Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book Review: How to Make a Journal of Your Life

I mentioned this book about a year ago in my series of posts on visual journaling, but I finally bought my own copy of it this spring, so I thought I would write a complete review of it now.

How to Make a Journal of Your Life is a short, small book on the basics of keeping a visual journal.  It's hand-lettered and illustrated throughout by the author, D. Price, which makes flipping through this book feel like flipping through someone's private journal.  Price has a friendly, casual writing style that is easy to read, and throughout the book he stresses that keeping a journal is a simple activity that can be done by anyone.  I especially appreciate his advice on avoiding rules and not beating yourself up if you don't work in your journal everyday, which is a great way to turn journaling into a chore that you want to avoid:
"When there are no more rules about how much time you're supposed to be spending with your journal, and when you feel lighthearted and buoyant about what you want to put in, you'll find yourself enjoying the time and doing good work.  Not just making it another addition to your already busy schedule."
That, I think, is definitely one of the keys to being happy with your journal practice.

How to Make a Journal of Your Life is not the book for someone who wants more information on advanced techniques.  It is a light, approachable introduction on journaling for someone who may be interested in keeping a journal but who is not sure about how to begin or what to put in it (and it would be a great gift for someone like that!).  It would also be a good read for the more advanced journal-keeper who needs a reminder of why they started keeping a journal in the first place.  Most of us tend to fall into ruts, and get stuck doing the same old things in the same old way.  This book can be a gentle reminder to take a fresh look now and then.

Price includes chapters on writing, drawing, photography (I liked that this was included, because not everyone will think that they can include photos in a journal, and photos are a great way to introduce a visual element for someone who may be hesitant about drawing), collecting objects from nature, and including ephemera in your journal.  He even includes a short section on bookbinding, although I'm not sure how helpful it would be for someone who never done it before (if you want a simple guide to basic bookbinding, I'd recommend the bookbinding section in Gwen Diehn's The Decorated Journal).  The photography chapter is a bit out-of-date, since it was written when most people used film, but the basic advice is sound and will still apply even if you use a digital camera.  Oddly, the chapter in selecting a blank book comes last, while I think it would have made more sense as one of the first few chapters, since that is probably one of the first questions that a beginner would have.  But apart from that, I have few complaints about this book.

Overall, How to Make a Journal of Your Life is a great introductory book on journaling for the beginning journal-keeper or for anyone who needs some more journal inspiration.  I think that it would be especially good for anyone who feels nervous around the word "art" or the phrase "art journal".  This may not be my favourite book on journaling, but - especially since I have stopped keeping a journal in the last several months - it is one that I am glad to have on my shelf and that I know I will be referring to for inspiration in the future.

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