On March 14th, when my state went into lockdown because of COVID-19, I began keeping a daily creative art journal. For me, this is a way to document the little things that happen in a day — mixing bits of paper from mail and magazines with stickers, decorative tape, paint, markers, words and photographs. Flipping back through my creative daily journal over the past few months, it’s interesting to see how different life has become in just a short period of time — obviously the changes from pre-pandemic are there — but also the shifts from when the pandemic first began to now: like when there was no toilet paper in any of the stores, or the day that my partner and I first began wearing masks!
For the last decade, I have facilitated writing workshops with LGBTQ+ people at youth centers, GSA’s, and at colleges and conferences. As LGBTQ+ people, we don’t always experience affirmations or see representation of our lives, families, community, and sometimes that means we need to create those stories for ourselves. There is a rich history of this with LGBTQ+ writing/publishing, theater, art, etc., and documenting your daily life as an LGBTQ+ person can be part of that! You can choose to keep your art journal private, or share pictures of select pages online places like Instagram and connect with others who are documenting their daily lives in similar ways. In this time of uncertainty in our world, it can feel counterintuitive to want to document what has been such a challenging time for so many.
Each morning, I turn to a new clean page in my creative journal and document the day as I go along. Sometimes that’s something heavy like the wildfires currently burning out of control in my state, but often it’s also the fun, silly, beautiful moments in the day that I try to document. Little moments that might not make it into a social media post, like the joke a friend told me, or the best takeout sandwich I’ve had in months. Anything can be documented like lyrics from a song you like, or print out a meme from the internet can find a home in your creative daily journal.
Although I’ve been an avid keeper of a writing-based journal for years, something about the format of the creative journal has really resonated with me during these challenging times. There is a reason that people throughout history have kept daily diaries or journals. The act of journaling can give you a space to reflect on your emotions, experiences, and relationships. Journals can support you with keeping your thoughts organized, and help with setting and achieving goals for your life. Journaling is a way to remember important things, and in some cases has even been shown to support relieving symptoms of stress and anxiety. While there are lots of benefits to journaling, I think the most important one is that journaling, and especially creative art journaling can quite simply be a lot of fun.
My favorite part of daily creative journaling is that it’s free. Sure, there are tons of fun stationary, stickers and other art supplies that you can purchase but you don’t have to have any of that stuff. To get started you don’t have to spend a penny, and can just use supplies you have around the house. For the notebook itself you can use virtually anything — a spiral notebook or a composition notebook which are less than $1. You can even make a journal of your own just take sheets of paper, any size, fold them in half and staple them together in the middle — instant art journaling notebook! The decorations you include don’t also have to cost you anything. You can harvest images from the package of the snack you just had, the junk mail that arrived this week, stickers from the dollar store, a headline from the newspaper, magazine photos, or text from a free newspaper you can pick up at the grocery store.
The goal with creative daily journaling is to use whatever you find that helps to paint a picture about your day that you might be able to repurpose into your art journal. Use colors that make you feel happy — you don’t need expensive art supplies — those bits of broken crayons, old markers, or kids watercolor sets you have stashed in the back of your desk all can be repurposed in your creative daily journal entries.
Even though as an author, I spend all day writing, I find creative art journaling extremely freeing and rejuvenating. My daily creative practice involves leaving my creative journal open on the edge of my desk so I can add details in as the day goes on.
So here I’m talking about how it’s National Teddy Bear Day (who knew that was even a thing?!), alongside the reality of the forest fires that are currently impacting my area, a picture from walking my dog, and some ruminations on it being the 19th anniversary of the day that as a queer teenager I ran away from home, and the pasta that my partner and I cooked for dinner. Do those things go together? No not really, except it’s what my day looks like! Assuming you live in a safe place and no one is going to read your art journal without your permission, try to be as honest as possible. This notebook is just for you, it won’t be graded on neatness or critique for not being creative enough. This is your space to document what it’s like to be you, and there’s no wrong way to do that! At a time when there is so much uncertainty, and so many people are feeling alone, your art journal can’t take the place of friends and community, BUT the process can help give you an outlet for processing those feelings of isolation.
About the Author:
Sassafras Lowrey’s novels and nonfiction books have been honored by organizations ranging from the American Library Association to the Lambda Literary Foundation and the Dog Writers Association of America. Sassafras’ work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired and numerous other newspapers and magazines. Sassafras has taught queer writing courses and workshops at LitReactor, the NYC Center For Fiction and at colleges, conferences, and LGBTQ youth centers across the country. www.SassafrasLowrey.com