I know in the age of clicking, swiping, scrolling and tapping on screens what I'm about to say might be wildly unpopular or at the very least sound archaic and old fashioned. It involves the act of writing on paper in a book that no one will ever read but you. It's contents are not meant for sharing on Social Media or YouTube. They are meant for you and you alone.
Journaling is something I began doing over 30 years ago. I have 3 basic types of Journals - one for my internal emotional life, one for creative ideas, and ones that serve as my notes and research into different forms of art creation. The one entitled FIELD BOOK in the photo above contains my current research into glass gilding and engraving.
We had a fire here a few days ago - my neighborhood was sent evacuation alerts - I was packing my car, agonizing over the fact that I could get only one of my four cats into a carrier because the other three remain too feral and skittish to transport. I looked up at the tree line and saw the smoke, CAL FIRE tanker jets and helicopters circled above dumping fire retardant and water on the fire line in an effort to stop it's path towards our houses. I looked back at my house - with everything I own in it - and emotionally, something inside of me broke in that moment. I have never felt so completely alone in my entire life.
Fortunately as fire crews were able to stem the tide of the fire we were told to stand down - they evacuated the whole neighborhood right up to the street line where my house is. Most of the fire was contained and extinguished by the following day.
Ever since this event I have been plagued by a deep depression. I am no stranger to depression and ironically, I have served for over 35 years as a trained and Certified Suicide Prevention & Crisis Counselor. Still, I could feel in me that rising false Spector of instant relief.
Like many artists, I rise and fall upon the waves of my moods and emotions. Because in order to authentically create, one must be open both to oneself and the world around them.
This is where my Journal becomes an invaluable tool for mental health. Because I can say things to my Journal that I cannot say to another living being - write them down in ink on paper - like an act of emotional exorcism - I am removing and shifting that negative emotional load from myself onto the paper. Effectively lessening my burdens.
Sometimes I use my Journal to write my thoughts to deceased loved ones. Sometimes I use it to address my thoughts and feelings directly to the Universe. Sometimes I use it to record how happy I am. The point is - it doesn't matter what the content is - the very act of writing it down allows me some relief by giving my thoughts and emotions some place to go rather than spinning around endlessly in my head and in my heart.
I once heard it said by another artist that, "The oldest romance is between the eye and the hand." I have to agree with that to a certain extent - perhaps I'd add - "The eye, the hand, and the heart." Because there is something definitely healing about the purposeful laying down of marks - be it pictures or words - that physical body movement as your thoughts leave you and are sent magically down your arm and hand to your fingertips and then appear at the end of your pen on the paper. There is something so powerful yet ineffable about it.
The Internal vs The External World
So much of our modern day digital society is about the externalization of who we are and how we feel. Many people even take photos of their meals and post them publicly for the world to see. According to Google, as of this writing - there are about 585,000,000 photos of meals and 277,000,000 photos of kittens on the internet. What seems commonplace today would seem quite bizarre in the 1970's or even 80's - Would you call up all your friends and tell them, "Hey!! I'm eating a chicken salad sandwich!! - I just took a photo of it and I'm going to mail copies to every one I know!"
I suspect that when we deny and stop honoring the private internal mechanisms of our own lives it begins to negate our perceived self worth, value and meaning as individuals. I feel this most keenly as an artist. A recent conversation with an old friend illustrates this - she said that art was not art unless someone else saw it. I disagreed, saying that my art is art the moment I create it - whether anyone else sees it or not.
The more we negate our internal lives we become less and less self-referential. This leads us to constantly look outside our selves for meaning, affirmation, validation and permission. To me, this is a very dangerous social precipice for a society to find itself on.
Which brings us back to Journaling. What a person writes in their Journal is valid and real the moment the words hit the page. It is an act of powerful self-affirmation requiring neither outside permission nor acceptance.
In my next blog entry I am going to be talking about my love of Vintage art techniques, my glass work and introduce you to a wonderful commercial vintage & retro font company.
For the Fountain Pen curious - the pen in the photo is an Ivory polished resin Jinhao X750 with a medium nib filled with Pelican 4001 Turquoise ink. It is my current go-to writing pen.
Until next time ... Here's Christopher Cross with 'Sailing"