Create: Uruguay Journal

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People make books for all kinds of reasons. Some reasons are solid, thought out and make complete and total sense. Other reasons are based on pure emotion, make no personal or financial sense but certain people feel they need to do them anyway, and for this, I say “I love these people.” But, there are limits to my book lust.

Years ago I realized the typical photographer related, traditional book publishing experience was not for me. I just didn’t have it in me. Now, before I go further you need to know I’ve been approached to do a book with a traditional publisher THREE times dating back to 2007 and each time I politely said “No.” This is rare. In many cases, those approached go down the publishing road regardless of how bad the deal, or book, actually is. “Being published,” is often about “being chosen” and a lot of folks need that validation to feel complete. I get it. But me personally, I don’t get it. I have zero interest in being known as a photographer or a bookmaker. That might seem odd as a Blurb employee but my goal is for YOU to realize YOUR publishing goals. Not me, not mine.

I have no fear of being judged. The industry has nothing I find critical to my existence. My life now is more well rounded than it was during my life as a photographer, so photography and bookmaking is now one small part of a life filled with many small parts. And for this reason, I bring you my new journal.

Outside of this post, nobody else will ever see this book. This book is not a statement of my photographic ability. This book isn’t for sale. This book won’t gain me followers. This book isn’t made from the world’s best materials. This book won’t make me famous. This book won’t get me media interviews. This book won’t be featured in online essays. This book won’t allow me to live off the proceeds. I’ve been keeping a daily journal since 1993 and I consider it to be one of the most important things I do. I would give up many things before I would give up my daily writing even when the creation of the journal itself costs me my hard-earned dollar. Brace yourself, friends. I will lose money on this journal.

The Blurb journals aren’t perfect. But neither is the mainstream journal I’m using now. It doesn’t matter. Your journal, if it is legit, isn’t about showing other people or creating “perfect” spreads for Instagram. The journal is about honesty, truth, humor, observation, insecurities, knowledge and detailed notetaking.

I don’t have an exact count of how many books I’ve filled over the years but it numbers in the hundreds. I’ve filled HUGE books, tiny books, medium books. I’ve filled well-made books, handmade books, poorly constructed books. I’ve used pencil, pen, fountain pen, marker, crayon, etc. Again, it doesn’t matter. You don’t need a perfect pen, or a perfect desk to write on. You don’t need the perfect pocketknife to keep a journal. You don’t need the perfect phone case. You don’t need the perfect watch or wallet.

All you need is you. And your thoughts and this is where this idea often goes sideways. You’ve heard the cliche about humans fearing nothing more than being locked in a room and left alone with their thoughts. Heaven for me, Hell for many others. Throw in the age of social monetization and you have a community filled with many folks who don’t have their own thoughts let alone the nerve to put those thoughts down on paper.

My advice, just start. Now, like right now. Grab whatever you have. Stream of consciousness. Write truthfully and don’t stress grammar, spelling, punctuation. Just flow.

Let me tell you why I like to make Blurb journals. Is it because I’m tricking you into using the platform in a slightly veiled attempt at impressing the bosses and keeping my job? Yes, for sure. But in addition, I like to make these for several reasons. Let’s dig in. First, I like the sizes. I’ve used both the 5×8 and 6×9 and don’t really have a preference. They are both pocket-sized and travel nicely. (My Zine collaboration, AG23, is also 6×9 and will come in a really cool slipcase which will also work for my journal!)

I also love the fact I’m filling the pages with MY work. This journal is filled with work from a 2012 trip to Uruguay. Upon return, I made two magazines of this work but those were years ago and Blurb didn’t make journals back then so I didn’t have the option. It feels so good to have this work on these pages and to write over it, design over it, draw on it and be reminded of what transpired during that time. Next, I love the fact I change up the page backgrounds from grid, lined, spot, etc. Whatever I feel like is right there for the choosing. I also have an INSANELY high page count if I want it. 440-pages. Now, instead of doing that I chose to print four copies of a 120-page journal. This is good for a year of journaling I reckon. (a nod to Aussie friends)

My journals have gotten better and better over the past few years. One thing I’m using, which I never thought I would, is the shapes tool. You will see all kinds of designs made from shapes. I love mixing these in with straight images. Also on the shapes note, I’m pulling a small piece of an image on one page then countering that on the opposing page by pulling a small aspect of the image and running it inside either a square, triangle or circle.

The paper works well with my fountain pen and doesn’t suffer nearly as much bleedthrough as the mainstream journal I’m using at the moment. You know the one, beloved by hipsters worldwide, but the bleed is killing me. Now, what I don’t like. The journal does not lay flat like my mainstream journal. I often write with the spine on top and fill the pages horizontally as opposed to vertically, but I’ve been doing this with journals for years and am actually doing it with my mainstream journal as well. It’s fun and makes me feel like an outlaw.

My goal is to fill up the first copy and then post what some of my spreads look like. This might give you some ideas and also help diffuse the pressure you might feel getting started. (I heard this all the time.) Also, one last thing. If you go back through history and trace the number of incredible people who kept a journal you would keep yourself busy for many, many years. There IS something to this.

Comments 10

  1. There was a time when more than half of my life’s conscious part was, khm, journaled. This was an exciting time: from the last years of elementary school intermittently to the end of high school. Not any more so. My job (I’m a researcher) make most of the days very similar and my head spinning around job’s tasks. I wake up to a deluge of intertwining thoughts regarding the many research projects I run, the students I supervise. The journal of these days would be boring. There is the Miami Vice episode when Crockett and Tubbs walk into a bar (already in the dénouement part of the episode). ‘Man, I feel so depressed these days’, says Sonny. Tubbs is unmoved. ‘It’s the job.’

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      I think this PRECISELY the time you should journal. Remember, the journal isn’t a day-by-day recap of your life. You mentioned a swirl of thoughts. THAT is the goal, and why not add Miami Vice. The journal is anything you want it to be. Even if you write a paragraph a day, of thoughts unrelated to work, I think it will be a benefit.

  2. I never knew you could do this through blurb. What a fantastic idea and a great Xmas present to send the family back home in the UK.
    Thanks Dan, gunna jump on this soon as I get home tonight!

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  3. I’ve just bought a fountain pen and I also have one of those ‘hipster’ journals for 2020 ready to go. I’ve been using them for a while and like them but have only just returned to the fountain pen. Yeah, that bleed through is pretty bad. Needs sorting otherwise it’ll make 2020 miserable.

    Your journal looks great.

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      Thanks Sean,
      I have a stack of hipster journals. I’ll use just about anything but it is pretty nice to see the pages filled with my own work. And, I’ve found it’s a serious conversation starter when someone sees me writing AT ALL. EVERYONE is on their phone so when you aren’t, and you have such a primitive instrument in your hand, people get curious.

  4. If this is designed to keep me busy; it’s working. Two books a magcloud and now a journal. Although I have a stack of journals at varying prices the one I reach for is the one I got for a dollar at a flea market. I must agree that the best method is flow, without regard for spelling, punctuation or format. I cringe at the thought of not getting something on paper. Our digital footprint will be ignored but what we write by hand will endure.

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      It is oddly addicting. One thing I am finding is that it’s easier for me to write outside of the house. I was in Colorado last few days and was a writing machine.

  5. A disjointed ramble occurs on the pages of my 1 dollar journal from the flea market. I seem to prefer that over my serious collection if hipster journals. It’s been years in the making but I think you’re hitting your stride.

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      Anything will work. I do like the Blurb angle and these will keep me busy for at least a year. But I started with composition books from the drug store. They work great.

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