One of the things I like to do in my little blank books is write down funny nonsense phrases. Things like:
French Toast Frenzy
The Parmesan Pals
What’s the point of this you might ask?
Amusement. We like to try and make ourselves laugh.
Sometimes we say something funny and I just write it down. Sometimes we actively try to create funny phrases. It’s actually pretty challenging. You say a lot of super stupid stuff. That in itself starts to be funny. Sooner or later a noteworthy phrase blurps out and you laugh.
Sometimes I have whole columns of these phrases, sometimes just a single one. Almost always they re-surprise me. They take me back. They fill me with a mixture of happiness and melancholy. They are a portal to all the past good times.
A book you have filled up yourself over the course of several months is a potent time capsule. Writing down funny things (or anything you write down) is a powerful way to recall the past. Rather than reminding me of my outer reality, it calls up my inner world, how I was thinking and perceiving. Photos are great and I enjoy remembering the events they capture, but if I am in them, my vanity is triggered, and I start thinking about whether I look good and how my looks have changed. So boring! I don’t want that. When I see silly things I have written down, it just makes me want to write down some new silly things. Nothing negative is triggered and I feel connected to myself past and present.
I have a brand new category – Art Journal. This is for writing specifically about the practice of keeping and filling up small blank books. I usually refer to them as little books but art journal is the more commonly used desgination so I am using that. I don’t care about journaling, I care about making blank pages non blank.
It’s really super important to me to have a place of artistic freedom. If you have no art practice at all, then any art may feel like freedom. But if you have an ongoing art practice, you probably experience some sense of being hemmed in. It’s not bad, it’s rather necessary for most elaborate pursuits. If you are knitting a sweater, you need to follow the pattern or it’s not going to fit. If you are editing a documentary, you need to have a story structure or it’s going to be incomprehensible, if you are cooking dinner, you need it to taste good or what’s the point? Artwise, we follow certain rules to get desired results. That’s good. A useful rule is very handy. I love rules. Especially the ones I have made for myself. I wrote all about it here: Rules. Can’t Live With Them. Can’t Live Without Them.
But I also yearn for adventure. I want to wander the streets blindly, not knowing where I may end up. I need a place to do that creatively. Small blank art books are that place.
I’ve been keeping a small blank book for decades. I like them small enough to:
Fit in a bag or pocket without being a pain in the ass.
Not be intimidating (not too much surface space to deal with, not so cool looking I’m afraid to make a mark)
The number one rule of the personal blank art notebook is no rules! If you feel like doing it you can. If you feel like doing it you should! The weirder and worse the idea sounds, the more likely you should do it. Otherwise how will you know? It’s so easy for our minds to tell us no, to make us afraid of failure. This is the andidote to that. This is a pocketful of yes.
The stuff you do in the black book is not there to impress you. It’s there to entice you. It’s not a museum, it’s a workshop. When you look at it you should be think, why am I so wild? When can I hang out with myself again?
Like a song stuck in my head, this phrase has been showing up and forcing me to consider it, such as when I’m washing the dishes. I’ll be sort of low key irritated and rushed, the idea being I could do what I really want to do if only I was done with the dishes. The problem is that when I get to what I really want to do, I still feel low key irritated and rushed. All I know is being low key irritated and rushed, that’s what I have been practicing over and over.
My yoga teacher used to say this phrase in class, back when I went to yoga, before the pandemic. I found it very helpful. It increased my concentration, my focus, it helped me stop trying to escape or go faster.
I’ve written it down in my summer fun book (referenced in theprior post) and am contemplating it as often as possible. This morning while working on my abstract of the day, also in the summer fun book, I noticed that I was low key irritated and rushed. Or maybe a little more like, what’s the point of this, you should be doing something productive. Like what?! Like doing the dishes? I have created a system where I can’t win. I quickly moved past it. I have more flexibility than I am letting on. But it takes some effort and consciousness to move my attitude. Every day, all day long, I have to adjust and readjust.
The way I would like to be doing everything is peacefully, with no struggle. Just doing it, like it’s the most pleasant thing in the world.