Friday, October 29, 2010

Journal-Wrecking

Handing out blank journals to kids of all ages is one of my annoying habits, but it helps infect them with handwriting as well as journaling, two things I don't want to see disappear off the face of the earth. Lately I've been suggesting they also make great places for teens to practice texting, plus a handwritten journal doesn't require batteries, never needs to be recharged and can never be accidentally sent to their parents' phones. I can usually keep a straight face as I say this, even when the kids give me suspicious looks.

All those empty pages can be intimidating, though, so I also employ guided journals (blank books that come with writing prompts in them) whenever I can find any that are kid-friendly. That's how I discovered Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal, which celebrates creation through destruction by instructing the journal's user to do all sorts of non-writing activities with the journal's pages. These include jumping up and down on it, tying a string to it and dragging it around, making a page and the journal into a golf game, and throwing it against the walls (there is also much cutting, ripping and scratching of pages.)

Since then I've given copies to other writers and younger kids, but I've never tried it out on older teens (or myself for that matter.) As I'd like to incorporate it into some of the writing classes I teach, I decided to give it a personal test drive via a controlled experiment. I bought three copies of the book, and gave two to my daughter and her best friend. I then challenged them to join me and work on wrecking the journals this winter with a goal of finishing every page by January 1st, when we'd trade them and see how each other's turned out.

The girls thought it was a neat idea, but they were obviously in no hurry to get started on their journals. I suggested they look through them to see some of the activities involved, and then I left them alone. Within five minutes they were both sitting on the floor with their copies of the journals. They spent a good hour laughing and making suggestions as they ripped, tore, glued and wrecked different pages.

I'm not sure why this guided journal is so much fun, only that I've been pulling my own copy out daily to creatively deface at least one page. I believe books should be protected, not mangled or destroyed, but I think having the author's permission -- and specific instructions on how -- to wreck the journal directly bypasses my lifelong inhibitions. With every page I wreck the journal seems to be morphing into an art project, and while I don't think book-wrecking will ever become my thing, it's weirdly delightful to follow Keri Smith's path of artful havoc.

8 comments:

  1. Yay, wreckage! I do collages for my WIPs and found that it's best for me to work without scissors. If I have scissors, I try to make things tidy and squared off and... well, perfect. Which is terrible for that initial burst of creativity. So I just rip and tear. I even rip the background cardboard before I start just in case I thought perfection might have ever been attainable.

    Spilling glitter is another good way to get over perfectionism. Loose glitter is impossible to control, just like creativity run amok. Once it's out, you'll find it everywhere.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I looked at this journal in BAM and thought it looked really cool and fun but at the same time I couldn't bring myself to actually buy it and do it. I don't think I can deface a book even with the author's permission. EEK!

    I also wanted to say, THANK YOU for being so supportive to your readers! Because of your wonderful, incredibly creative writing advice, I am going to start a book that I have been thinking about for a while. I am not joining NANO officially. I don't think I am ready for that. But I am ready to stop saying "I won't be any good, I can't do it" and all the other negative thoughts that run through my head. I apparently am a pantser so I am not going to feel bad that I can't be organized and plan it all out. Thank you so very much, I can't wait to get started!

    I am also taking some advice from Lilith Saintcrow who gives everyone permission to create bad art. She let me know that it is okay to be bad at it at first but that if you keep at it, you will improve. :) I think that has also kept me from what I want to do.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jessa wrote: Spilling glitter is another good way to get over perfectionism. Loose glitter is impossible to control, just like creativity run amok. Once it's out, you'll find it everywhere.

    Lol. My daughter calls glitter "the herpes of crafts."

    ReplyDelete
  4. Leslee wrote: Because of your wonderful, incredibly creative writing advice, I am going to start a book that I have been thinking about for a while.

    That's terrific, Leslee. I hope you have a lot of fun with it.

    I am not joining NANO officially. I don't think I am ready for that. But I am ready to stop saying "I won't be any good, I can't do it" and all the other negative thoughts that run through my head.

    That's really the first step, and a very big one. Once you give yourself permission to write, you've won like half the battle. I think it's also wise not to dive in NaNo until you're ready.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This actually appeals to me. There's been so much baggage attached to writing that getting to go wreck something wordy sounds like a good way to get rid of some of it.

    Also, I think handwriting is very important for kids. My kids are learning cursive and writing on paper as well as "composing" on the computer.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow, that's so neat! What a great Christmas gift idea for my 10-year-old niece! Thanks for the suggestion. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. *sigh* I just got another rejection yesterday. Not enough of a unique hook...I think this would be the perfect way to take my frustration out, having permission to really wreck something.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous5:52 PM

    Lynn,
    I read your post, but where did you get this book? I have glitter I can use shamelessly in this book and not feel bad about spreading it around!
    Tami
    Jacksonville

    ReplyDelete