Tuesday, September 21, 2010

3 Nonfic Books

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?


  1. "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?"

    That's pretty much why Morning Pages and regular journaling in general has never worked for me; there's no art to it, and it so easily becomes focused on the ugly. At least for me.

    And that's why I love art journaling, because it's creative and expressive at the same time.

  2. Perhaps a 69 cents spiral with "Bitchlist: Read at own Peril" written on the cover for the days when you simply need to get the ugliness out. At the end of the week, there could be a ritual shredding or burning of any written pages.

    When I have time to write in a journal, I use the left side as "Spiritual Corner" and paste or write a poem or drawing or phrase that kicks my spirit. On the other side, I write about what I've seen and what has happened. About the interesting woman in the dressing or the cardinal that hangs in my garden. Some days I need the emphasis to be outside myself.

    I am not a positive person. I usually see the negative before I see the blessing, so writing outside myself keeps me centered and focused.

  3. That is why I want to journal - to leave a record of my thoughts and what was happening in my life. Why I don't want to journal is the bitchlist! I am going to look at the first book you mentioned by Violette cause I never considered art journaling! I am so inspired now!!! Thanks!

  4. A blogger who stopped blogging a while ago used to recommend a daily gratitude list, and it's such a good idea. There are always things to be grateful for, even on the rottenest days. I'm still grateful to her for reminding me to do such a simple and effective thing.

    One of the most life-changing books I ever read was called "Feeling Good" and it contained the revolutionary concept that how we feel is determined by our thoughts, words, and actions, not the other way around. It's amazing how a rotten mood can be changed by doing something else, saying something else, thinking something else.

    Also, I am now tempted to get or make a real journal and write nature observations in it and stick in photographs and dried flowers and little sketches. You inspire me to actually create a creative journal. Mine tend to consist of To Do lists. Boring!

  5. Good to see you in the blog world again! I've missed your voice. And this is such a great post. I used to journal heavily every day, but one day I realized all I did was rant, and that it wasn't helping me nor was it a good use of my time. So I quit. And I burned all my journals. My husband was horrified, but I told him he would be more horrified if he read them. Journals are supposed to be a place where you don't have to self-censor, but they can also tell us a lot about ourselves. I always come back to the question, What am I trying to do here?

    I will definitely check out Journal Bliss. The cover reminds me of SARK's books - not sure if you've explored any of her things. She also takes a positive approach to creativity and self-healing, and writes her books by hand on brightly colored paper.

    Thanks again for such a great post!

  6. There is even research evidence that focusing on a gratitude list rather than negative or even neutral journalling has a great effect on mood and well being. Some research references I found on this page: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/labs/Emmons/

    Glad to see you back, Lynn. Give your new pup a treat from me and Tigger-the-wonder-dog. :) A beastie I am grateful for every day.

  7. Journal Bliss looks wonderful! I think I'll pick it up today.

    I think it's so important to balance the bitchy with the wonderful. I've tried doing just one or the other, and I find that I either end up depressed or repressed.

    I found a technique that really works for me is to bitch about something, get my feelings out, then step back. I look at things as objectively as possible (often with the help of a kind friend) and focus on what I can *do* about it. If I can't do anything, I let it go, but usually there is something I can do (from avoiding a store with hurtful clerks who made fun of my romance purchase to talking to a relative who hurt my feelings, or whatever).

    Then I make a list of 17. I don't know why 17. Anyway, it's a list of seventeen happy things. Often small (green beans, the smell of marigolds, pie, new yarn, etc) but sometimes big (my best friend). That always brings me out of my funk and gives me energy to move on. Also, it's just cheering and fun. If all else fails, I buy new sparkly pens. Heh.

  8. I think I'd like to read Journal Bliss. I've never been much of a journaler. I know I need to post on my own site regularly and I find it hard to do even that because I too find myself ranting more than raving. Maybe Journal Bliss would help me see it all in a different light.

    And did I say I'm glad you're back? I'm really glad you're back. :o)


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