Monday, December 28, 2015

Your Future Biography

In a previous post I suggested you use your journal to write a future biography.

A future biography can be difficult if you don't know what you want to do when you grow up. Finding your dream is a lot of fun ... once you get started. But how do you get those juices flowing? How do you prime the pump?  I found a wonderful list of questions to help you get started over at Creative Dream Incubator:
Creative Journal Prompts for Finding Your Dream:
I feel happiest when:
I wish I could (list at least 50 things – keep coming back to this over the next few weeks to add things):
The qualities/values that matter most to me are:
If I could live my life exactly how I wanted to, I would:
The things I like best about my life are:
The things I like least about my life are:
I think am being really true to myself when I:
If I was living more in tune with my own heart and soul, it would feel like:
If I knew what my dream was I would feel:
Take your time with this. Really explore each question and notice where your thoughts lead you to.
Then explore your answers to see what they are telling you about what your dream is.
This is brave work.
Being honest with yourself about your dreams can be TERRIFYING.
You may have a fear that if you find out what your dream is – everything will change and change is scary.
Or if you go after your dream and you fail – that will hurt too much.
Or that if you know what your dream is, you still won’t know how to make it real, and that will be too frustrating.
Or if you knew what your dream is, you might go after it with everything you’ve got – and that would be too selfish.
Or deep down inside, you might already kind of know what your dream is, but you’re sure you’re not good enough to make it happen. It’s easier to just not know what it is.
This is hard stuff!

All this is so true! As the author points out, it's hard to reach for your dream because you might fail and that's going to hurt like hell. The other truth is, not trying actually IS hell.

If you have trouble journaling, fill your pages with the answers to these questions. Let your journal work its magic on you.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pretty Journal

An absolutely beautiful journal! I like to make journals but this is way out beyond my skills. You can find it and its brethren here:


Saturday, December 12, 2015

On This Day: Da Vinci's Journal

A page from one of DaVinci's journals
I found the History Chanel's website called "On This Day" that delivered a wonderful surprise for today:
On this day in 1980, American oil tycoon Armand Hammer pays $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci. 
The manuscript, written around 1508, was one of some 30 similar books da Vinci produced during his lifetime on a variety of subjects. It contained 72 loose pages featuring some 300 notes and detailed drawings, all relating to the common theme of water and how it moved. Experts have said that da Vinci drew on it to paint the background of his masterwork, the Mona Lisa. The text, written in brown ink and chalk, read from right to left, an example of da Vinci’s favored mirror-writing technique.
Journal writing is way older than da Vinci but he is almost the Great-Grandad of journaling. They are absolutely wonderful to leaf through and a lot of them are on the web and you can get an ebook version for free on Amazon

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Forever is composed of nows

Emily Dickinson wrote the title of this post. I wish I was that smart!

Today's journal prompt is to write about the moments you enjoyed in the last week, as many as you remember.

Every week, every day has moments that we were uncomfortable and moments that were happy. Tiny moments like the first sip of coffee or a funny commercial on TV. Noticing little moments like that is what makes life rich. Things like that slip by unseen. They are so tiny. But tiny things are important and I know that's hard to believe.

Our problems and snarls in life are big. Huge. They need big solutions. They need giant effort and possibly magic. Something like a tornado, or the ship passing overhead in Star Wars. Mount Everest. An act of both houses of Congress. Something magnificent and uplifting.

This prompt should probably be a sentence or two in every journal entry. Those fragments of life are drops in a very big bucket, but they are lost forever if they pass by unnoticed. Notice them, write them down and treasure them!

Everything is composed of billions of teeny tiny nows. They don't look like much, but changing those nows can change the entire world.

Forever – is composed of Nows
by Emily Dickenson

Forever – is composed of Nows –
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –

From this – experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –

Without Debate – or Pause –
Or Celebrated Days –
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Dominies –

Monday, November 30, 2015

Pepys's Diary

The Diary of Samuel Pepys
Thursday 27 November 1662 
At my waking, I found the tops of the houses covered with snow, which is a rare sight, that I have not seen these three years.

Up, and put my people to perfect the cleaning of my house, and so to the office, where we sat till noon; and then we all went to the next house upon Tower Hill, to see the coming by of the Russia Embassador; for whose reception all the City trained-bands do attend in the streets, and the King’s life-guards, and most of the wealthy citizens in their black velvet coats, and gold chains (which remain of their gallantry at the King’s coming in), but they staid so long that we went down again home to dinner.

Samuel Pepys lived from 1633 to 1703 and kept an extensive diary over about 10 years. He was a hardworking business man who lived in very interesting times, surviving plagues, wars, and the London fire. His diary is one of the chief sources of ordinary life in Reformation England.

