journal project notes

Notes taken from conversations with early participants in The Journal Project, as well as my own reflections on participation.

week of 18 August 2008

♠ Y.1 mentioned a few days into the project that he was having a hard time getting his thoughts down in handwritten mode, having become so used to typing. He’s going to paste his typed entries into his journal.

Got me thinking about my own approach and reaction to the handwritten method. Even though I opted for the erasable pens (which hopefully won’t fade as much on that stock as they have on my cheaper journal, oy), I still felt the limitations of trying to express myself that way. Definitely not as articulate, and I’d even say not as accurate. Sometimes you think you see something a certain way, but once you put it on paper (or say it out loud) you realize it’s not quite right. So you revise; you explore and discover your thoughts as you work them over. Which isn’t really possible in the medium of a bound, handwritten journal – so maybe it wasn’t the best medium to use? But circulating a word document just seems so … cold. There’s something about the object of the journal itself that carries inherent meaning.

♠ Z.1 mentioned, as he was nearing his last day with his journal, that he was only just getting into the groove of it and wished he was able to keep it for two weeks. I told him I’d originally planned to do two weeks, but after discussing it with Y.1 and then being unable to find journals with more pages in them I decided to go with one week. I was afraid that if people wrote for two weeks the books would fill up too quickly and not pass through enough hands to make for an interesting experiment. Z.1 also said that most people – himself included – would probably be a bit sick of the project by the end of two weeks. So maybe one week is ideal; I like the idea of people having to part with their books just as they’re beginning to feel a connection – just as things are getting interesting. Z.1 also said one week was better just because it’s tidier – “people think in weeks.”

♠ Who to give the journal to? I’ve discussed this with both of them, and said to Y.1 this morning that we’re all standing on the precipice of the project’s next phase, as none of us have made the hand-off yet. It’s not real until they leave our hands; we haven’t taken any risks. Z.1 seems pretty comfortable with his decision, which as far as I know is still Z.2. Y.1, like me, hasn’t made his final decision yet. He’s considering a random xxxx girl down the hall at xxxx who he only knows in passing (I wonder, of course: Is he attracted to her?); also YX and YY. Has already discounted YZ because he’s written negative things about her. Same reason I’ve discounted my entire family, or anyone who would possibly hand it off to one of my family members. Which puts me on the fence about XX; I doubt she’d do that, but there’s always the possibility. The other major candidate is, of course, X.2, but I worry that it could be a mistake. Do I want him to see those parts of me? And who will he pass it off to?

♠ Back to this whole risk thing. Was talking to Z.1 again about the hand-off, and he basically said he’s comfortable with his decision because he was “fairly guarded” in what he wrote. Whereas Y.1, from what he’s said, has taken a more open approach – like I have. And I was thinking on the bus over to Y.1’a after talking with Z.1: my life and my art have never been so intertwined. There’s real risk and real consequences to this project for me. What if I had decided to send the book to mom? Or XC? Who knows what irrevocable chain of events that could have launched, that would forever alter my relationship with my family? (Or, it could have had zero effect.) In the other extreme I could have sent the book to someone I love but who isn’t implicated in either my writings or the general course of my life right now, like XX or XD or XE. They might be pleased or touched to be included, but what they read wouldn’t have any impact on the dynamic between us. Whereas X.2—and I did just email him tonight and ask if he’d participate—I guess he’s a calculated risk. I want to get to know him better, and this project presents an interesting way to invite him to get to know me better. But of course, look at what I’m giving him. The Clif Notes to the worst of me, basically.

So why did I do it? Because I want to be myself, and I want to be accepted for that. If I’m going to enter into a new relationship with somebody, whether it’s a friendship or something more, I want them to know upfront that I am flawed, and decide before I get too close whether they can accept those flaws.

♠ I wonder, will the approach taken by each journal’s original author influence the overall nature of their respective books? Cards close to the chest versus on the table, text versus drawings, pasted ephemera, personal reflection versus log of actions, critical of self versus critical of others, etc.

♠ Interesting that a complete gender reversal seems likely in the first round of hand-offs, unless Y.1 ends up giving his to YX. Also interesting that we’re giving them to people we’re attracted to (assuming that’s the case with Y.1’s xxxx girl, which it may not be). I know my motivations; I wonder what Z.1’s are. Can’t guess if Y.1 even has any aside from eliminating people he’s written bad things about and wanting to give his book to somebody who will make the project interesting.

30 August 2008

♠ Y.1 gave his journal to Y.2. He said she was really enthusiastic about the project, wanted to take a full-on approach to it, and has a social circle that has the potential to send the journal off into a really interesting direction. He also has faith that she’ll take the project seriously and pass it on to somebody who’s equally likely to keep it going. I’m so happy about his decision and I really hope his journal makes it back. It could end up being the most interesting of the three. Y.1 also confirmed that he’s attracted to the xxxx woman he wanted to give the book to, but would rather keep it a fantasy than approach her and chance being disappointed by the result.

♠ Z.1 and I gave our journals to Z.2 and X.2 last night. Z.2 said she’s going to do her week before reading Z.1’s entries because she doesn’t want to be influenced by his approach; wants to do her own thing. Z.1 said this was interesting in light of the fact that Z.3 specifically asked to be given the journal after a couple of people had already done it, so she could get a sense of how others were approaching the project.

♠ Z.2 also asked if she could decorate the journal, and indicated the cover as she spoke. I told her absolutely, the journal was hers for the week she had it and she could do anything she wanted. I mentioned I’d chosen blank pages specifically for this reason, as well, but that it hadn’t even occurred to me that people would think of decorating the cover.

♠ Z.1 talked about how restrained he was in his approach, and we all had a brief conversation about this, with X.2 remarking that he’d rather be thought of as crazy than boring. (I said I was worried that I come off like a crazy bitch in mine.)

September 2008

♠ X.2 talked about having the same feeling as Z.2, that he didn’t give the project his best shot. He also said he took into consideration who was most likely to continue the project, when deciding who to pass the journal on to.

♠ Either Z.3 or Z.2 mentioned the possibility of somebody getting a journal twice. X.2 brought up the possibilty of somebody getting a *different* journal the second time.

♠ X.2 said that participants toward the end of the project probably won’t read all of the previous entries. I said the journals could end up resembling a book of short stories in that regard—something you can read on the tram—flip through and pick a story at random. Of course, by doing this one would miss any subtle (or not-so-subtle) narrative connections between participants, which doesn’t necessarily detract from the project, but does exist as a characteristic.

10 November 2008

♠ Hanging out at X.3’s for the first time yesterday, with X.2. Really nice to finally get to know him a little more, and an appealing insight into X.2 vis a vis the people he considers to be his friends. In the bathroom pondering how inspiring it is to be around other creative people, but also thinking about how my own work feels kind of invisible because it’s often so intangible. Starting thinking about the journals. Remembered with a jolt that my journal had passed through X.3’s hands via X.2. Suddenly felt unbelievably exposed and shy about going back out to join them—also vainly curious about X.3’s thoughts on what he had read. Decided not to mention it until I know him better; maybe someday I’ll ask. (Mentioned all this to X.2 later in the day and he said X.3 had characterized both of our stuff as “really heavy.”)