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.
This week’s post looks at how you can use journaling for creativity to see beyond the obvious and gain awareness of events and choices from long ago; developing active observation to see the defining signature of someone or something by their choices and of choices made for them.
The act of using your journal to record the world around you, teaches you to pay close attention to your surroundings; to take in and absorb details and essences of your world and those of the worlds of others. It teaches you to actively look at things, rather than being satisfied with superficial glances. As Robin Hemley observed, it teaches you to become a snoop:
"All writers are observers, fascinated with human goings-on, but journal writers are a special breed, I think, suspicious of their own memories, like tourists taking snapshots of everything they see.
They're different from diarists, of course – diarists seem, as a whole, fascinated with their own lives – journal keepers are snoops, fascinated with everyone else's life."
Robin Hemley in "The Writer's Journal"
edited by Sheila Bender
Not just any old snoop though. A fascination with observing leads to an awareness of how things and people affect their world, of how choices will cause actions that ripple out and subsequently affect the thoughts, senses and actions of others.
People make choices, and over time these choices draw around them a signature of their likes and past actions. It is possible to know them and their values by being aware of the effects of their choices, of the ‘ripples of their existence’.
Likewise buildings, organisations, animals, literally all objects can be defined by the combination of the effects acted and acting upon it, and of effects that it offers to others. Whether these are due to man, nature or time, the combination tells a story.
Quite simply, nothing exists in isolation; simply by existing, an item will cause ripples that affect the world around it.
With practice you can become wonderfully attuned to these ripples that surround people, objects and events. By way of example, let us look at the poem “Mam” by Linda Senn.
When Linda C Senn made a journal entry about her maternal grandmother, she didn't describe facts and dry details about her. Instead, she crafted a poem and used only the ripples generated by her grandmother to paint an emotional entry. The result leaves her grandmother ghost-like, shrouded in memories, whilst at the same time very tangible.
Whenever I smell
Whenever I see
Whenever I think of
By Linda C Senn, from “The Many Faces of Journaling”.
The images formed by this poem illustrate how rich an entry can be when journaling for creativity, showing how dissimilar to simple recording creative journaling is. Bear this in mind as you record entries in your journal. The child running across the park is more than just the physical vision of a child, look for the clues that tell you about the child’s home, the child’s nature, how it respects and is respected by others, what values the fledgling adult displays, the values of its mother, etc.
Remember, journaling for creativity is not about writing a list of observations, it is recording the essences of lives lived.
The ability to see these ripples around people and objects takes time to develop, so don’t be disturbed if, at first, you find it difficult. Keep looking for them whilst observing; eventually the necessary skill or rather the necessary ‘eye’ will develop. For those in a hurry, playing the journaling game “The ripples of existence” will help you develop this ability more rapidly, since the game uses creativity tools to enhance the learning.
Photo credit: Faux Ripple, by Scott Robinson.
"Awareness of the ‘ripples of existence’" by Andy Shackcloth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.