You can find his diary here: and you can sign up for daily emails!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Art Journals

by an unknown artist who is not me
I love art journals. I'm a huge fan of mixed media collage, especially with a liberal sprinkling of words. On the other hand, I find art journals to be completely intimidating. I like to draw, but don't do it very well.

And I know that the journals that you see on Pinerest are not first efforts. Those books are by professional artists and they are not showing you the pages they did when they were first learning to draw or were having an off day. It's their best work.

Still, wow. Beautiful, but ...

All the journals I make (see tab above) have blank pages so you can add drawings, doodles, or paste pictures. I sometimes doodle some flowers or faces or coffee cups--I draw a lot of coffee cups--on the actual page I'm writing on, but usually I'm too busy talking on paper to add an image. And when I do add an image it's not going to be something I scan and put on the internet.

When I draw in my journal I'm usually listening to something that doesn't require that I take notes. Music, a boring talk, a podcast. I can't sit still and not do something, so if all else fails I draw. I almost never do color in a journal. Color means paint or marker and those might spoil the pages underneath where the writing is, and the writing is the important part. Art journals usually have thick pages that prevent bleed-through but thick, 300lb cold press paper is total overkill for a regular journal--the kind with words.

So I collect art journals on Pinterest and love to look at them, but I'm pretty careful not to compare what I do with that. Comparisons are odious anyway, and that kind of comparison can freeze your blood, which makes fun doodling and fun writing no fun at all.

It's way better to just doodle and enjoy yourself. Say what's in your heart and maybe add an illustration you clipped out of a magazine or draw your least favorite person and give them big ears and an eggplant nose.

And if you are a fabulous artist please leave a link in the comments section. I love to look at art!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Journal Prompt

Write a future biography.

"If you don't know where you are going, you are going to arrive there anyway." I don't know who originally said it and I'm not sure I'm quoting them accurately. It's a meme I saw somewhere, probably on Facebook.  But, goodness gracious, it's true.

Drifting through life is very easy and comfortable. There isn't really anything wrong with it BUT (and there's always a "but") it's not juicy and exiting. It doesn't make you shiver with delight. Those things only happen when you reach for impossible things.

I recently sat in a circle of people who had each written one-page future vision statements. They had been invited to write about themselves 5, 10, or 15 years into the future. Some found it almost impossible to do. The future was just a dark mystery and they couldn't think of anything. Others had detailed plans and had obviously been thinking about it a lot and were glad of the opportunity to share all their dreams and goals.

And then there were two or three who said some form of "This is all a fantasy. None of this stuff is going to happen." All of the people in this category wrote about wonderful things. Interesting job, children, comfortable home, loving spouse, etc. Impossible, empty dreams?

Let's pretend.

Let's pretend that those impossible, empty dreams could actually happen. What's that like? Why do you want that stuff to happen? Why won't it happen? What's stopping you? How do you get around those obstacles?

It's true that there really are barriers that are impossible to get around. Women in their 60s can't become police officers. Men who are 5'10" tall will never play for the NBA.  However, there are ways to punch holes in barriers that will let some of your dreams come true. Women in their 60s can do volunteer work at the police department. Men who love basketball can organize an amateur team.

My grandfather wanted to live on a farm. Unfortunately he had a very well-paying job in the outskirts of Los Angeles and farming wasn't an option. So he farmed his yard. He had the most beautiful flower gardens and lawns in the neighborhood. It satisfied his soul until he could retire and buy a real farm.

There are ways to make dreams come true. There are always ways to get closer, further down the road, within reach of whatever makes you laugh with pleasure. But if you don't plan how to get there that happy life will not hunt you down. You have to look for it yourself.

What do you want your future to look like? Write it down and get really wild. Ask for the moon and the stars and maybe you'll find your dreams and they'll be covered in stardust.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What's the difference between a diary and a journal?

Dear Diary:
Today I did the laundry most of the morning, had lunch with Mom and then shopped for shoes. Jack called and reminded me about Saturday.

Journal Entry:
I've been so focused on work I realized this morning I haven't done laundry in two weeks. The laundry basket has been sitting there, stuffed to the gills, and staring at me accusingly for days. So I did that.

I had lunch with Mom and we had a great talk. The lab tests were all negative so we had chocolate mousse for desert. Only because Francisco's doesn't serve champagne. Neither of us likes champagne anyway. Asterisk: don't order chicken at Francisco's again. Stick to the burgers.

I am NOT going to visit Jack's brother next Saturday. His house gives me the creeps and he has the conversational skills of a tree toad. I'm still figuring out how to get out of it without hurting Jack's feelings.


A diary is a daily record of what you did. It is extremely handy. Journals work for that too, but are usually so chatty it's hard to find something if you need to figure out when you last had the car's oil changed or exactly what day Margaret's kid was born. Nobody's ever going to want to read your diary unless your name is Samuel Pepys.

