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.
They surround us every minute of the day.
We are all, continuously, interacting with them.
So familiar with them have we become, that they appear unimportant, unmemorable and go unnoticed.
What are they? Oh, just everyday things.
However, to the creative journaler, the everyday things surrounding people, groups or organisations become very important indicators of lives being lived.
In the post ‘Awareness of the Ripples of Existence’, we explained how individual choices made by people have effects that ripple out and in turn, affect their surroundings. Wittingly, or unwittingly, people are identifiable by the ripples they create.
For the writer, these everyday things, these tellers of tales, are crying out to be recorded when journaling for creativity. For these can regularly come anew and afresh to your reader; new but familiar knowledge to someone who had previously forgotten they knew.
Everyday things denote many things; social standing, wealth, social group, values, beliefs. They tell tales of care or neglect, of times past and present, of how people use or fail to use things, they tell of lives being lived and also of lives being wasted.
"Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlow books) kept lists of observed details from his life and from the people he knew: a necktie file, a shirt file … the 'life' in his stories was in the details … just a steady stream of details until a character/scene takes shape."
Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit”
Yet what if you write period drama, or your stories swoop through distant galaxies. Are everyday things still relevant to you?
Yes they are; it matters not where a story is set. Your characters, being real people, will still interact with the everyday things in their world in real ways, in the same way as the everyday people around you do today.
Of course, the things they are interacting with will be different from those of today, but they will interact with similar things in similar ways. By recording your current observations, and gaining an appreciation of this, you will also gain the ability to play the "what if" game for a different period and use it to breathe life into your characters and your story.
Develop your awareness until one eye is always open for the mundane and the not so mundane. For instance, if a particular bag is currently in fashion it is worth a note and a thought about it. However, if a girl is carrying a Victorian style carpet bag then she is worth a question, a ponder and then a note or two.
It is possible to paint a mental image of someone by just stating their possessions. This is because we subconsciously have become familiar with the way that people themselves demonstrate which social groups they identify with by what they wear and carry.
However, you need to be aware that some items have a symbiosis with other items, and if mentioned on their own, they can give a misleading impression.
For example, consider;
A young man wearing a shell-suit
A young man sporting a Trilby hat
But if they are also wearing a symbiosis object;
A young man wearing a Rolex and Trilby hat
A young man wearing a Rolex and shell-suit
With the addition of the Rolex watch, you can see how each character is transformed.
So everyday things, everyday items, everyday objects all have tales to tell and so when a writer is journaling for creativity there is the need to record them.
Neat tip: When taking note of the cost of items, also include additional reference items at the same time for historical comparison, for example, beer, fuel, food, a medium-sized car. Because, when you review it your entry many years in the future, the train journey costing £60 will have little significance until you compare it with the loaf of bread costing £0.43.
A little something for you to think about; have you ever read a book and come across a little something that made the story more real, a character more convincing? If you have then write up your thoughts in your creative journal.
Photo credit: Grandmother's room, by Steffi Koh.