Category Archives: Reflection

In Defense of the Humble Pilot G2

I’ve railed against the Pilot G2 in the past. It blobs. It skips. It smears. It isn’t waterproof nor is it lightfast. It is everything I don’t like in a pen that I draw or sketch with, in fact it is horrible for either of the 2 purposes in which I usually use a pen. I’ve never understood the popularity of the Pilot G2, until I began my current DayJob*.

The DayJob require black or blue ink, and black ink on particular documents as some sort of herald to professionalism and for perceived legal reasons. I’ve blown through an astonishing number of black gel ink pens in the last 6 months in a search for the best of the best. What really blows my mind is how fast some of the gel pens were consumed. One of these days I must log the number of pages I’ve written/signed/filled out with each pen. I’ve used Papermate Gel InkJoy, Zebra Sarasa, Uniball Jetstream, Uniball Signo, Staples 0.5 Stick Gel pens, and the Pilot G2. All with black ink.

I loved all of them.

The DayJob uses the finest cheapest of all the available Staples recycled papers. It is as absorbent as a Brawny paper towel. In fact I’ve used it to mop up spilled coffee in the past. The InkJoy glides over the page like butter on a hot griddle. The Sarasa writes and writes without skipping or blobbing. The Uniball pens performed flawlessly, writing page after page without skipping or blobs- silk smooth on the page.

The Pilot G2 has surprised me and has become my go to gel pen for this cheap absorbent paper. Unlike all the other pens I’ve used it doesn’t absorb into the paper, it sits on the surface of the cheap paper. The pen still glides smoothly, less smoothly than the InkJoy or the Sarasa, but still smooth enough to be enjoyable. What really sold me on the G2 is it’s longevity when compared to the other gel ink pens. Most of the other pens lasted roughly a week to two weeks. The G2 in heavy use lasted three plus weeks.** Given the amount that I write in my job, that is a huge amount of time. It’s also nearly double the time of most of the other pens used.

I cannot believe that I’m going to write this, the Pilot G2 is the superior gel ink pen if you are writing on super cheap absorbent paper. It’s not quite as smooth as the others mentioned here but it writes for much much longer. This is enough for me to purchase a package of my own 

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NaNoWriMo 2016

This year I participated, and won NaNoWriMo. If you don’t know about Nano, the idea is that people sit down during November and write 50,000 words. That’s 1667 words per day, every day, for 30 days. Phew.Early

I’ve tried to do Nano many times and always failed. I had excuses- too busy with work, the holidays, travel for the holidays, work around the holidays included 12 and 16 hours shifts. All of that is true, and it makes it really really hard to sit down and write, let alone creatively write on any of those days. In fact, sometimes all I wanted after those hard and horrible work days was to plunk my butt down in front of the TV and vegetate. Frankly, in the past that is what I did.img_20161129_185013

So what was different this year? Well first I decided to write everything by hand- pencil, pen and paper. Second, I don’t have the same job I used to have- my schedule is still chaotic but I carved out time every day to write. Third, On days I had more time, I wrote more. I padded my numbers when I could. I had several days where I wrote between 2000 and 3000 words.  Finally, I decided I was going to win.img_20161120_174950

Let’s address these points one by one, writing by hand is not easy but it offers a tactile experience which I think I crave when drafting a piece of writing. I’ve almost always written drafts of my blog posts, papers, and other writing with pencil, pen, and paper. This is what feels natural and works for me. Even this post has the bones of it written in my pocket notebook. Not the full post, but the ideas I’m hitting, pencil and pocket notebook. After I get the idea drafted I then type it up, mostly without looking at the paper draft. Occasionally I’ll reference it as I write, but especially for shorter pieces like this, I find no need to refer back to the notebook. I’m sure that if and when I type the novel, I’ll be referring to the notebook more often. Or I’ll go through and make an outline of the major chapters and events and work off that.

