I received a note from Dana the other day. I’d been working on this post for next week so I’m posting it now. If you’re asking these questions you can take steps to find the answers during your free time this weekend.
Some people wonder how to even get started in a fake journal. Some people wonder if they need to start journaling and a character will emerge. That’s certainly possible. But here are a couple steps to take to discover more about your character.
Sit in a quiet room and think about why YOU journal. Is there something you would like to change about the process? Is there something that you think you would like more of in your journal. Make a list of everything that comes up.
Ask yourself how you would have to be different to allow those changes or approaches to be possible. For instance if you are someone who always dates your entries and explains everything (and remember this is the year to focus on no explanations) how would it be to let go of that? What type of person can you envision who wouldn’t care about such things? What would that person do during the day? Why doesn’t that person care about explanations? What does that say about his character traits? (I’m going to use “him” from now on to avoid grammatical gaffs.)
As you ask these questions write down whatever comes up and then when things aren’t popping into your head stop and look over what you have written down.
Are there character traits that are interesting for you to explore? Do you think you would enjoy working with them and what they would produce for a month? Is there something to be learned there?
If yes then start writing a background on your character, noting down anything that comes to mind: You can start with physical characteristics but it’s most important that you capture details about his character and his actions and his experiences in life. How many siblings does he have? Their names? Ages? Are his parents alive? Their names and what they did for a living.
Keep going and ask questions. At some point you will see a path to who that character is and why he keeps the journal he does and you’ll know you’re all set to jump in.
If, on the other hand you found you answered NO it won’t be enjoyable to work with that character for a month and there’s nothing to be learned again, then start the process again. Note different characteristics and some of the same ones and see what comes to mind.
Don’t fret that you’re spending some time brainstorming on this because now is the time to spend a little time exploring who you’ll be, before you get part way through the month and find it unbearable. Time spent now will ensure that you only spend 15 to 20 minutes a day on a doable project. (You can spend longer, but if you’re having difficulty getting a character don’t stress yourself with additional burdens of hoping to create 2-hour art pieces each day.)
You still start in a quiet room and make that list. But now ask yourself a couple other questions: what media would I like to use? What subject would I like to draw the most? (For me in 2009 it was birds and when I asked who would draw all those birds my character jumped immediately into my brain.)
Maybe you want to work on not laboring over your drawings. (You define laboring.) Then pick a medium that isn’t time intensive.
Maybe there is a particular tool you want to try using.
After you have your list look at it and ask yourself honestly, how much time to I have to spend each day in April on this? Now with that knowledge which of these media and themes or subject matter will work? Aim towards something that simply requires you to be where you would be anyway and pick up your journal, sketch (in character making a comment or two in character), and then put the book down and move on with your life.
Once you have those details clear ask yourself: What type of person would keep a journal like that?
Following Up on Either Approach
Then get up and walk away and do 10,000 other things all day tomorrow. Keep a pad of paper and a pencil handy and if anything at all pops in your mind WRITE IT DOWN. Don’t analyze what it is or if it’s even related to this project, just write it down. It could be a song lyric, or a news item, or an idea for a painting that came to you after hearing a news item. Anything, write it down.
On the following day, when you first get up or have your first free moment, sit down with any lists you made the day before as you did 10,000 other things, and any lists you made the first day. What are the connections between those lists? What pops out at you? What appeals to you.
At any point if a name or an occupation or a location or anything jumps into your mind write it down and sit and think about how it might work for you and where it leads you.
You aren’t planning your month. You’re simply trying to find your character and your medium.
Once the month starts and your character jumps into his journal you’ll have no idea what’s going to come up and that’s great. Just go with it.
For now you are simply trying to get an idea of who your character is and what his past and present might be. And why he journals. Definitely jot that down.
Why? Because throughout April if you know why your character journals you’ll know immediately if you go off track with something he would never include or address—of if you feel pulled to still include such a thing you will know that that thing is telling you something about the character.
At any time in this process if a journal comes across your desk and appeals to you ask if it’s something he would use and if so carry it around for a day and let it fit into your plans. It will probably tell you more about the journal keeper.
Here are Tips To Help You with the Start Up Process
Here is a post to walk you through selecting a journal: International Fake Journal Month Is Only 56 Days Away.
The best tip I can give you, if this is your first IFJM is to keep it as simple as possible. Keep your goals modest. Keep your plans for working every day in the 15-20 minute range. Keep your media simple. Keep your character close to you in that you too will have access to all that he needs access to—coffee shops, sketching locations, subjects to sketch whatever.
Now, if you haven’t read this already, read To Prep or Not to Prep… If you’re struggling with media and which journal, this post shows you how I worked through the process one year, all the parameters I set—including weaning my real self off of sudoku.
Give yourself and your character some options so that on April 1 you can simply take a leap.