The Open Book

openbook

I am a member of a wonderful community called “Artist Journals 2” which is currently conducting a discussion on whether or not one should share the contents of one’s illustrated journals with others.
I had to chime in:
I’m a journal keeper who feels okay about sharing (most of) his journals with other people. In reading other posts I get the sense that there are two key reasons why people are reluctant to share what they make in private: a) violating their sense of privacy and b) embarrassment at their more humble efforts.
My own journals have never struck me as terribly private. True, I talk about the daily aspects of my life but frankly they are no more intimate than the things I share in small talk with the people with which I work. For me, my journal is not a confessional but an historian in the best sense of the word, someone who not only records the facts but develops themes and meaning that weave them together, explicating my life and showing me what’s important, lending deeper value to the things too easy to take for granted. Generally, I find that these themes and lessons are universal and by sharing them I get a chance for a sounding board.
I am a reserved and private person by nature so perhaps my journals are a way to let it out. But I am always amazed at how much people will share with others. Even in the posts on this group among a group of relative strangers, we have little hesitation to talk about our health, our relationships, our fears and anxieties. This is a group in which we have all been granted (albeit loosely) a membership so perhaps that’s why we feel we have this freedom. Still, I feel the same sense of connection with the people with whom I share my journals. Granted, that membership now extends pretty broadly because my journals have been published, but I still assume a certain kinship among the people who bother to read it, a kinship of the soul.
As to embarrassment at my experimentations —I’d rather not share lame drawings, failed experiments and inattention but that doesn’t prevent me from sharing my unedited pages. I find that by having a sense that what I am making will be seen by someone, sometime, I am actually driven to take more care with what I am doing, to polish my words and drawings and make sure my observations ring true. As to really experimental things, pen wipes, color combinations, etc. well, I usually do those on a piece of scrap paper and chuck em out. They would be meaningless to me in a few hours anyway. The one really solid reason to not share your journal is because, frankly, most people don’t care. They’re not interested in what you had for breakfast, whether it’s raining, how the cat is, whether your hair’s turning gray. Most people are interested only in themselves. Even if you cram your book with intimate revelations, chances are most readers will flip through, say, “Very nice” and hand it back to you, None of us is that important! But I find sharing is an enriching experience. It connects me to others and makes me see how universal my concerns and experiences are. It drives me to make my pages less sloppy, my writing more terse. It is a gift of myself which often leads to wonderful conversations and gifts of all sorts on return.
Diaries with locks on them are things of girlhood. Open your life, I say. Be brave and share yourself.