The work schedule is still chaotic, but it’s much more of a managed chaos. Further my commute home is not panic inducing- I don’t have to be on a congested highway, often I can drive through beautiful rural scenery, so it’s actually relaxing. Oddly enough, my schedule this year included a lot of travel in November for family events and killed those days for writing. I also had to work extended hours the week of turkey day to meet my hourly requirements. So my actual work days were all over the place and the hours worked extended more so than in October. Nothing like the 12 to 16 hours days I worked 10 years ago, but not far from it. Combine the more regular hours with a shorter commute and I suddenly have an extra hour a day.img_20161116_231854

When I had time I wrote more. If I found I had a spare 10 or 15 minutes, I scrawled down 100 words, or even a sentence. 10 to 15 minutes here and there add up to an hour over the course of a day. I had several days where I wrote 2000 to 3000 words and a few days where I wrote more than 3000 words. This was key to success. I had 2 days where I was sick and literally got down only 180 words each of those days. Also on the days where I was traveling, I had only 900 words or so. Being able to write more on days where I had the time was crucial.

Last, I decided I was going to win. In years past I had already decided before I had failed that I was going to fail. I am horrible at month long daily challenges. I failed at NaNoJoMo (November is National Journaling Month) and every other monthly challenge I’ve tried. This isn’t hyperbole, I cannot commit to doing something everyday. I just can’t. You might say, “But, Less, you JUST did!” The thing is I didn’t. I setup my Nano so that I wouldn’t have to write every day. I made sure I had WAY more words in the beginning to give myself extra words so that I wouldn’t have to write on days if I didn’t feel like it. And on those days (2 of them) I wrote exactly one page. I forced myself to do so, even though I hated it whole I did it, and grumbled the whole time. But I decided that I would win and DAMN IT I was gonna win.

So what did I learn from this experience? First off, I CAN write 50,000 words in a month. Writing 50,000 words in a month is hard damn work. Not only is it hard work, but it’s physically demanding work. I wrote over 3000 words 2 days in a row and then had to fill out several 10 page assessments at work, my wrist is still in pain, in fact I had to do several smaller days and take frequent breaks after that, simply to rest my wrist. Because carpal tunnel and inflamed shit in your wrists and hands hurts like whoa! Especially WHOA when you are writing more than usual.  I learned that I cannot do 2000- 3000 words a day on the regular, but I can do less than a 1000.

The experience has shown me that despite my misgivings I CAN do a daily challenge so long as I pad my results so I can take days where I work less than others. I write a lot pretty regularly. Generally I write quite a bit for the blog, and discard it, at one point I was probably producing 1500 words a day for this blog, and never publishing them. I have FILES AND FILES of blogs posts that never developed past an idea. I’ve got notebooks full of idea seeds that never germinated. But this month I pushed out a 50,040 word draft that can use another 100,000 words to complete and be a finished novel. Frankly thought what I’ve written thus far needs a lot of work, it is a first draft of something that COULD be more. That is huge for my writterly self esteem.

Frankly I think when you boil the experience of NaNoWriMo down to it’s core, it’s all about gaining self esteem as a writer. Sure it’s been said (over and over) that to write a good book you need to write a lot, everyday and fail at writing until finally you figure out what you are doing. And by gosh, I think I’m getting it now. Maybe I have a long ways to go before I’m not just a blogging hack, but hey, I’m on that road now.

SSS: Writing as a Way of Healing

Writing as a Way of Healing by Louse  DeSalvo, was required reading in my bibliotherapy class, and it’s well worth the piddly amount I spent to buy it and the amount of time I spent reading. (Seriously the ‘Zon has it for a mere 70 cents right now.) It focuses on writing, and specifically the Pennebaker Paradigm* (PP.) The basic idea with the PP is that you write for a set period of time about something that bothers you. You do the same thing for a day or two, telling a story- with a beginning, middle, and end; and eventually you find some relief from your depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc…  There’s a been a great deal of research into the PP, and I won’t bore you with the details but the gist of it is that if you can tell a coherent story about the thing that bothers you (that beginning, middle and end are important) you start to feel better. The PP is used to back up a great deal of the support out there for journaling as a healing tool.writinghealing

The chapter I chose to look closely at for this SSS was Chapter 3, “Writing as a Therapeutic Process.” It’s a good one to look at because it delves quite deeply into the desire to write and how damaging it is to not write if you really feel the need to do so. This, also applies to making art. If someone really feels a great drive to make art but they leave behind “childish things” in favor of work and other adult pursuits, they are leaving their creative self unfulfilled. A journal maybe a tiny drop in the bucket of creativity, but it is a necessary outlet, no matter if it is written or art based. One of the most interesting bits in this chapter is the various accounts from writers who used writing as a way to heal themselves.

