four journals

Leave yourself a trail to follow

Fear of the blank page will lead to some interesting choices. I learned to leave myself a trail to follow to keep the fear at bay.

I noticed something this week. I pulled out a journal to work on and saw that I’d left a prompt on the next page. Then I pulled out another book and the next “blank” page had a scribble on it. The next journal I opened was my seeded journal where I made the whole book out of pages that I had seeded with collage material. So it too, effectively had a prompt on it. Four out of five journals I am using right now have material on the next blank page for me to start working from. I had left myself a trail to follow and I didn’t even realize that I had been doing it.

prompts on pages

Collect yourself

When I was younger, my hobby was collecting blank books. I’d find one I loved, buy it or sometimes make it but I wouldn’t use it. I didn’t know how to start filling up all those crisp, white pages. Looking back on it, it’s clear that I had a fear of the blank page. I wanted to be the kind of person who had books they’d filled up with art and notes and writings and thoughts and dreams and sketches. You know, an interesting person. But I couldn’t figure out how to get started with all of that.

When I started making my own art journals a few years ago, I realized that the ones I gravitated towards to use were ones that didn’t have all white pages. I’d mix it up and put some magazine pages in or something that had paint on it already. And then when I started working in those books I would start on those pages that weren’t stark white. Because there was something there for me to respond to. Making an altered book, where the book is all words to start with is pure magic for that part of my brain.

Contrast this with my artist kiddo who is primarily a sketcher and drawer. They live for all of those blank pages. It looks so easy when they pull up a couple of reference photos and start sketching things with nary a quibble with a blank page. They are an absolute inspiration to me with their sketching habit. So much so that I don’t even mind when they occasionally steal a journal I’ve made.

Oz books

You do this everywhere?

Somewhere in the past 7-8 years I learned the lesson of leaving myself a trail to follow so well, that I stopped paying attention to it. But looking at these journals this morning I remembered that the blank page still kinda terrifies me. And so I leave myself trails to follow all the time. Pretty much everywhere. You can see it in My Stay at Home art journal and in this altered book of mine.

In my bigger work, I tend to stop mid decision. On purpose. I get to a place where I am about to do a thing and then stop so I am eager to come back to it the next day and make the decision. If I’m stumped by something, I try to break it down to the decision points. If I can get some clarity for the next decision then I’m eager to come back and pick it up. When I leave it while I’m stumped, I’ve learned that sometimes there’s no energy so I don’t come back to it at all.

I do it writing this blog when I write down a bunch of titles as idea notes and then come back to them to write the posts. Some of my most successful writing runs lately have been when I leave myself a bunch of themes and ideas floating around in my drafts folder. It’s all fodder for the next post for you to read.

Even when I’m reading, I leave myself a sticky note or a pencil written note on what I’m studying. When I come back to it, I can see where I left off. Last year, I made a push to read more non-fiction. I’ve learned that this is especially helpful if I’m reading something sorta dense or dry. I’ve read a couple of deep ones this year that I had to keep notes on so I wouldn’t end up rereading sections to refresh myself.

What does this mean?

I think in years past I would have thought that as a grown up I shouldn’t need to do this. I mean this seems like baby stuff, right? These days, I don’t see it that way at all. I’ve learned that I can give myself a push in the right direction with all of these breadcrumbs I leave out for myself. I am setting myself up for success when I leave myself notes and directions.

You could say that my wisdom from lived experience tells me that I need prompts and notes to be successful. I need to regularly remind myself of where I was headed. I think I’m ok with that.

Where do you leave yourself a trail to follow? Chat with me on social media or leave a comment here.