Sunday, March 27, 2011

I'm Trying To Find My Inner Snail ~ and~ On Keeping "Knockabout Notebooks..."

Fellow Travelers,

I have lost my inner snail and I'm on a search to find him...

I made the above graphic a couple of years ago for another blog. "How Slow Can You Go?" has long been a mantra of mine with the snail my symbol for slowing down for a very long time. My mind can get reeling and running 50 miles ahead of me if I don't so I have been taking the last couple of days to try to get a grip on why I have been going hither and yon, doing 20 things at once, spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere. I started this blog entry yesterday and I didn't got exactly nowhere. I knew what I wanted to write so I typed in the title and that's as far as I got. I sat down and kissed a pug. And then a gigantic greenwing parrot came strutting across the room, having come down off of his cage, walked across the living room floor, climbed up the cover thrown over my legs onto the recliner and said, "HELLO!" I closed the computer and kissed a big beak and we played for awhile. That big macaw plays like a puppy! And then he settled down on my leg as he is wont to do and went to sleep, and Sam, my velcro pug, was snuggled into me snoring away, and I somehow just drifted off in my mind. 

I have been doing a good bit of beating myself up for taking on a new project that I know I'm supposed to do, and pushing myself really hard trying to get it together, having started the website and a new blog to go with it, until I have been bleary eyed and teary and ready to toss it all because it was taking too much time away from my book and I thought, "Yegods, here I go again, starting so many things I'll never finish anything!" But then...

Then I stopped and thought, "Where in the world am I going anyway? There's no time table here. I need to find my inner snail and just ride along on his shell for awhile..." And so today I found him and I've been riding on his shell. It's been lovely. I did not work on the computer all day but started getting ready for spring planting. I am planting 4 roses with 2 clematis with each rose -- all climbers -- to go up the scrolly pillars on the front and sides of the cottage front porch. And then there will be four hanging baskets, and herbs and flowers to plant in some planters under the hanging baskets, and I got spring fever and felt joyful!

Sometimes you have to let the computer cool down so you can warm up. 

And something else. Having been a journal teacher for thirty years, the last five of those online, and having filled over 300 journals and then some, in the last few years I completely got out of the habit of journaling. Blogging has been part of it I think, but blogging doesn't really take the place of a journal. And then one day I just kind of dragged my toe along in the sand and thought, "I don't really have to keep a JOURNAL if I don't want to, I can just get a big old notebook and lug it around and put whatever I want in it." And so I have, and I've filled a whole big notebook in a month. And I bought a bunch of different kinds of colored pens and I'm having so much fun.

I prefer plain sketchbooks and I've taken quite a liking to Ultra Fine Point Sharpies. Got the big package cheap with lots of colors at Sams. (Not the pug, the store that is somehow tied up with Wal-mart which I never go into.). Always been a fan of the big box of prismacolor pencils (Great prices on eBay.) Great packages of Flair markers in lots of colors (I doodled with Flairs when I was in gradeschool and now I'm in my 50's. I love that they're still around!). Got a package of highlighters in lots of colors. All ramped up and ready to go. 

I've been getting these pens and things in bits and pieces over the last several weeks. I tote the big old notebook around with me and yes, the permanent markers bleed through the paper and that's kind of the point. Because then I only write on one side of the page and the side that has the "bled-through" bits I cover up with collagey sorts of things, quotes, funny little cut-outs from this and that. I'm not talking great works of art here. I'm just talking about doodling around and having fun.

Don't be intimidated by the word "Journal" or "Diary." Just get any old notebook (those cardboard covered composition notebooks are great and cheap) and you can collage all over them and you don't need to try to do Collage with a capital "C." It's all the rage I know, and I love it, but we can get intimidated if we think we have to create Great Art. We just have to cut and paste and doodle and write a little of this and that as the spirit moves us.

Every now and then I meander out of the house to a small nearby cafe. I get a latte and ice water and lots of little paper napkins because I'm just bound to spill something or my fountain pen will leak, and then I open my book bag and get out the half dozen books I'm reading all at once and I spread colored markers and pencils all over the table and open up my big notebook. I read a little of this and a little of that and I jot down quotes and all of a sudden I find myself actually "journaling" a little bit and it kind of tickles me because I said I didn't have to and it happened anyway, and somebody or other at a table next to me will say that it's fascinating to watch me (I'm in my own little world with my latte and books and pens and notebook and forget there are other people around...) because I keep dropping one colored pen and picking up another and on and on. I do this because I am kind of color coding my work so I can go back and find things easier. And then I kind of doodle. And then I relax. And then I find that I am actually breathing again, and that I have found my inner snail and he and I are just kind of slip-sliding slowly along quite happily.

