Left: Sketch of me from Anne Bray's 2013 fake journal. I never looked more elegant. Click on this link to go to Anne's fake journal. Thank you Anne for getting me into your journal this year!
It's May 1 and IFJM 2013 is over for most people. If you still have pages in your book, time to spare, and the need to continue by all means keep going. If you started late and want to get a few more entries under your belt before you stop, continue. You get the idea—you get to decide when you stop. Using the month of April for containment is to make things manageable. Do what works for you.
The majority of fake journal keepers will stop today and I would just like to say congratulations for hanging in there and pushing yourself to do something creative each day, in another character. Kudos!
But even if yesterday was your final entry your work isn't over yet.
Take today off. Relax. Reacquaint yourself with the book you were reading and had to put aside so you had some spare time for IFJM. Or do a few pages in your regular journal knowing that you don't have to switch gears at any time today. Or watch a couple of those shows ganging up on the DVR while you've been in character. Definitely get out for a walk (even if it's raining like it is here—hey we did have 5 days of spring!). Do a little completion dance. Take a deep breath.
Tomorrow take a moment to page through your fake journal. Look at what you've accomplished. Jot down what your goals and plans were for the project (a sentence about both is fine). Now ask yourself whether those goals were met. If so, how; if not why not. Don't judge your answers, just write them down.
You want to do this tomorrow while everything is still fresh in your mind, but when you've been a day out of the stream of creating in someone else's voice.
I like to write my comments down on a slip of paper and attach them in the back of my fake journal (or if there is an envelope in the back, put them inside). Sometimes I write this quick review in my regular journal. After that journal is filled and paged and indexed I go back to the fake journal and write in the page and volume number where that write up is located, on the inside back cover of the fake journal.
It's important that you process this project before you get too far away from it. So your initial ending thoughts that you jot down tomorrow are important.
A week, a month, even a year from now you can take this project out and look at it again with a fresh eye. Since you have your goals written down you will be able to remind yourself why you did what you did. (Your future self can't hold you accountable for not doing something that wasn't on the goals list! Remind your internal critic of that!) You'll be able to see, with the distance of time whether or not you've carried ideas, skills, thoughts, or new goals forward into your regular journaling or other aspects of your creative life (maybe your character has inspired a new hobby or use of new media in your real life).
Assessment is a big part of every creative process. It helps us gauge, in a constructive fashion, what we attempted, and what we have yet to attempt. Assessment allows us to set a new course entirely or to simply get back on track.
Now that you've put all this work into the month of April, don't shortchange yourself by neglecting this key component.
Be honest with yourself while you make your assessment, but if your internal critic wants to step up and take over remind him that it isn't for him to weigh in right now. You aren't looking for ART, you're looking at WAYS your creative mind works when you free it from the constraints of your usual conditions and, well frankly that irritating internal critic. (Oh he'll probably put up a big fuss too because he doesn't want to break up with you.) It's all good practice for your regular journaling and other creative pursuits. In order to move deliberately in creative ways you have to learn to get out of your own way at the same time you stand firmly grounded in a course of action.
If you didn't finish the month out, for whatever reason, don't dwell on the reason and make excuses for yourself in your note to yourself. Simply write down the reason, "New job started," "cat passed away," "ran out of steam," etc. Keep it short. If you go on and on about why that incident stopped you from working in your journal you're giving that incident even more power after the fact. You already know that incident stopped you. The goal is to move past that.
By identifying the incident you acknowledge it and move on. But you also get to discuss with your mind proactively ways that you can make room for creative endeavors in your life in the future. So if you know that work is always too stressful for you begin by looking at work. Getting rid of stress around work isn't just something to do so you can participate in IFJM, it's essential so that you can have a happy life. Look at ways to remove the stress in your life around work—start riding the bus so you don't have to drive in rush hour and can have some reading time, make a push to get extra clients so you can hire the assistant you really need—all that sort of stuff.
If we don't live consciously and see what's going on in our lives we can't stop and adjust our lives and we can't make room for more of what we crave—creative response.
Think about all that too as you dissect your process from the past month.
Then take a couple minutes to focus on what went right. For some people the internal critic might be so loud, or your plan was so large and lofty, that there was no way for you to succeed. Your overview will tell you that quickly. Decide on ways you can change that in the future by making smaller more doable creative tasks.
This isn't just about planning for next year's fake journal (though it would be great if you decided to participate again). This type of planning is about finding what worked and taking it forward into your life.
Maybe this year what worked is that you did something every day. That's huge. Your internal critic might say, "Well, everything you did was shit." And then you can say, "Shut up. I did something everyday and that's huge."
Say it out loud so you hear it. It is huge. You made time for a creative project and you did it every day. This is a template of what you can do in your real life.
On any given day everything we create isn't going to be fabulous, but we have to keep creating so that we have something to look at and some point from which to grow. Skills (drawing, painting, collaging, creative thinking and problem solving) are built through practice. The goal here is to find a practice that you can fit into your life.
If it was easy for your character to find the time ask your character some questions about how he or she values and arranges different things in his or her life. You might learn that you're just a couple steps away from having more of what you crave in your life.
So that's what you need to do tomorrow. Don't think you have to spend hours on this task. It should take 30 minutes or less. Just flip slowly through your fake journal, jot a couple notes as things occur to you (gosh I liked my use of color on page 10; darn that face on page 29 is overworked, a thinner nibbed pen would have worked better). Then do what I suggested above, write your goals and other comments in just a couple sentences each. Date your notes and set them aside (in the back of the journal or wherever you decide).
And then you are finished.
Until you go back to have a fresh look in a week or a month perhaps.
And the day after tomorrow your task is to find what you can carry forward from this project that is positive and healthy and creative, and make a space for that in your daily life.
It might not happen immediately, but let's face it, unless you set your intention it won't happen at all.
Thank you again for trusting the process and jumping in and participating!
I've been away from the studio with meetings and hope to wrestle my journal down in the next couple of days so that I can take a quick video of it. Expect to see that and some still images in the days to come as I share more about my process and experience from 2013.
If you participated in the public posting of your fake journal and you finish your personal review (and that's what it should be, a review that is honest and just for you, because then it will have the greatest value) and you would like to share some thoughts about your 2013 IFJM experience please do so by posting a public wrap up on your site (and sending me a link by May 7 so I can do a group post with those links).
If you participated privately this year but had an epiphany you'd like to share please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Private Participant." Include a short description of your project and goals and what happened and of course that epiphany. If you have a flickr account or blog where you can post one or more images that can be public, you could also send me a link to that. I'll post notes about them and the links if you give me permission, and as time allows.
If you have any doubts about making any of your conclusions public DON'T. Just make your notes and keep them for your reference. The point of IFJM is to push the boundaries of your creativity and your process and that can and should be a totally private process if you have any reservations.
Again, thanks to all of you who participated whether it was public or private participation. I have enjoyed receiving personal notes from those of you who are participating privately. I also have enjoyed seeing the public posts and look forward to catching up on your character's final days.
Oh, and one other thought. If you're new to IFJM you may not be expecting this but if you liked your character, well actually even if you didn't, you might find in the days to come that you miss your character and his or her take on things. By all means write notes about this in your real journal and use the experience to ferret out what you might want to keep in your life.
It takes 28 days to create a habit. I tell this to all my "real" journaling students. I even make them sign contracts to work daily for 15 minutes a day in their journals, just so they can have the habit forming experience. What you may experience in the next few days is simple—it's withdrawal. Now what are you going to do about that? Your real journal is right there beside you. Pick it up and start asking some questions, every day.
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