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Journaling for Creativity.

Journaling Media: Folders, binders and boxes

This post forms part of a serialisation eventually building into a complete reference on Journaling for Creativity and the writer's notebook. One that will demonstrate how to journal in order to improve creativity and effectiveness of artists, writers or anyone needing to be creative.

Introduction Contents What Media Options are There Folder, Binders and Boxes


Journaling for Creativity: Media options: Folders, binders and boxes

When journaling for creativity, it is inevitable that other media will become part of your journal. These records of events and entries are not as easily filed as written notes or digital recordings; items such as; physical objects, cuttings, materials, aromas etc, may all find their way into your journal.

Some items, like magazine cuttings and cloth samples easily fit in folders or scrapbooks but physical items like mementos and tactile samples need to have larger homes, such as box files, storage boxes, a big trunk or perhaps the garden.

Some artistic people, so fill their worlds with tactile samples, that every flat surface around them, both horizontal and vertical, are filled with objects.

It may be uncomfortable for some people to accept this as journaling but an old piece of tree bark sitting on a window sill is no less creativity journaling than a thousand word entry exploring some inner truth.

Following are a few of the available mediums for storing these journal records, and although some of them have been mentioned in the previous ‘what to journal on’ posts, they are important enough to deserve their own detailed consideration here.



Scrapbooks are a wonderful means of creatively collecting thoughts and items, and then presenting them on a page surrounded with associated thoughts, objects, drawings, colour, photos etc.

The large inexpensive soft cover scrapbooks provide a fantastic opportunity to be creative. With them instead of just sticking your samples and cuttings on the page in an orderly fashion, arrange them and their notes in a pleasing visual arrangement. This will reinforce your memories by increasing your mental associations and feed your creative self.

Of course, you don't have to be creative with a scrapbook, but if you don’t then what a loss, what a waste of an easy opportunity to get in touch with and develop your creative-self.

However, be careful that scrapbooking doesn't become your hobby and writing only a memory.

Neat tip: Sticky-notes make ideal index tabs for scrapbooks. Just stick one part off the page by six millimetres and write on the visible edge the date of the placeholder entry and what the entry is about. Although sticky-notes are not very durable they do work well for this task and make easy retrieval of entries.

Scrapbooks are also wonderful places to build up swatches of the materials and artefacts surrounding your characters and scenes. A swatch can be put together for a character, a room, a scene, a forest etc.; just collect together, on a two page spread, any colour, texture, sketches, artefacts (photos), events (photos again), literally anything that builds and visualises that environment in your head.

Again, don't get so lost in the design of your characters and settings that it adversely affects your writing time or becomes a form of procrastination.


Folders and binders

Touched on previously in ‘What to write on’, collecting articles and other clippings from publications is a wonderful way of encapsulating another voice into your journal and illuminating it with your thoughts.

However, more than text may be used as entries in your journal; anything that takes your eye in a publication can be added to your journal, either by taking cuttings, complete pages or complete magazines.

Photographs are an obvious choice, especially the high production value glossy advertisements, what wonderful depictions of diverse life styles adorn our magazines, all thanks to the advertising industry. Snippets of words, interesting fonts, true life stories, famous quotes, clever art work, social values and more are all to be found freely available in popular publications.

For these, use a simple pocket folder for single page cuttings, maybe one for each of your interests, for example, clothes, history, architecture, etc. Don’t be tempted by the bulkier ring binders, they offer no additional advantages and mounting or punching requires more work.

For often referenced complete magazines magazine binders or magazine files keeps them neat, grouped and controllable.

Neat tip: Some publications can be obtained for free, just ask local hair dressers to not throw the magazines out each week or talk to your neighbours or colleagues about their interests. Unfortunately more specialist content such as science or history will require a subscription.


Boxes, shelves and windowsills

Quite often when we make a purchasing decision, we feel the need to pick up the item and hold it close, to turn it over in our hands, maybe give it a squeeze, to check it out.

That may be justified when buying fruit, but why do we do it when selecting a shirt, a book, a bottle of wine? Normally, by the time we pick it up the decision to purchase has been made. What we do when we touch the item is to assure ourselves that the decision was correct.

Such is the power of touch, to give us this reassurance. The sensations of texture, weight, quality, size, all feed directly to the primitive part of the brain and invoke strong associations and cross linking throughout the rest of the brain.

As humans we are wired to touch. We are mentally programmed from birth to explore our world by tactile means, which is why so many mothers spend so much time saying "don't touch". It is also why tactile entries are so important to the creative-self and conversely so important to you when journaling for creativity.

Tactile objects can be kept in cardboard or plastic storage boxes, or they may be scattered around the house on shelves, walls or windowsills. Just remember to write on it the date when you collected it, so that you can work back to the placeholder entry in your main journal. I do recommend popping a photo or sketch in your journal before boxing away your memorabilia, it is always surprising what we can’t bring to mind and how little it takes to make it come flooding back.

“The word ‘touch’ has… the longest entry in the Oxford English Dictionary.”

Ashley Montague, “Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin



One of the most emotive senses is the sense of smell. Unfortunately, it is also one of the hardest to turn into a journal entry.

From the musk of old leather to the sweetness of lavender impregnated cotton, every distinct aroma will mean something to each of us. The first stanza of the poem ‘Mam’ by Linda C Senn is dedicated to the evocations caused by aromas.

Whenever I smell
     Southern fried chicken or Muguet cologne,
     Purple wisteria's heavy perfume,
     Cinnamon apple pies, scented sachets,
          Musty dark basements or cloves in the ham,
I remember my grandmother, Mam

Linda C Senn, "The Many Faces of Journaling"

The world generates aromas all around us. Most of the time we are not even aware that we record these as memories and associations until one day the smell of fresh sawn timber, wet fur, hot brown sugar, sends us tumbling back to revisit old associations and distant memories. Like the Linda's grandmother 'Mam', people cloak their lives in distinct aromas and those aromas follow them like a shadow, always there, visible if you care to look but ignored by everyone.

Learning to tune into the aromas around you will exercise a portion of your brain that works hard but sees little direct communication, a part that is connected more with your emotions than your logic, a part that has a direct connection with your imagination.

Where better to store a collection of aromatic oddments than in a strong box or chest. Aromas are sociable souls and will happily mingle when keeping close company, each taking a little from and giving a little to its neighbours. They will do this despite your efforts to the contrary and they have absolutely no respect for polythene's pretensions as a barrier.

To keep aromas secure from wandering away and to ensure they keep themselves to themselves, you will need glass and steel. Glass jam jars with steel lids or similar are ideal. Seal an aromatic sample in a jar and place it in a box or chest. Keep some space around the jars and ensure there are large holes in the box or chest, so that if any aromas sneak out they can continue to sneak away without disturbing the others.

More than any other record, aromas must have labels on them, since you will not wish to needlessly disturb the seal just to find out what it contains. Some samples, like old horse leathers will be obvious, whilst others, say a piece of white cloth, will give no clue. A few words and a placeholder link on a sticky label will pay you back handsomely.




Photo credit: Conservation, Grandma-style, by Ann Wuyts.

"Journaling Media: Folders, binders and boxes" by Andy Shackcloth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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