Saturday, March 13, 2010

Journaling First

Ok, here is another layout that I recently did for my DYL class. The challenge this time was to use black and white photos, and a color scheme based on our favorite color. Last time, I wrote about how DYL has forced me to learn a ton of cool things (like printing photos in smaller sizes) that I otherwise probably would not have taken the time to learn. Well, here we go again. The photos on this layout were originally taken in color, and I frankly had NO IDEA how to convert them to black and white. I frequently take black and white photos with my camera, but up to this point, I had never converted color photos. But, in this case, I didn't feel like taking a bunch of new black and white photos just for this assignment, so I opened up a Corel photo editing program that I have on my computer and have rarely used. At first, I couldn't figure anything out, but after exploring for a little bit, I was able to convert my photos to black and white and I even saved them as new files, so I've still got the color versions to play with at another time. So, once again, yay for DYL, for "forcing" me to learn something new!

I've always liked black and white photos, but I find it interesting that they aren't as easy to scrapbook with as you'd think. Since ANY color combo is open to you when you're using black and white, the possibilities almost become overwhelming (for me, anyway). What I realized in doing this layout was that ... I have no favorite color. I'm not kidding. I really don't. I have quite a few colors that I like, but I don't have a single "favorite." So I ended up choosing colors for this layout by finding a scrap of patterned paper that I wanted to use, and working from there. We were experimenting with color combinations based on the color wheel for this assignment, so that's how I ended up with the purple and yellow color scheme.

But, the REAL reason I wanted to post this layout wasn't because I wanted to talk about color schemes. It was because I wanted to talk a little bit about journaling, and my process for doing it. I know that a lot of people have trouble with journaling, or don't like to do it, but for me, it's always been one of my strong suits. I was once told that I could probably write a page of journaling about an empty Coke can. That comment was said in jest, but it still stung a little bit. However, it's probably true. I can find a lot to say about pretty much anything!

On this layout in particular, I feel like I really scored with the journaling. These photos are just shots I took of my older son with his girlfriend before they went out to dinner on Valentine's Day. There wasn't any "event" associated with these photos other than that. So when I sat down at the computer to think about what I wanted to journal with respect to these photos, the kinds of things that I'd call "typical journaling thoughts" started entering my head: "Brandon and Liz look so cute together!" or "Brandon and Liz had a great time when they went out to dinner on Valentine's Day." You know the drill. Or maybe I should say, you know the drivel. It's so easy to get caught up in "surface" thoughts like that, and to end up with meaningless journaling on layouts.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm NOT saying that every layout has to have meaningful journaling, or even that every layout has to have some journaling on it. But, the thing is, when you do want to tell a story, it's nice to be able to come up with something better than "Everyone had a wonderful time!" So I will share with you the tip that I think probably helps me in the journaling department more than about anything else: journal first. Yep, it's as simple as that. Journal first. I implement that "tip" like this. When I get my photos back from the place that I have them printed (I typically print large batches every few months), I spend an afternoon deciding which photos I want to scrapbook, and organizing them roughly into layouts. Each group of photos goes into an acid-free envelope, on which I note the subject of the photos, the date they were taken (approximately), and what album the layout will go in. At the end of the afternoon, I may have 10 or 12 or more "packets" of photos. I file the envelopes in chronological order in photo boxes, and I have a separate box for each album or type of album that I keep. Then, when I feel like journaling, or I feel like doing something scrappy but I don't feel like actually scrapbooking, I'll pull out a few packets of photos and head off to my computer.

At the computer, I open my word processing program, pull the photos out of their envelope, fan them out in front of me, and simply think for a few minutes. In deciding what to write, I try to get past the "Everyone had a wonderful time!" stage of thought, and go a little deeper. Usually, it takes nothing more than really looking at the photos for a couple of minutes. I've found that if I follow my train of thought, it will usually take me somewhere interesting. For example, with the Brandon and Liz photos, my eye kept being drawn to the two photos that are more playful than the others, the ones where Liz, especially, is goofing around. I remembered how surprised I was that she seemed so relaxed and casual during the photo session, when she had barely been around me at all. I liked that -- it said something to me about the kind of person that she is. Then I started thinking about how the two of them talk to each other, and it occurred to me that their relationship was very different than the one Brandon had with his last girlfriend, a young lady who was sweet and intelligent, but extremely high drama and high maintenance. Then I remembered Brandon telling me, before he and Liz had gotten romantically involved, what a good friend she was and how they were so much alike that he felt like they were the same person. And all of a sudden, it was easy to find the "no-drama relationship" focus for writing about the photos -- the words practically wrote themselves. And I can tell you that I like the layout a lot more than I would have if I had stopped with the "typical" journaling thoughts.

So what does journaling first have to do with journaling well? In the first place, there's no pressure to come up with anything in particular -- you are just letting your mind go. Somehow, when you have an almost-completed layout in front of you, the idea that you "have to" journal something meaningful can become crippling, leading to decidedly UN-meaningful journaling. When it's just you and your photos, the words are free to come out however they come out. Many times, the journaling I end up with is very different than what I thought I might write, and frequently, it steers the entire concept for the underlying layout. The other reason that journaling first produces better journaling is that you can write as much -- or as little -- as you want. You may get on a roll and find that you really have a lot that you want to say. When you're not trying to fill a pre-set journaling space on a layout, your focus will become the story, instead of filling up that box.

And finally, the other really great thing about journaling first is that you can print out your journaling (save it in case you want to change type size or font later) and tuck it right in with your photos (or other page elements if you are the type to make page kits). Then, when you sit down to work on a layout for those photos, your journaling is done and you know that you have everything you need to complete that layout. That's why I make an extra-special effort to have journaling completed for every planned layout that I hope to get done when I go to an all-day crop. Trust me, it's a great feeling to come home from a crop and have COMPLETED pages, right down to the journaling, ready to pop into albums or show your kids.

Go ahead, give it a try. Journal first, and see if it doesn't help you produce journaling that you're much happier with.

1 comment:

  1. I actually love to journal as well. This is a wonderful layout!