Tag Archives: self expression

Journal Friday: Handwriting

Handwriting in my writers notebook

Handwriting in my writers notebook

I’ve probably banged on about this before, but nevertheless, I’m going to do it again.

Write your diary by hand.

I’m serious about this.  No, really.  There are many reasons.

Yes, you hate writing.  Besides, you’ve got your computer and you can write so much more easily and quickly using a keyboard.  And hell, a laptop or an iPad are so much more portable and….

Wait.  What’s more portable than a little notebook and a pen?

There are reasons why using your hand to make marks on a page in the age-old way are important.

Firstly, writing with your hand will benefit you directly in a psychological way.  You may not agree with my position on Gestalt, but I truly believe that the unconscious or subconscious is locked up in the tissues of your body and needs to speak.  Allow it to, and it will say all the things you can’t bring yourself to acknowledge.  I have personal experience of the incredible efficacy of this, so you’ll just have to trust me.

Using your hand may seem slower, but it will unlock parts of your mind that you have no conscious access to, and allow you to release emotions in a healthy way.  Using your hand to write will heal you in ways you can’t imagine yet.

Using your hand slows things down enough to allow for reflection.  Not everything that is fast is better.  Sometimes you need to stop and think between sentences.  Allowing your eyes to follow the flow of your nib on the page allows your mind the breathing space it needs to move on to the next emotion, memory, image.

Going slower is good.

Another reason to hand write your diary is for beauty’s sake.  Yuck, you may think – Have you seen my handwriting????

Your handwriting may look like crap, but that’s because you don’t use it.

Practise is the key to making anything beautiful, and if you practise your writing, carefully and consciously, you will not only find yourself writing faster, but also more legibly and beautifully.

Again, this is something I know about.  I’ve been keeping a diary since I was seven years old, and looking back through the volumes gives me the chance to see how my own handwriting has evolved.  I have to say that I went through many phases of adopting the styles of others.  Yes, I copied the handwriting of my best friends in order to be more like them.  I’m sure many girls do.  And as a teenager, I adopted some of those silly squiggles and loops that are so common – like drawing a circle instead of a dot on the top of a small case ‘i’, and so on.  Yuck.  Thankfully, I grew out of that one too.  I even learnt to hold my pen in different ways in order to affect particular styles.

Now my handwriting has settled into a more mature, consistent style, although it does vary from day to day depending on my mood.  I have worked on it, crafted it, to make it more attractive, more pleasing to the eye.

I also have two styles for practical purposes, my usual style, and the one I use for writing very quickly, which enables me to take verbatim notes in meetings and such like without having to know shorthand.  Using either, I find that practise makes them more attractive and easier to read.  The more I write, the better I get.  Literally.

Writing is an art form in itself.

The other thing about handwriting is that, like map reading, it is becoming a lost art, and one we will sorely miss when it is gone.  I am a rabid advocate of reading maps, and I object strongly to anyone assuming that I have a satnav I can just plug into.  Satnavs are a disaster because they aren’t intelligent enough to handle the complexities of actual landscapes, and the number of times I’ve got stuck on a country road behind a vast articulated lorry whose driver has blindly followed his satnav’s instructions and then found he can’t escape are countless.

Similarly, handwriting takes account of the subtle nuances of the emotional landscape.  Because my handwriting changes with my mood, it actually speaks as much as the words I record about how I am feeling, in a way that static typefaces never can.

But more than that, if we lose the capacity to write by hand, what would happen if we were suddenly without electricity or technology?  How could we communicate?  If you were stuck in a desert, how could you write on a rock to leave a message for someone trying to find you?  If there were a natural disaster, Gods forbid, how could you leave a last message for your loved ones before you died?  Or more simply, how could you make a quick note of your shopping needs if you lost your phone?

It may seem laborious and a bore, but please use your handwriting, at the very least in your journal.  Not only will you be making a work of art to pass on to posterity, but you will find the simple act of allowing your brain to communicate directly through your arm will unleash creativity and healing undreamt of.

Right now, as I type this, I am actually yearning to pick up a pen and write.  I don’t know what I’ll write.  Anything, probably.  Just a bit of rubbish.  But the act of moving my hand across the page is seductive and addictive in a way that nothing else is, and I long for it.

You can feel this bliss too.  It isn’t hard.  You learnt how to do it at school.

Simply take up your pen and write.

Happy Journalling,

EF

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Outflow: My Creativity Right Now

Picasso ceramicsWe are having a heatwave here in the UK, and I’m not very good in hot weather.  The result is that my brain has gone on strike, as has much of my body.  Which makes me think about ‘creative seasons’ and the Habit of Art.

My ongoing health problems taught me long ago to have peace with the days when I can’t do anything beyond lie on the sofa and practise my groaning. ( I’m getting quite good at groaning, I have to say.)  Chronic Illness is, however, a bit of an extreme way of forcing oneself to recognise one’s creative cycles, and not one I would recommend.

