These days constant upheaval is our new normal. The daily data is grim and this COVID tsunami will only get worse. But all around us, there is a generosity of spirit. People are dropping off food. People are planting victory gardens to feed others. Our health providers are global heroes. People are sharing their own knowledge and strategies to improve morale. I am reading and watching dozens of strategies to help us retain equilibrium.
Some are making masks; magicians are sharing secret tricks, some are sharing generational baking secrets, newspapers are offering free news. Others are offering guided meditation. Many are knitting. Artists like Mo Willems are calling on us to be creative and are helping restless families and restless spirits. If there ever was a time that validated the importance of art and creative movement, this is it. We are in a world where we have very little control, and each antidote helps. I decided to push aside my shyness and join the collective. I am starting a series of live videos about my studio practice and process. First stop? The power of the blank book.
When I was nine, a family friend gave me The Nothing Book, which was a canvas bound journal with rainbow-colored pages. I carried it everywhere, and this habit became permanent. I am rarely without my notebook. My sketchbooks hold my brain: the galumphing to-do list, jottings, inspiration, places to visit, music to listen to, books to read, movies to see, endless doodles, potential painting titles, dreams and schemes, kids’ appointments, my calendar, and the rest of the beat.
All you need is a blank book and a pen. That's it. Most of us are already list makers so it's an easy transition. For example, the writer Ray Bradbury used to jumpstart his writing by listing nouns. In 1992 Julia Cameron started a sensation with her book The Artist's Way. She urged aspirational creatives to sit down and create "morning pages" the moment they woke -- without stopping, without thinking, without listening to the inner critics.
It's a good place to start. You can write whatever springs to mind from "I like celeriac" or " I wish I could do the watusi." It doesn't matter. Get it out. Whenever I pull my journal out of my purse to sketch or take notes I hear: "Oh I wish I could do that." Or "I fill one page and then I worry it isn't good." Or, "what if someone is looking over my shoulder?" If I'm at a cocktail party (remember those?) I carry a pocket-sized notebook so I can keep it up. If I'm on a Zoom call, I doodle. If I'm in line, I sketch or write a to-do list. Or make a note of what I'm doing. If I am in a long meeting, I sketch. Any idea goes onto paper, no matter how sloppy.
Above all, put your inner critics on mute. Some friends told me they tried bullet journaling but were discouraged by comparing their results to the masterpieces that turned up all over social media. Your journals belong to you. Only you have to see them. Celebrate your mistakes--which aren't mistakes--or collage over them. Don't worry about spelling. This is where you have no audience, only your persona. Journaling/sketching/doodling is a great way to take yourself less seriously while simultaneously inviting a bigger perspective. I promise that you will latch onto good ideas, learn how you think, and problem solve. And maybe get some traction in this mad, mad world while you are at it.
The blank page can be intimidating. If you need some ideas on different ways to journal, sketch or doodle every day, watch the recap of my Facebook live video. I show my own messy journals, favorite pens, and life around my studio.