By today, if you're going to participate in International Fake Journal Month 2015 you've probably already selected the journal you're going to use, picked the media you'll work with, and set some boundaries and limits for your character. If you haven't done all those things yet, you probably have been juggling several options and are waiting until April 1 to just dive in with one. That's fine too.
If you're new to the process of keeping a fake journal you might want to take a moment to read my post "Time to Start Thinking about Your 2015 Fake Journal" because it covers a bit of my process on how I move from the choices of selection and allow them to inform my character choice.
Something very important to consider is "Who's My Character? Why Does My Character Journal?"
In that post I outline a couple different approaches for discovering who your character is.
That post also includes links to posts containing tips on how to get under your character's skin and what to do on the first day.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to really maintain the journaling aspect of the project. In your joyous rush to start working or writing, remember to check yourself and ask, would my character really write this? really talk about these people he sees all the time this way? really mention these basic facts about herself? Who does those types of things when journaling? No one, we always write from complete knowledge and without a need to spell everything out.
Don't be stymied by that, but use it as a nudge to get even more creative. If it is important to you to get details into the journal discover natural ways that your character would get them in. For instance one year it was important for me to get a map of the house in a journal, it actually related to surveillance the character was under, but she was using that map for another purpose as well and I could justify getting it in there because of that. Otherwise there would have been no need to have it there.
When in doubt leave things out. Remember that we aren't writing fiction, though some of the approaches used might be similar to how some fiction writers work. We're writing in the first person and we don't want our characters looking like morons having to explain everything to themselves.
If a story line emerges as you work you can always plant items as they come up, that will seem unimportant to anyone looking at the journal, but become important later.
A simpler approach, and I really encourage people to go for simple for the sake of completing the project, is to let go of the idea of story and simply document that character's life.
If you elect to do that the mental gymnastics of what you can or can't include evaporate because all you have to do is deal with the 15 minutes of the character's life that you are experiencing when you are working in the journal each day as that character.
This is also the most useful approach for discovering something about process and your own journaling habit, because it is focused totally on journaling. You might have a character for instance who works visually in a totally different medium from one you work in, so every day your journal time is to experience that medium and what that character thinks of that medium or how he uses it.
You will end the month with 30 pages of work in a mode that is different from what you would have done in those circumstances and you will have had the opportunity to try that other approach on.
And that approach is SIMPLE. You can keep your character's backstory in a separate notebook if you feel the need to write about it, but in the journal you just have the daily expression of that person's creative effort.
If you want to read a more involved discussion of whether "To Prep or Not to Prep" please check out this link.
The Main Reason to Keep Things Simple
There is one inescapable reason to keep your IFJM plans simple—Life.
Your regular life is going to happen whether or not you are expecting it to. A family member might become ill, you might need to change jobs, your child joins the cast of a play and you have to drive to rehearsals, your dog needs surgery and care, the best freelance job in the history of the world flops on your desk with the deadline of April 18…So it goes.
How much time can you afford to spend each day in April on this project? Remember this project is about daily entries done at the actual time they were thought of. You are not sitting up late on Saturday night writing 6 entries for missed days. (Remember that's Faux journaling.)
Assess your life's obligations and schedule. Where will you put your journaling time into your day?
How much time can you afford to spend on this project? I suggest that you try to keep your time to 15 to 20 minutes each day. Past participants have found that lends itself to successful completion. (Anyone spending longer amounts of time than that has usually been through the project before and already has a sense for how to fit the journaling into his life.)
If you sketch slowly and paint even more slowly, doing a finished illustration every day is wishful thinking. You'll become bogged down and stressed by the second day of the project. Then you'll want to quit by the end of the week.
My goal in encouraging you to participate is that you COMPLETE your project. And that in completing your project you learn something about the journaling process you can bring back into your regular journaling habit.
I don't want to see anyone go out and exhaust himself and feel crumpled down in failure.
So think about TIME MANAGEMENT.
What can you reasonably do in 15 to 20 minutes a day, and what type of person would be keeping that type of journal?
Setting clear and doable boundaries which allow both for stretching of yourself and your understanding as well as completion of the project are key to having a great IFJM. They also happen to be key to any creative endeavor.
The best thing about IFJM is the opportunity to throwaway the pride or ego which attaches to our work, and view work through the eyes of another who doesn't have the same constraints or bounty that we have. In doing this something magical often happens on a personal level—and that's the great goal.
Finally, if you are using IFJM as a way to work on the aspect of daily habit (and many folks do this) it's important that your project is simple enough that you can complete a segment of it on a daily basis.
There is nothing so satisfying as 30 pages (or spreads if you work that way) of entries in the character's "voice" or "style" at the end of the month. Nothing. It has a completed weight and significance that make the effort fun and worthwhile; and those pages show you ways you can plan to use your energy intensely focused on other projects.
Take a few moments today and tomorrow to read some of the suggested links in this post and think about "simplicity" and how that relates to your project.
Jot down what your goals are and the time you will have to get your goals accomplished each day. Do they contradict each other? Now's the time to make some adjustments so you can hit the road running on April 1. Good luck!
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