Sadly, this chapter also flogs the age old untruth that “creativity comes from pain.” Yes, many people who have experienced some sort of traumatic event or pain in their life are creative people but also there are many people who are creative who have not experienced trauma. It really does a disservice to the community of creatives to portray us all as “broken” people who create out of desperate need. Perhaps this is an unfair critique of a book where the entire premise is based on “writing as healing” but frankly, it’s tiring to read the lame trope that artists are damaged. Yes, pain can bring about wonderful creative works, but pain does not beget creativity. Rather, creativity is a salve for wounds. This, I think, is what DeSalvo is attempting to get at by writing about pain and creativity, but sadly misses the mark with the blanket statements about creativity and pain.

The rest of the book is well worth the effort to read and delve into, though it is about novel writing, much of it’s contents also relate to visual journaling. Telling a story is telling a story regardless of how the story is told- through images or words or some combination of the two.

Next week, I’m going to review an old favorite, How to Make a Journal of Your Life, by Dan Price.

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SSS: Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

Wabi-sabi is a confusing concept, especially for us Americans who tend to strive for more and better and more. This isn’t to suggest that we shouldn’t strive for better or what we need, but part of the concept of wabi-sabi is acceptance for what we have. Further it is in part accepting that nothing is perfect, that life is impermanent, and that there is beauty in not only the cracks but the differences. This is where I think wabi-sabi deserves a place in every art journaler’s list of things to read.wabi Sabi

I’ve noticed an uptick in people posting really polished pages out of their art journal to AJNing, the original as well as other places on the internet. In fact I’d say YouTube is rife with beautiful polished pages. What I’ve always found interesting about art journaling, and journaling* in general, is that the journal is a tool, and the most interesting journals I’ve seen are those that involve the struggle and document the work. This struggle is where the concept of wabi-sabi overlaps with journaling and where I think many journalers need to consider accepting their pages and journals as they work on them.

Acceptance seems to be a large part of wabi-sabi, it’s also a key component of mindfulness. Wabi-Sabi takes that acceptance a step further and not only do you seek to accept things in their imperfection, but you strive to see the beauty inherent in their imperfection and unique individuality. This is the part of wabi-sabi that is most important to a journaling practice, being able to accept the imperfection that you have created on the page, and allowing yourself to see that this is a reflection of the self.

Anyway, I chose to look a little more closely at this book because like next week’s SSS, Writing as a Way of Healing, it deeply speaks to my journaling practice and has influenced my thinking of acceptance of both myself and my art.
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SSS: A Natural History of the Senses

I first read A Natural HIstory of the Senses (ANHotS) way back in 1992, only 2 short years after it’s release, and when I was the impressionable age of 16. It blew my fragile little mind. I’d never read anything quite like this book, and I’d certainly never read much about the human senses, particularly not in the way Ackerman writes about them. This is one of the few books that after reading a few passages I was moved to purchase my own copy. I read that copy repeatedly while I was still in high school and took it with me to college, where I would read and reread passages when I felt that they applied to my life. I shared it with friends over coffee, and discussed it at length. Not only did this book move me, it influenced my thinking over the years. After college I stopped referring to it as often as I once had and in the intervening years I’ve had the pleasure to explore many of her concepts. But after nearly 20 years of not looking at the book, I purchased a new copy (it’s wicked cheap on Amazon) and when I pulled the quote for my paper, the text fell flat to me. It simply didn’t resonate in the same way it once did. It came up during a recent discussion and I felt it was time to give it another once over, now that I’m outside of the rigors of academia I feel like I can give the text a slightly more fair reading. ANHotS

One of the frequent criticisms that I’ve read concerning Ackerman’s writing is that it’s very flowery. I think this is a very fair assessment, Ackerman is a poet, and her prose does lean toward the violet spectrum. That said, her style of writing, though flowery, is easy to read and flows in a beautiful manner. Part of the reason this book resonated so deeply with me is that a friend of mine and I read it aloud to one another. This book would likely be one that I could attend to on tape or via audible. Ackerman’s prose in inherently readable. 

