Creative: Journal as Journey

Ink, acrylic and a lot of time writing.

The journey to photobook bliss is as thin and difficult to walk as a razor’s edge, to steal from one of my all-time favorite books. “It’s easy to be a Holy Man on top of a mountain.” (Read The Razor’s Edge if you have not.)

My favorite journal to Blurb offering is the Trade Book.

I’ve spoken many times before about journaling. I believe journaling is one of the most important things any creative person can do. Heck, even “normal” people would benefit from this exercise. But I want to add to this conversation.

First, the most important thing you can add to your journal is the copy. Anyone can glue images in a book, try to make it perfect or hip and then call that a journal, but a journal to me is about truthful copy. Truthful to the degree that you will write things that make you uncomfortable. This one thing is the key to not only longevity in journaling but also the key to making something therapeutic.

Someone is up early. Atlanta, Georgia.

You need to write as if no one else will ever see those pages, otherwise, you aren’t journaling. Otherwise, you are writing for your audience, or to attempt to get work, but NOT for you. This might serve a purpose but it won’t serve you in the long run.

I’ve included a few different images here, but all of these items I’m featuring are connected. I carry a paper journal, several pens, glue and sometimes a small printer. I do my normal duties making “small” images here and there that might be nice for my diary. I print, glue, paint, etc. But then I write. Sometimes in reverse.

I find the idea of writing is terrifying to more and more people. The Internet and television have killed off writing ability in massive numbers of us. Writing is too slow, too laborious and just simply takes too much-extended concentration, the kryptonite of modern culture.

A little ink, a little acrylic, a lot of words.

I’ve also found that journaling is key to my bookmaking ability. Once something is flushed out in the journal it makes it far easier to convert this into a book of some sort. The perfect match for me is the Trade Book offering. I’ve actually started using the Trade Books as my journal. I use all three sizes. I love the fact I can create a journal and change up the page type and add my own images.

These books are inexpensive and allow me to continue the visual sketches I began in my journal. I’ve got an international trip coming up and I’ve already got my journal strategy worked out. This will require sacrifice. Less time screwing around and more time focused on making sense of my voyage.

One of the things that drew me to photography was the isolation. Even in the midst of chaos the camera can allow you be invisible and alone. The journal also works in this way.

If you haven’t journaled before let me help you get started. Forget about everyone else. Not a single other human being will see your diary. Perfect isn’t realistic and it’s also incredibly boring. Just start. Doesn’t matter what you write, how good it is, what the grammar is, how you “design” the pages or anything else. You don’t need a fancy fountain pen. You don’t need a specific brand of journal. You don’t need your desk to be perfectly organized and minimal like all the Instagram salespeople you see. You don’t need to make it hip or fancy or trendy. You just need to turn inward and ask yourself what life actually means.

A bit morbid but all these images were made on the same day during a Blurb trip.

6 Comments on “Creative: Journal as Journey”

  1. I love writing, on paper. I actually got a “fancy fountain pen” about a month ago. Love it. I’ve had a notebook I’m carrying around for years now, but I still need to use it more. I take a lot of notes but don’t write down my own thoughts often enough. Thanks for the reminder, I need to step up my journaling. I also have a dedicated journal I keep for my daughter, that one I’m hoping she’ll read one day.

    By the way, how many posts did you make this week? 57? It feels like more!

    1. Mathieu,
      Get ready there is going to be a lot more blogging going on. Paper is the best. The most fun. I use my iPad Pro for a lot of things, and it is my fav screen for sure, but I’ll take paper anytime.

  2. A fountain pen is mandatory to me, just like a roll of film: I need the inspiration and the tangibility. I am currently using a Hobonichi techo (I know that along with the FP, it sounds too fancy, but still), because of its size, portability and amazing paper feedback. My thoughts written there don’t make much sense nor individually nor as a whole, I suppose, but the process of writing them down as small pieces does, which is what I am looking for.

    Good advice as always, Mr. Milnor.

    1. Manual,
      Wow, didn’t know about Hobonichi. Thanks for sending. And I’m getting another fountain pen.

  3. Hi Dan – Do you carry one journal as a catch all and when it’s filled move onto the next? I have one journal that’s a diary of sorts and another that’s dedicated to photography pursuits. Seems like I should just have one for everything? I know it’s personal preference and to each their own, but would welcome your thoughts and others who read your blog.

    Cheers.
    Tracy C.

    1. Tracy,
      I just use one for everything. Keep it simple. One life, one book. I know a fair number of people that keep all kinds of books but many of these folks primary goal is to show the books to other people. I don’t use mine that way. The only person who would understand what’s in my book is me….

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