There are lots of creativity gurus who are adamant that turning up at the page, or the canvas, and making yourself do the work is the only way forward, and for the most part, I would agree.  But what do you do on the days, like today, when it just ain’t gonna happen?

Take note, that’s what.

I find my creativity goes in bursts, as I have mentioned before, and in recent years I have noticed that my writing seagues slowly into art in the summer months.  Writing is a great thing to be doing when the weather is cold and wet, and all you want to do is curl up in the warm.  In the summer, though, the urge to get out there into the landscape and experience the world is almost irresistible, as anyone who has ever worked through the summer in an office will agree.  Right now I am experiencing the difficult-to-ignore urge to paint rather than write.

And I am OK with that.

Yes, I am feeling a bit frustrated that I can’t settle to the writing projects I want to progress, but I can’t force it, or I will get resentful, and probably produce pages of complete drivel that I’ll hate later.  The urge to be creative is still with me, though.  It is just taking a different, more exterior form.  I want to draw, paint, decorate pottery, make cushion covers, garden, and bake cupcakes.  So that’s what I’m going to do – at least as soon as the weather cools down and my brain starts functioning again!

There is a tension between turning up to create and the creative seasons themselves, and the skill of a true creative is to be able to accept the difference between a) the resistance to sitting at the desk and working, which is procrastination and stopping oneself being all one can be, and b) the natural flow of creativity as it morphs from one season to the next.  There is much to be said for making yourself sit down to create every day, but using it as a stick to beat yourself with is not helpful.  We need to be aware of when our creativity transforms, and to trust it enough to go with the flow.  This doesn’t mean I am abandoning my writing for good, simply that I know that right now, that isn’t where my best work will come.

The image in my head to illustrate this is when Picasso discovered the provencale village of Vallauris and threw himself into the art of ceramics.  I have no doubt there were those who worried that his canvas days were over, but that was far from the truth.  Instead, he trusted his creative urges enough to know that ceramics was a road he had to walk at that point in his life.

So I am trying to emulate Picasso, and to be at peace with where my creative road is taking me.  It’s not easy, and Nigel has a lot to say about not having the gumption to get on with the novel, but frankly, STUFF NIGEL!  Lets get out in the sun, eat ice cream, and do creativity the way we need to right now!

Happy sun-bathing and creating,

EF

Journal Friday: Art in your Journal, or Why I had to lock Nigel in the Garden Shed this Morning.

Diary Page mental energy groundedThe title for this post, “Using images in your journal”, has been in my editorial diary for weeks, swimming around, getting crossed out and rescheduled.  I knew I had to write about it, because Art Journaling is a huge movement, and one everyone can enjoy.

So why couldn’t I bring  myself to write about them?

In a word, Nigel.

Nigel, if you haven’t already come across him on this blog, is the name I have given to my inner critic.  At least its the one only one thats printable!  He is the psycho-demon-fuckwit-critic-from-Hell that sits inside my head, barking orders at me, making sure I keep being a Good Girl so that people will love me.

Yeah.  Right.

In the case of my art, I can identify exactly when my drawing became unacceptable.  Nigel began with the voice of my ‘A’ level art teacher, Bob Taylor.  I had always been a passionate artist, and while I always knew I wanted to be a writer, I felt that earning a living might enable me to use my art skills.  So I took Graphics at ‘A’ level, intending to apply to Art College.  When I told Bob Taylor this, he said the following:

You’re a good draughtsman but you don’t have originality.

Yeah, right.

Looking back on it as a much wiser adult, I can see what he was saying.  My art at that time was very constrained.  I was too busy producing what I thought other people wanted, and not following what I wanted to do, or breaking out and breaking rules.  My art was, frankly, pretty boring.  But being a Good Girl makes for boring.  Regardless of that, its a pretty cruel thing to say to a 17-year-old who has always dreamt of a sunny studio in St ives.  I suppose he was trying to save me many years of misery and disappointment. I just was not ready for Art School.  Or perhaps he had picked up on the vicious Nigel voice inside my head that kept me in check.  Whatever the reason, I quickly lost my passion, and ultimately abandoned my art.

Now I am pretty blocked.  Nigel says I shouldn’t draw unless I can make something perfect and professional, something of the kind I admire in other artists.  Only the best is good enough for me and you, he says.  And if you can’t make it perfect, why do it at all?

This morning, I locked Nigel in the garden shed with a ball gag in his mouth, and got out my diaries.  Because, you see I do draw.  Sometimes.  Where no one can see.  Where no one can judge.  And because a picture, as I learnt so long in Graphics class, can say so much more than words in describing a feeling.  I draw how I am feeling.  Sometimes.  If I am feeling daring, or desperate enough.  In my diary, it doesn’t have to be perfect.  It just has to be got out on paper.