Since publication in 1990, some of Ackerman’s thoughts and thinking have been disproven- through science and experience. In the section I was utilizing for my paper in school, one of the ideas had been disproven (don’t ask me to remember which/what it was, I’ve been wracking my brain, only to not remember.) I suspect this is why, when I was deep in the academic world, the book was disappointing and resonated with me less than it had in the past. Though some of what she surmised has been disproven much of what she guessed at or thought, has been proven. There is a great deal of truth in these pages. I think this is what caused me to enjoy the book less as I read it when in school.

Now that I’ve been out of school, and I’m not in the “peer reviewed only” article mode of thought, I’ve been able to delve deeper into the book and actually reread it from start to finish (As of this posting I’ve a little more than 75% through the book.) I find I’m rediscovering what it is I enjoyed about this book. It’s that nerdy in depth analysis of a topic of interest in a completely sincere manner. Ackerman delves deep into her topics, writes in violet prose, and yet the book is delightfully readable. One of the reasons I adored this book at 16 is that a friend of mine and I read passages of it aloud to one another. Ackerman’s writing begs to be read aloud. (Note to self: Check to see if the library has an audio copy of this book.) Yes the writing is flowery, and on occasion approaching too much, but at the same time, how deep on a topic can one go when really truly passionate about it?

Next week I’ll be looking at Wabi-Sabi, a slim little volume that is easily read in a few hours, but will leave you thinking for days, months, and perhaps years. I think the ideas in WAbi-Sabi particularly relate to the use of an art journal. But I’ll get into that next Sunday. Continue reading

SSS: Art Heals

Art Heals by Shaun McNiff was my “filler quote” book in graduate school. It is a collection of his writings on art therapy. If you are able to filter through the copious amounts of woo woo and heaps of frou frou* there is a great deal of good stuff within the covers. I chose chapter 7, Aesthetic Meditation for my focus this week. It hinges nicely with a new class I’m developing that uses what McNiff describes as “creating a dialog with the image.”** In the McNiff (and other expressive art therapists who use the studio art approach) approach one looks at their own art, and talks to it, creating a conversation with the image, and allowing themselves to create a story about around and from the image. art healsWhat is aesthetic mediation? In short it is a way of looking at art and more expansively at the world around you in a mindful meditative manner. When engaged in this sort of viewing you are engaging all of your senses and making yourself almost hyper aware of what you are looking at. In addition to really deeply looking you also make yourself aware of all of your senses and focus on what you notice. You are immersed in the object.

This is not an easy state to be in, McNiff likens it to sitting meditation, which is a practice one develops over time. One simply doesn’t sit down and begins meditation for an hour*** they work their way up to it.

Further what McNiff explains in this chapter is that we can use our finished images to contemplate and relax ourselves. How many of us have opened up the pages of our art journals, caressed the lumpy bumpy pages and remembered that sense of release as we created the page? I know I have, over and over and over again. Not only are my art journals a place to release pent up feelings but they are also a place to return and contemplate my day and relax myself.

While many of McNIff’s articles are written with the therapist in mind, many in this book are not. If you are an art therapy student this is a great book for filling out those papers where you need a few extra lines to get  you up to the page requirement. He’s got a quote or thought for every art therapy need.

Next week I’m going to reflect on the book “Wabi-Sabi” by Leonard Koren.

