OK, I'm not advocating that you toss out all the ideas that have been simmering in your head as you gathered (or bound) a journal and materials for International Fake Journal Month 2010, but on the eve of this year's celebration I wanted to point out that sometimes throwing out all your prep is the best thing you can do.
Sometimes, when you get ready for a project that will last this long (or even a short project) you might reach a point where you simply feel odd, feel as if things aren't coming together as you would have liked or hoped, feel that something is missing.
I want to reassure you that this is normal and you can have one of two approaches—you can toss out your prep and just go with the flow tomorrow, or you can stay the course and trust that the time you spent thinking out even a vague plan was well spent.
Neither of these approaches is wrong or right. Only you will know what is right for you when you get up tomorrow, start going about your day, and then at whatever point you've decided you're going to journal, you actually sit down (or stand) and create the first fake journal page in the new journal.
No one else can tell you which course of action will be best for you. And one of the great things about fake journal month is that if you find yourself going through this moment of indecision and second guessing, you can actually learn about yourself. You will learn if it is "real" indecision or simply the nagging of your internal critic. You will begin to see (if you haven't already had experience with this) how the two differ. One—real indecision—is healthy and necessary for every artist who is trying to find her voice, her character, her style. It's something you work through, and frankly, you just have to work through it. The sooner you get to that point and learn what it's like the easier it will be to work through it in the future.
The other aspect, the nagging of your internal critic, is of course, not healthy. By hearing it loud and clear at this juncture you can better equip yourself to turn it off, both now and on other projects.
They may at first seem to be very similar. There is a key difference—real indecision is something that you can and should work through as an artist. It is a final examination of your plan, your goals, your vision of the project, before you launch it. It's like a pre-flight checklist. Go through the points on your list one more time, not because you are being obsessive, but because you are still "trying out" the feel of aspects of your plans, still listening to hear the voice of your character.
If the stress and second thoughts you seem to be experiencing come instead from your internal critic, everything you come up with will be shot down not in a helpful and specific way, but in a general way of "why am I doing this anyway," "why bother?"
I don't have much trouble with my internal critic. Long ago I found ways to work around him, through him, past him. Mostly with my own sarcastic humor. What I can tell you is that if it is your internal critic popping up, to set you up to stop, then learning to recognize that, and learning to work around it, will benefit you on every future art project you ever do.
And if it is matters of logistics and artistic choices which are gumming you up, well, working through those will also benefit all your future art endeavors.
It really is a win-win situation if you allow it to be.
So this note is just to encourage you to take stock of what is happening and work through it, because keeping a fake journal for International Fake Journal Month is really, really fun. It's not a chore, or a task, or homework, or a exercise regimen. It's an adventure and an exploration. You take yourself and you leave your internal critic behind (and don't even bother to send him any postcards!).
Last year I knew early on who my character was, and the situation she was in gradually emerged. It came out of my love of birds, my use of an Alvin Field book, my response to the recent death of a friend. Bit by bit everything came together in a way that was both challenging and fulfilling for me.
This year, I've been pulled this way and that by all sorts of obligations I would never have expected. But I will not give up my month without a fight. It is one of the two "art vacations" I take during the year (the other is the Minnesota State Fair of course; and I work through both of them so they are vacations only in the sense that a project gets done in a specific time frame). When other events or complications in life start block my view of the project, I look at how I can modify things to still make them work. (I talked about how to focus on your goals in my prep posts.)
It does not surprise me that this year, only a few hours from starting my 2010 fake journal, I'm wishing I had a little more time to think about my approach, my book choice, my media, and most definitely my character.
But I also know that tomorrow everything will be fine. I've done enough prep that even if things go "horribly wrong" I can suck it up for 30 days and make it work. I've had practice with that in life and work outside of the fake journal. The flip side is that if I jettison my prep and go with a new direction I know I'll make it work (within the time constraints I have to work in). I'm realistic about my goals and expectations.
So all that is left is to sit back, wait to start, and then simply jump in and see how it all goes; all while enjoying myself, and challenging myself.
I want to encourage you to do the same. Tomorrow listen to that part of you who knows what will engage and entertain you. Don't listen to anything else. Then open your fake journal and begin.
A Letter to the Fans of Esther Rayde
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