Here are a few of my drawings.  Nigel is very unhappy about my publishing them here, and he wishes me to point out that they are not up to my usual artistic standard.  I would like to point out that you don’t have to be able to draw, let alone draw like Rembrandt, if no one but you will ever see the images!

sleep sketchThis one is about my illness and the days I spend unable to get out of bed, which are frequent.

grumpy bear 1 grumpy bear 2

This is a feeling I had one day that I wanted to personify, in the hope of recording how to get rid of it.

hound sketchThis was the product of a night of insomnia.  Once I had drawn this rabid dog, something I felt compelled to do in a literally physical way, the feelings I was struggling with literally dissolved, and I went back to bed and slept for seven hours straight.

The point I want to make is not whether I can draw or not, but that you can use images to express your feelings in your journal without fear of judgement from others.  If you can’t draw, or can’t bring yourself to draw, paste in images cut from magazines, or postcards.  Collage is a great art form you can try without fear of criticism.  There are lots of ways to express what is pent up inside that are nothing to do with words.

Don’t let Nigel limit you.

Journal Exercise:

I am going to talk more about this, as I feel like I have opened up a rich seam, now that I have got over my block about it.  But in the meantime, you get to do some more shopping!  Go and buy yourself some nice coloured pens or pencils.  Sharpie ones are good and bright, but I like Staedtler Triplus fineliners and Berol Colour Brushes.

Reread my previous post about colour, and play with your pens or pencils inside your journal. Makes some marks.  Doodle.  If you fancy drawing, do, but don’t be critical of what you produce.  This is not about getting a grade A.  Just have a play.

What colours and shapes express particular feelings for you?  How do you feel when you use a particular colour?  What do certain shapes mean?

During the week, keep your eyes peeled when browsing newspapers and magazines, or even junk mail.  Pick out images that speak to you.  Pull them or snip them out and stash them in a box for future use, or stick them into the pages of your journal and write about how they speak to you.

Happy Journalling,

EF

Journal Friday: More about Privacy

sussex church

Herstmonceaux Church, East Sussex

I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries lately, and about the freedom they afford us to be ourselves.  We talk a lot about the boundaries we set for ourselves in the external world – saying no to doing too much, closing the door for some quiet time, backing off from an over-needy friend who is monopolising us.  What we rarely seem to do is think about the internal boundaries we set up, or fail to set up.

I think one of the things women, especially, do is to set up one set of boundaries for themselves, and one for everyone else, and not in a good way.

Let me give you an example:  my mother is a nice lady.  People like her.  She is charming and good company.  But she speaks to herself in ways she would never dream of using to others.  ‘You stupid bloody woman,’ I hear her saying to herself when she gets frustrated that she can’t remember things anymore now she’s in her 80s, ‘You idiot, can’t you do anything right?’  My mother does not have a boundary about treating herself in acceptable, compassionate and loving ways. I suppose I must have learnt the same trick from her, because sometimes, I catch myself doing it too.

It is hard enough to put your foot down when you need to set external boundaries.  It is even harder to do it when those oh-so-flexible standards are inside your own head. We need to destroy those self-sabotaging habits as much as we can.  This is what my husband calls:

‘Locating and Killing Your Inner Nigel.’

(You’ve heard about my ‘Nigel’ voice before!)  Sometimes Nigel is just your inner critic, telling you the story you just wrote, the sculpture you just made, is crap.  Sometimes he is a complete Hitler, out to annihilate you with core beliefs you didn’t even know you had!

Keeping a journal is a great way to kick the crap out of Nigel.

To do this, you have to feel free within your journal’s pages to say and do whatever you want.  Rubbish spelling?  Fine.  No punctuation?  Great.  Scribbly handwriting, not being neat? Perfect.  And those scrappy drawings?  Absolutely compulsory, if you feel the need.  The rule is this:

No Judgement.

Tell Nigel to go copulate with himself.  You say and do what you want.  Only then wil your journal come into its own, only then can it be your complete friend, your safe place, without self-censorship.

I wrote in a previous post about who you write your journal for, and although I still stand by that piece, it has been bothering me.  Because you see, if you always have an eye on posterity, on what people who come after you will with think of you, then you will never be honest.  And you must be honest, otherwise why bother?  Without honesty, you are wasting your time.  Who cares if you are being petulant, smug, dull or sulky inside your journal’s pages?  No one is perfect all the time.

Your diary must be, first and foremost, always for you alone, whatever else it is.

Journal Exercise:

When you write this week, do not judge yourself. Do not think about what anybody who reads your journal in years to come will think of you.  Pay no attention to Nigel the Neat Nazi, who wants everything in pukka little rows, with perfect handwriting and impeccable grammar, spelling and punctuation.  Scribble.  Make a mess.  Be what ever you are inside.  Set yourself this new internal boundary.

When it comes to my diary, I will be completely myself, whoever that is at this moment.

Happy Journalling,

EF