Guided journals, or blank books that include specific prompts or instructions on what to write in them, can provide an interesting journaling challenge and plenty of no-sweat writing practice. They're great for youngsters but I think adults can get a lot out of them, too. If you ever feel blocked, unable to focus or otherwise cut off from the work, a guide journal can be like jumper cables for your creativity. You still have to think and write, but it's nice to have your direction mapped out in advance for you.
On a recent trip to BAM I picked up two newly-published guided journals: Michael Nobbs's Drawing Your Life and The Pocket Scavenger by Keri Smith. Michael, who is the founder of SustainablyCreative.com, has tackled guided journal via impromptu art by putting together a book of drawing challenges.
I struggle most with sketching, and when I spotted Michael's jourrnal I thought it would be geared more toward experienced/confident artists. But while flipping through it I discovered Michael has disabled since the late nineties and learned to draw himself as a way to come to terms with his health challenges. That comes through in the journal, as he puts it: I hope this book will encourage you to draw YOUR LIFE and perhaps show you a way you can enjoy each day just a little bit more. To me the fact that he not only wrote but also illustrated the book convinced me to invest; I like authors who practice what they preach.
I tried out the journal in the fearless sense -- with a pen -- and freehand drew a bunch of different keys I'd been working with on some BookLoop and art projects earlier that morning:
I've already enjoyed working through one of Keri Smith's guided journals, so I had to grab a copy of her latest, The Pocket Scavenger. This journal is a guided treasure hunt through your life where you hunt for ordinary and even mundane objects like postage stamps, buttons, part of a book, a used envelope, something that was given to you -- all of which you add to the journal along with the location, time, date, and a story/notes section where you write a bit about the process of finding the object.
Now to some of you this might sound a little tedious, but wait, there's more to do: once you've found the required treasure, you then flip to a random page in the journal, turn it upside down, and follow the instructions written in the bottom page border to alter the object you found. For example: I found some old postage stamps in my desk. I noted the details of the hunt on that page, then did the flip and got these instructions from the border: add some music. That I interpreted as making the background of my postage stamp page out of some old sheet music from my paper recycling bin. Which then turned the postage stamps into a neat mini-collage:
Both of these guided journals allow anyone, no matter what level of artistic skill they might have, to creatively explore their immediate environment, document their life in an interesting way and journal outside the box. If you've never tried to keep a journal, either one of these could make a great first experience.
As always you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, give us a journaling prompt you think would be interesting to do (or if you can't think of one, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Friday, May 24th, 2013. I'll draw two names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned new copy of either The Pocket Scavenger by Keri Smith or Drawing Your Life by Michael Nobbs (to keep it fun, the winner won't know which until my package arrives.) This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW in the past.