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SSS: Rising Strong, Brene Brown

Brown is best known for her TED talk on vulnerability, which is very very good. I’ve now read all 3 of her books, and if I’m going to compare the 3, Rising Strong is my least favorite. That said, I picked it because it links in really well with what I’ve been working on with folks in therapy groups lately- that as people have begun to recover from their mental health problem- depression, substance abuse, anxiety or some other problem and the question of how to cope with the change between illness and wellness is occasionally overwhelming.BrownRS

What Brown does in RS is explore how as a culture we sanitize our stories of healing- “I fell down, but I got up again, and I’m okay.” When the real story is, “I fell down, skinned my knee, got bloody and bruised, rolled around in the mud for a bit crying, then got up, cleaned up the blood and mud, applied some ointment and band-aids, healed, and not I’m doing okay.” The former is easy to hear, but people get uncomfortable when friends and family talk about the blood, bruises, and ointments used in healing. We don’t tell the necessary stories because they hurt to tell, it’s easier to gloss over that info and move on with out lives. (This is where therapy comes into play, and hopefully if you need to talk about the blood and ointment of the healing process you have a therapist or group where you can share your stories. Of course, there is always your JOURNAL…)

Pages 5- 11 details Brown’s “rising strong” process. Much of this deals with how to heal, how to look at the process, the use of creativity, and honoring the struggle. Page 10 begins my struggle with this book. In her past books, I never notice a mention of any spiritual practice or religion anywhere, however on page 10 Brown states, “Rising strong is a spiritual practice.” In my mind, spiritual is a loaded term, one that implies religion or religiosity. As a therapist I have ethical qualms around bringing spirituality into practice, unless the client does so first. The topic is explored in a non denominational manner and more of a earthy crunchy hippie manner, which makes it much more tolerable. The aspect of spirituality runs through the book- as it is part of the 10 point process of rising strong this is to be expected. Religion is much more closely connected to the process later in the book, and I think detracts from the effectiveness as well as ability to generalize the book in it’s usefulness to more people.*

On page 19, Brown explores the amazingly useful phrase, “The story I’m making up….”  She does this with a personal anecdote, but the story perfectly explains how people miss connections with one another and make up stories in their head to explain the missed connection. This is, I think possibly the most important page in the whole book. It has vast possible uses with clients and in our own lives. If we stop to think to ourselves, “The story I’m making up is…” How would that change how we interact with people? I suspect it has vast consequences for relationships.

I highly recommend Brown’s first 2 books, this one is okay, but not my favorite. It’s worth a read and has many useful passages that can be used in therapy or for self care.

Next week I’ll comment on Danny Gregory’s “Shut Your Monkey.”

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SSS: What it Is, Lynda Barry

With school starting I decided to pick the Barry book “What it Is” as my Secular Sunday Study. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Lynda Barry, she’s an award winning cartoonist and a professor. I want to say “of art” but her class is soooo much more than just art. You can follow her class, and even participate by following her Tumblr or Twitter account. She utilizes social media in a very interesting way. Anyway, everyone should follow her tumblr and buy a BUNCH of her books.

This book in particular is a facsimile of pages of her journals and sketchbooks along with her writings on art, creativity, and the nature of images. The whole package is a delight in both images, Barry’s voice, as well as her writing. If you took this book and wrote and made art around the main topics or questions she’s posed for herself, you could spend years thinking about art and life. BarryPG38I chose to muse on pages 38 and 39. I’ve included a few image of these pages so you can think on them too. I think page 38’s quote, “But paper and ink have conjuring abilities of their own. Arrangements of lines and shapes, of letters and words on a series of pages make a world we can dwell and travel in.” Is there a better description for journaling ever written? As a child I drew and wrote in my journal as way to escape the boring reality of rural life, and liven up my mind with things I thought great. I wrote poetry (bad) and stories (better) and drew. I wrote letters to friends that I never sent and glued them into the pages of my journal. I lived in my journal but I also had impossible adventures. In a way, I continue these adventures to this day by adding more lines, shapes and words to the pages of my journal and envisioning new adventure.
barryPG39The quote I’ve included from page 39, which is too long for me to copy over, includes the phrase that comments on adults dealing with children who are sensitive, “ when these two come together you get a fairy tale, a kind of story with hopelessness in it.” This is just such a wonderful commentary on our (US centrism here) cultural obsession with making kids hard, less sensitive, and =able to deal with the realities of this world. Rather than teach kids that their sensitive emotions are useful, we smash it out of them, make ‘em tough enough, hard enough to make their way in the world. Not realizing that allowing a child/person to be sensitive to the world around them allows them to experience the world in a full and meaningful manner. No one needs to be hard to live, but in fact by learning to feel we can learn to live fully.

