I am not one of those people that likes to sit and pour my ooey, gooey emotions onto paper. Or, at least not with text. I hand letter, sure, but the majority of my “journaling” is visual. Take, for example, one of my favorite projects: my Scientific American topic journal. This little gem was published in the early 1970s, and contains information about the cosmic background radiation, black holes, and the very origin of the universe. Big stuff. The beauty is that most of the articles were pure speculation. At the time of publication, scientists weren’t even sure how to go about setting up the equations correctly, let alone creating experiments to test their hypotheses.
What I have done, though, is to expand upon the ideas by inserting my own artwork, articles from current scientific journals, and mixed media pieces that pick up where the past left off. Its part art gallery, part historiography, part crystal ball. It requires focus; have you ever tried to follow an M.C. Escher painting half assed? I have. It’s hard. But, it also allows for wild creativity. What is more inspiring and mystifying than space and our big, wide universe?
Don’t for one minute think that a topic journal is any less personal than other formats. Understanding why you are interested in something, or simply pursuing more information about your interest, is a way to know yourself better. I’ve also found that, for me anyway, space is not negative or positive, it is not something I have to be in the mood to pull open. So no matter my mood or the situation, this neutral project is something I can spend time on.
So, how do you start one? Easy. Go to your public library. No, seriously. Maybe you want to know more about something that scares you (like, I don’t know, tornadoes), or maybe you want to know more about a period in history. Either way, most public libraries have book sales or magazine exchanges, which can be excellent places to find topics. That’s actually where I found mine, so believe me, it’s worth a try. What your journal looks like is up to you. The first and hardest thing is probably narrowing your subject for your first journal.
Topic journals can be a form of coping with life situations, illness, trauma, and a whole host of things. Right after my diagnosis, which was a whopping 6 or so years ago, I tried to learn everything I could about decompression surgery, treatment options, and what I could expect as I get older. But, it never occurred to me to start a journal to collect what I found. In fact, the next journal I start will be part symptom tracker, part medical records, and part textbook. Use a topic journal to become your own advocate, whether it’s patient rights, deforestation, going vegan – think of a topic journal as a speech. If you could give a speech about a topic, you can create a topic journal out of it.
I’d love to see what you come up with! Share your ideas in the comments below!