I was recently introduced to David Whyte's poetry and fell in love with a few of his poems. Shortly after that, this book was gifted to me. It's a greI was recently introduced to David Whyte's poetry and fell in love with a few of his poems. Shortly after that, this book was gifted to me. It's a great read. I pretty much dog-eared the whole thing. I would recommend this book to anyone in the midst of a self, relationship, career/calling crisis or period of questioning. His story plus the literary and historical context he provides for his thesis about "the three marriages" is fascinating, often funny, and just really enjoyable to read. I'm particularly grateful for the new lens it's given me to think about the idea of self....more
I didn't get a chance to finish this before it was due back at the library, but I really appreciate Cameron's way of forcing you to open yourself up aI didn't get a chance to finish this before it was due back at the library, but I really appreciate Cameron's way of forcing you to open yourself up and to also take responsibility for yourself and your writing. When you're not writing, you're choosing not to write. Use every spare moment for creativity, write about anything and often and you'll get somewhere. I'll probably be going back to this at some point or another for a pick-me-up....more
I began reading this when I was 23 after a former teacher gave it to me as a graduation gift, and even more so, as encouragement to continue writing aI began reading this when I was 23 after a former teacher gave it to me as a graduation gift, and even more so, as encouragement to continue writing as I moved across the country for my first post-college publishing job. I read it on and off from 2010 until this year. Conveniently, I was about Godwin's age when this collection of her journals starts and stops. I loved them and dog eared what looks like almost every other page. There is remarkable insight throughout these pages and I found continual comfort in reading about Godwin's process and seeing how one story evolved over a period of years before she was able to write it the way it needed to be written. This will be a book I go back to continually for comfort, inspiration, and perspective....more
I was so sad when this book ended. I didn't want to leave Lamott and her often heartbreaking and hilarious stories about the writing life. This book iI was so sad when this book ended. I didn't want to leave Lamott and her often heartbreaking and hilarious stories about the writing life. This book is comforting, entertaining, and most importantly, extremely encouraging to novice writers and artists. Lamott illustrates the insanity that often comes with caring so deeply about one's art, but she makes it funny so that we can laugh lovingly at her and ourselves. Her advice to do short assignments, to write shitty first drafts, to see through a one inch picture frame, and to view writing like watching a polaroid develop, were some of the most helpful to me. I know I'll be visiting this book again and again because opening a page will help me breathe a little easier when I am up at 3 AM, wondering what the hell I'm actually doing, sitting at my desk, attempting to make another life real to myself and someone else through words on a page....more
This book is full of beautiful and interesting journal entries. I find it most useful to open up to pages randomly when struggling with writing and joThis book is full of beautiful and interesting journal entries. I find it most useful to open up to pages randomly when struggling with writing and journaling and seeing what happens from there. A friend let me borrow it, so unfortunately I have to give it back to her, but I have a feeling I will be purchasing / coming back to it sometime in the near future....more
"What It Is" by Lynda Barry is part journal, scrapbook, sketchpad, self-help book, memoir, and writing exercise book, so I find it rather limiting to"What It Is" by Lynda Barry is part journal, scrapbook, sketchpad, self-help book, memoir, and writing exercise book, so I find it rather limiting to think of it as solely a journal. However, I suppose this book asks us to look at how we define the boundaries of a journal in the first place. "What It Is" is not a journal in the traditional sense. It is a journal that has been compiled with an audience in mind and with well-crafted pages in which the image often corresponds with the words, such as the narrative pages of Barry’s story about her artistic inhibition and her later freedom. I find the correspondence between Barry’s images and words in these narrative sections interesting as a few people have pointed out that they appreciated these sections the most. This is an important aspect of Barry’s project because it shows the power of image-word correspondence, and perhaps how images and words can compliment and reinforce one another.
The image-word correspondence is not quite as obvious on the other pages of "What It Is", but I found them fascinating nonetheless. I liked how they forced my brain to work harder than I do when just reading text as I was trying to find associations between the images and the words. I enjoyed this type of reading because it refuses linearity. My eye wandered around the page, completely stimulated, looking for order and understanding, yet I didn’t find it frustrating. Rather, I found it inspiring because it felt somewhat more organic, personal, and intuitive. In the end, I didn’t find it necessary to make sense of it; rather I enjoyed processing the image-word layers of each page.
I have had a similar experience with Sabrina Ward Harrison’s books. There is something about the organized chaos of her work, and her mentor SARK’s work, that I find completely inspiring and comforting. Perhaps it is because the collage and handwritten element of it makes it seem more “alive” as Barry might argue. Handwriting itself is an image that works to give form to a larger image and there is something about the individuality of Barry, Harrison, and SARK’s work that feels more personable, and because of that, more alive. Perhaps this is why journaling, particularly handwritten journaling, can be so therapeutic and why reading others’ journals is so interesting; we feel like we are being let into a private universe that is made public via our reading of it.
"What It Is" borders the line between a public and private document in that we are given pages that are purposefully rendered, such as the narrative sequences, yet we are also given pages at the end from Barry’s “actual” journal, which she kept while making the book. These pages are rougher and seemingly more spontaneous. Thus, by including these initial journal pages, Barry points to a layering here of initial artistic inspiration later molded by craft and thoughtful editing. I again found this comforting and inspiring because it calls attention to the journal as a place for beginnings, a place to be ugly, spontaneous, associative, nonsensical, sentimental, and a little crazy. As a writing teacher once told me, you have to let yourself be stupid in the composing process and to trust where your writing, or I would argue any artistic medium, is taking you. Otherwise, you may think yourself out of something fabulous.
I think this is what Barry is trying to get at when she instructs the reader to keep moving their pen or brush whenever they are blocked and can’t keep writing, drawing, or painting. Why not just enjoy the movement of your pen, pencil, or paintbrush and see what happens? This is scary because it requires a letting go of sorts and a trusting of the self that thinking does not allow. That’s why I love what Barry says on one of her initial journal pages at the end of the book. She says, “The thinking part of you / is not the doing part of you / or the experiencing part of you / The thinking part of you can / tell you that a decision has / been made but it’s not the / part of you which decides things / This is why thinking is not / the same as creating though / The thinking part of us seems / completely unaware of this” (207).
Although one might argue that Barry’s book is illogical or seemingly random, I think that it accomplishes far more than the typical journal. It forces us to question the difference of forms made by images and words, and it allows us to see what can be accomplished by combining them. Furthermore, Barry’s journal inspired me to continue really looking at things, even the most mundane old letters, stamps, and postcards for inspiration in order to shape how I see the world and what I find to be beautiful, ugly, upsetting, and exciting. I suppose in this way, I have already been keeping a journal similar to Barry’s, yet not quite as structured.
For example, over the summer, I received a lot of mail at my job, and I never saw so much interesting postage! I began to tear off the upper right hand corner of every envelope I received, and I collected them in my journal. I’m not quite sure why I initially did this, but I thought each stamp was so strange and unique, and it just made me happy to look at them in between my words as I flipped through the pages. These stamps were able to give form to a certain aspect of my summer that I didn’t think could be expressed any better in words, and in fact, I thought was better left alone. Perhaps this is why Barry’s seemingly random use of artifacts from others’ lives and its manipulation of those artifacts in order to make a page more interesting and beautiful is what I appreciate about it the most....more