Journals are different. Journal pages are letters to yourself. That's where you talk about the stuff that would end up in a diary.  In the example above, on a previous page in the journal you would probably have shared how incredibly worried you were about your mom's lab tests. That page would have gently received your pain and grief and this page gladly accepts your relief and joy.

The diary (in the example above) will reflect how you went alone to a movie on Saturday. The journal entry will go into some detail about the tense conversation you and Jack had about his brother.

So diaries are lovely. Keep one of those too, somewhere. You should definitely include an asterisk about the chicken at Francisco's.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How do you really feel?

Diary of Henriette Dessaulles, 1874
One of the best reasons to keep a journal is finding out how you really feel about something.

Journals don't give advice, frown at you or lecture you about how you OUGHT to be feeling. Pick a topic that's been bothering you lately and really air it out. Too often we just bury things we're guilty about feeling. We bury our stuff in television, work, video games, or high-fat, high-sugar food. Your journal isn't going to be disappointed in you or argue back. It's only going to "listen."

We also bury things that we think we can't do anything about.

"What's the point? I can't do anything about that." You may or may not be right. There may be something you can do that you haven't thought of and writing about it will bring that something to mind. You may think of someone you can ask for help. Who knows? You won't know until it all gets out and looked at. If you are right and it's a situation you can't fix, then you have done what you can do about it. You've written about it and gotten your opinions out of you and onto the page. Sometimes that's all you can do and sometimes (certainly not always!) it's enough.

Oddly, your journal can also give you a different perspective.

When you write about whatever is bothering you, get silly. Get exaggerated. Lecture yourself about how you SHOULD feel, and then argue back. Write from the point of view of the person who is bothering you. What do you think they'd say to you about this thing? Write from the point of view of Mother Theresa, or your mother, or Obama, or Eric Cartman. What would any of those people say about what's going on? You can get amazing insight by looking at something from a lot of different directions.

But don't take anything Eric Cartman says too seriously.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Free postage from

I have to admit I'm partial to the spiral bound versions of the journals. I like a journal that lays flat, especially when I'm drawing. handles all the spiral bound version of the journals. is offering free postage until Nov. 4!  enter code USMAIL11 (case-sensitive) at checkout to get free mail shipping

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Journal Prompt

Sudarshan V
"When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky." ~ Buddha

Of course, Buddha said nothing of the sort. This appears to be a sort of rephrasing of part of a Buddhist poem:
Since everything is but an illusion,
Perfect in being what it is,
Having nothing to do with good or bad,
Acceptance or rejection,
One might as well burst out laughing! 
from chapter 1 of The Great Perfection’s Self-Liberation in the Nature of Mind, by Longchenpa (1308-1364)
Prompt: So what does perfect mean? How can the world be perfect?

Commonplace Books

"Commonplace book mid 17th century" by Beinecke Flickr Laboratory 
Commonplace books are almost journals but not quite. They are filled with anything you want to remember, quotes, lists, pictures, recipes. They are almost but not quite a scrap book.

They reason commonplace books don't quite make journal status is because they were almost never used to discuss the entries. I might throw a recipe in my journal but I'll talk about it, why I like it, what I'd change about it and so on. My journal is a place where I discuss things with myself.

A commonplace book would be a place to throw an idea so I won't forget it or to stash a funny quote that I know I'd like to share on Facebook later.

There's more about these interesting artifacts from the past on Wikipedia. (It's where I got that wonderful picture!)

Monday, October 26, 2015

The All-Important Elastic Closure

An eleastic band is vital to any good working journal. Many journals come with them and most do not. Mine don't (darn it!) so here is an instructional video.

Why is an elastic band vital?

Because it's extremely important to trap a pen or pencil inside the journal. Nothing kills the journaling urge like ransacking your house looking for something to write with! 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Begin to Journal

If your great grandmother had kept a journal what would you have liked to read?

These ladies were born sometime between 1910 and 1915. One of them could be your grandmother, your great grandmother or your great-great grandmother. If you could phone the past and ask one of them to keep a journal so one of their descendants could read it, she would probably giggle and tell you she had nothing to write. She lives a perfectly boring and ordinary life. She cooks and sews, cans fruit and vegetables from the garden, goes to the movies whenever she has an extra ten cents. She's especially partial to Claude Rains and Clark Gable. Like every ordinary person she loves to listen to Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio and read the Saturday Evening Post. She has nothing interesting to write about!

She could never imagine that you'd be interested in how she fell in love with your grandfather and what your dad was like when he was three years old. Who would be interested in reading that?

You would.

Heck, I would. I've read lots of old journals and they are wonderful windows into the past.

So your journal prompt for today: What would you have liked to read about if your great grandmother kept a journal? And what would you like to tell your great grandchildren?

Photo from Elston: Family Archive Photos