through my private bitchlist. I also didn't remember it being that long when I started, so I flipped back through the entries and read it from the beginning. I found myself kind of horrified to see how cancerous my negative emotions had become, feeding on my self-pity and growing bigger and uglier every day.
Maybe the best way to find balance in journaling is to not only explore your bitchlist, but also take a good look at your blessedlist (things that inspire or motivate you, celebrations of the beautiful moments in life, and thoughts on the gifts you've been given.)
When journaling you should also think about what you're leaving behind (don't automatically assume you'll be able to destroy your personal journals; you could get hit by a bus tomorrow.) What if your heirs decide to read them? Or worse, publish them? Are you okay with the world knowing what's on your bitchlist? Will the chronicle you create of your life be genuinely interesting and well-rounded, or simply read like a nonstop parade of lousy Post Secret submissions? And if someday one of your descendants who never got to meet you reads your journals, are they going to think Wow, I wish she was still alive so I could talk to her or God, what a whiny self-absorbed twit, glad she's gone?