Patti and I were discussing her journals and scrapbooks a few days ago and, for once, I was able to give her some useful advice. Her dilemma: she collects all sorts of clippings and pictures and cards and souvenirs and stuffs them between the pages of her book or into an envelope, waiting for the rainy day that she’ll stick them all in and make something beautiful. But it rarely arrives, so the piles of ephemera grow bigger and more daunting, like a corner of the Collier Brothers’ apartment, until the whole thought of tackling the project is more than she wants to deal with. Why is it so hard to move from the collecting phase to the making phase, she asked me.
I think it comes down to a matter of purpose. Why do you want to assemble this stuff? What are you going to say with it? Is it just there because you collected it, because it seemed interesting or pretty at the time, but has long since lost its significance? Souvenirs shouldn’t get amnesia. It’s more important to have a point, a vision, a story to tell than it is to use all the materials you have. But most important of all is to just get started and make something.
I have lots of different kinds of art supplies, but I never sit down and say, well, I’d better make sure I use everything that’s in the box. I also usually don’t sit down, thinking, I haven’t use my burnt umber Caran d’Ache pencil in a while I really ought to. No, I just have a glimmer of an idea, look at my materials, and gravitate towards one pen or another.
A variation on Patti’s problem I encounter in others: “I haven’t written in my journal for so long, I have months of catching up to do, It’s too overwhelming, I’ll wait till another day.” It’s the same impulse that’ll make you put off going back to the gym or breaking up with your lousy boyfriend.
The only solution is to express something, anything. Turn over a fresh page and just do something about procrastination or dread or laziness or … You don’t need to record every single moment of your life. Just record one, in a careful and heartfelt way and the rest, all interlocking, will string along with it.
These are your enemies: procrastination, self doubt, obligation, perfectionism, judgmentalism. Now, depict them in your journal and you’ll already have them licked.