I had more musings but I’ll leave it be, ‘cause it’s up to you to read through this book (and you really must) and have your own musings. The final 72 pages are devised as a workbook that works quite nicely with Barry’s book Syllabus or it could be used on it’s own. Either way, it’s a good book. You should get it.

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Open Letter to the AJ Ning Community

Hi Everyone,

Change is inevitable but we are a fortunate group. Ning, the company we use to host Art Journaling has raised it’s prices but we are paid for the next year so we are good on Ning until June 2017.  another group I am a member of cannot afford the price hike and is shuttering at the end of October.

This is the second major price hike, where the group went from free to a reasonable price, to expensive (and why we run a yearly fundraiser) to now absolutely outrageous. The price went from $239/year to $588/year, more than doubling for next year. My frustration with this price hike has much to do with the fact that Ning has made little to no improvements in the years since the last price hike, so we are getting double the cost with zero improvements. Ning made plenty of promises after the last price hike, and lost many groups, particularly those like AJ Ning, but we persevered.
While we have a year to decide the fate of Art Journaling, right now I feel that the best choice is to move the site to a new host and using a new software. I’m leaning toward WordPress social media site but I’m open to other ideas, so long as it is less expensive than $588/year. I do not want to make a HUGE change like this without your input, as always because this is a community site, movement matters little if it is not done without YOUR thoughts, ideas, and feelings taken into account.

Please head to the site and join the group “Movement and Change” to discuss the option and feelings around this potential change.  http://artjournaling.ning.com/group/movement-and-change

I have a  little heart ache over the idea of moving from Ning, but I also feel like together we can make AJ Ning continue to be amazing and a resource for all the new and old art journalers alike. Again, even if you decide not to head over to AJ Ning (I really hope you do) I appreciate all the input, ideas, and art we’ve shared over the years. Please join in on the discussion and share your thoughts.

MUCH LOVE,

Leslie aka ComfortableShoes

Sunday Study

Many of the stationery groups I belong to end up with a great deal of religiously based Sunday Study posts. Most of the time these posts are less evangelising and more about the stationery used in the study. I realized that I’d spent the last 3 years of my life engaging in secular study every day of the week. Now that I’ve graduated I’m missing that aspect of school, I know that is a tad bit nerdy but, frankly I enjoy studying. I began to institute a Sunday Study of my own which I named “Secular Sunday Study.”(SSS)

Each week I pick a book off my shelf, one I’ve read before, and chose a passage to deeply read, chew on, and write about in my journal. I typically pick one paragraph or page to really wrap my mind around. If you think this resembles something out of the church, you’d be right. Many churches/pastors chose a section of the bible and a few passages of the week for the congregation to study. Often this forms the basis for the following week’s service. In my case, I’m using these passages to explore myself, without the direction of a minister or pastor.

Thus far I’ve engaged with the following texts: “Poetry is not a Luxury” Audre Lorde, “How to be an Explorer of the World,” Kerri Smith, and “The Portable Atheist,” Christopher HItchens, and “Everyday Matters” by Danny Gregory. This week I’m engaging in “Privilege, Power and Difference,” by Alan Johnson. I realized in each of these texts that I’m exploring the same overarching topic- a way of looking at the world that is slooowed way down. The Lorde, Smith, and Gregory texts are all about being creative even when the world doesn’t want you to be. They are all about looking at the world, slowly and creatively, and changing your perspective on life. The Lorde, Johnson, and Hitchens texts are academic while the Smith and Gregory books are in the realm of self help.

A little reading this afternoon while waiting for the promised thunder storms. #secularsundaystudy #sundaystudy

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Anyway, I hope to ease back into this blog thing with some monthly posts about SSS. Feel free to join in by posting a pic of a book you’ve enjoyed and are reviewing on a sunday with the hashtag #SecularSundayStudy or #sundayStudy. If you follow any of the linked pictures over to instagram you can follow the project there by following me. You will also get images about my garden, Pokemon Go, and stationery images.

All links in this are Amazon Affiliate links. I get a small amount of change if you purchase through the links and it doesn’t affect your price at all. If you don’t mind making the purchase via my links, I appreciate it very much and it helps to keep the site running.