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.
The few occasions where very strong emotions are expressed will test the extent of your active observation skills.
In writing circles the mantra "to show, not tell" resounds; we are constantly being told to demonstrate to the reader what our character is feeling, not tell the reader what emotions are being experienced by our characters.
So when you encounter anguish, rage, joy, despair, ecstasy, love, shock, etc. it is very important that you record exactly how these emotions are expressed by the people experiencing them. Do not restrict yourself to just the facial emotions, but instead, soak up the range of emotional indicators demonstrated by the whole body and persona of the individual.
It is not possible to photograph the feelings behind these emotions or to video troubled thoughts. The outward signs of strong emotions can be captured in a photograph; anger, grief, glee, sadness, despair, joy etc. are all visible on a person’s face but most of the emotion and all of the thoughts are on the inside.
There is simply no way other than by pen and paper to capture these.
Much of what you will notice is a ‘difference’ from a previous ‘normal’ state; a change in gait, a change in the tone or volume of a voice, a change in response, both mentally and physically to the individual’s world. These changes are the external indicators of what is occurring inside. These are what you are ‘looking’ for.
Recording thoughts is another important but tricky area. Your own thoughts should be easy enough but are they?
Are you honest and brave enough to accurately record the play of your own emotions and thoughts? Then again, maybe you feel so familiar with your own thoughts that they appear unworthy of recording.
The Proust Questionnaire
The novelist Marcel Proust took regular stock of his own thinking throughout his lifetime by answering a list of questions of his own devising. This is a practice that, in time, bears fruit for all of us, as it is only in the years to come, when questions and their answers are revisited, that you are able to discover your own personal changes and growth.
Proust’s questions can be used as a tool to assist with the recording of thoughts and thinking of others. Simply structure an interview around his questions and discuss any issues that arise. In such an interview it is probably best to not attempt to take notes as the action will distort your interviewee’s responses. Ask permission to record the interview and use an unobtrusive device that the individual will quickly overlook and disregard.
There are a few variants of the Proust questionnaire, one of them is included below;
1. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
2. Where would you like to live?
3. What is your idea of earthly happiness?
4. To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
5. Who are your favourite heroes of fiction?
6. Who are your favourite characters in history?
7. Who are your favourite heroines in real life?
8. Who are your favourite heroines of fiction?
9. Your favourite painter?
10. Your favourite musician?
11. The quality you most admire in a man?
12. The quality you most admire in a woman?
13. Your favourite virtue?
14. Your favourite occupation?
15. Who would you have liked to be?
16. Your most marked characteristic?
17. What do you most value in your friends?
18. What is your principal defect?
19. What, to your mind, would be the greatest of misfortunes?
20. What would you like to be?
21. What is your favourite colour?
22. What is your favourite flower?
23. What is your favourite bird?
24. Who are your favourite prose writers?
25. Who are your favourite poets?
26. Who are your heroes in real life?
27. Who are your favourite heroines of history?
28. What are your favourite names?
29. What is it you most dislike?
30. What historical figures do you most despise?
31. What event in military history do you most admire?
32. What natural gift would you most like to possess?
33. How would you like to die?
34. What is your present state of mind?
36. What is your motto?
Photo credit: The Trio of Anguish, by Fonna.