The thing is that in this "Knockabout Notebook." There are no Big Ideas about what it's supposed to be. I just doodly doo along and it's become such great fun I am back to what I always used to do which is carry it everywhere with me (different spots around the house, accompanied by pugs, parrots and whatnots) and plop down and just write. And color. And doodle. And write something funny down that Garrison Keillor said on Prairie Home Companion. And there are little holes in the sides of the pages sometimes where Big Bird Flounder decided he might like to take a bite. And maybe a bent corner where Sam the pug stepped up on top of the notebook on my lap desk to see what I was doing and bent a corner. 

I have notebooks with lots of character (because there are always lots of characters around my notebooks.)...

I have also been listening to a lot of books from while I do fiber art and when I'm too jumbled up in my mind to do anything very useful, I have my notebook and bunch of colored pens and I write down things that occur to me when I listen. Book ideas creep up on you when you're not looking. That's why I always keep my fiber art by my writing spots and vice versa. When my brain gets all screwed up in knots I stop writing and pick up my fiber art and go out of my head and into my hands and let my brain unwind. I don't think I could write without my fiber art.

So in the process of not trying to keep a journal I seem to be keeping some kind or another of a crazy kind of one, and in deep conversation with my inner snail I realized that I can work on my book as my main focus because that makes me feel happy and more secure, and I can work on my other projects around the edges which makes me feel productive, and I can color which keeps my inner child happy...

And I can plant roses and herbs and annuals for color and dilly dally outside with the dogs and play with the big parrot who climbs into my lap, and let him sit on the pages with his big tail sticking out and resting on Sam's head who doesn't notice because he's too busy snoring, and we can all just kick back and relax about the whole thing because I've made a vow to be less serious and have more fun along the way. And when I do I'm more productive. Imagine that. Just like the way books creep up on you when you're not looking. So the lesson is slow down, don't try so hard, and if you feel like writing anything just do it in any old kind of notebook, journal, sketchbook or whatever any way you want to. 

A funny aside... Years ago I was teaching a group of people at a college. Color-wild even then I had lots of different fountain pens with all different colored inks and I was writing in all different colors and encouraged my students to do that, kind of step out of the box and break open their old ways of doing things and see how it affected their writing. One poor soul came up to me after class, bewildered, and said, "I've tried and tried and I hate writing in color. Is it okay if I just write in black?" And I was shocked. And I felt terrible. And I said, "Of course!" And that's when I learned that it's okay to share your ideas but don't be so zealous that your students (or anyone else around you) feels like they have to do it your way, or any one way. Write in color. Write in black. Write with finger paints. Or a plain old pencil. Or not at all. You'll write if you want to when you want to. Maybe you just want to chew bubblegum and watch ladybugs. And it's all okay. 

We need to stop being so hard on ourselves. We try too hard. And then we beat ourselves up. We're not in a race, we're just living our lives. 

I hope I remember that. I'm going to write it down in my notebook right now so I don't forget (...and scribble a little while I'm at it!)...

Be good to yourself. Find your inner snail. See how slow you can go. I think you'll feel better all around, at least I have. And am. And will. Finally!


Janine said...

Oh now look where I have found you! A lovely blog to follow you in my slow boat through blogland!


Ruth said...

I always love your posts, you really give me a lot to think about. I think I've been having your problem with journaling about painting, I always feel like it has to "be" something and then I get disappointed when it looks like something a five year old could have done. Same thing with writing too, I guess, sometimes I open up the computer and get set up to "write" and then my mind goes blank. Time to start carrying a journal around and just start jotting down thoughts. What else is a journal for, really?

Sam's Club was actually started by Sam Walton, the same guy who started Walmart.

Lidian said...

I have been doing something like this too - I'm freelancing a lot now, which I like very much (not on my blogs, I mean, but articles) - and I just got so tired of trying to crank out novel pages (even though I still want to write fiction etc)...So I am letting myself write whatever comes into my mind in my favorite moon-and-stars notebook. Such fun, the way it used to be when I was a teen writing for myself! :)

I love the idea of colored pens, Maitri - am going to go buy myself some this week.

Thank you for writing this lovely post xxx Lidian

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