Welcome to IFJM 2017 Preparations!If you don't prepare before the April 1 start date then SPOILER ALERT don't read past this sentence. I mean that, because I am about to write about the tagline and what it means.
Of course you've probably already seen the rooster logo for this year's event, but you don't know what it means…
The tagline for this year's celebration in many ways is self-evident. Details matter. Details in an image, details in text. Every little thing we notice is a detail. And it all matters.
First a Bit of Background Information
Public participation in this project started around 2001 when some of my students learned how I spent my time during the month of April (every year).
In 2009 I decided that there was enough interest to start blogging about my fake journal process and International Fake Journal Month.
Since then lots of people have participated. Many have returned for each celebration. Some dip may dip a journaling toe in from time to time.
Two of the things I noticed over all this time are
1. People don't pay attention to my strenuous suggestion that they not attempt an historical fake journal.
2. People get hung up on creating a story.
There's not much I can do about item one except to say, "Go read item one above again, and realize I mean it for your own good." People who attempt to write an historical fake journal end up doing piles of research, bury themselves under research, and become overwhelmed and stop before April is over.
Even if they manage to finish the process leaves a bad taste in their mouths because in hindsight they see (or someone points out to them) the historical anachronisms of language, art style, social norms, dress code, and art material availability.
I studied the Victorian period in graduate school and I'm daily grateful that I don't have to worry about all the layers of clothing, the meaning of fan movements, and who the heck is standing or sitting in my presence in relation to my gender, age, and station in life. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I don't want to have to imagine my character in those situations and making time to write present moment journal entries. And even worse, I don't want to have to sort through all that stuff and decide what to include in an entry because would my character really comment on it all anyway? It's the little things in historicals that trip you up!
Writing journal entries at the present moment is a key component to IFJM. So if your character is saying something at 4:15 p.m. it needs to be 4:15 p.m. when you sit down. Keeping track of an historical character's actions with that specificity would send me running from the room.
You may recall I frequently urge you to pick someone who is somewhat similar to your real self—just so you can manage these types of nuances. It's very easy for us to imagine what a contemporary would have for a daily schedule.
I always suggest to people set on writing something set in the past to hold on to their great idea and character and go over to National Novel Writing Month in November. If that's your goal for this year I suggest exactly that to you.
Item two on my list is a bit more complicated. People see my fake journals and notice that often there is a narrative thread, or even that the chronology of the entries has a specific serendipity.
This is NOT A REQUIREMENT of IFJM. It's not even recommended.
In fact it's simply an artifact of how I live my life. I think chronologically (even when I spilt that chronology in complex ways) and I am devoted to the narrative thread. I believe that people tell stories about themselves all the time—to themselves and to others.
But as a life-long journal keeper I know that our journals are not clear narrative lines. It's only after decades that you can really see the narrative coming through.
The exception might be a travel journal as that journal has a specific beginning and ending date.
The point of IFJM, however is to create a fake journal, not a narrative document. And because many people try to create a narrative they end up getting stuck or overwhelmed, don't finish the project, and feel defeated.
The point of IFJM is to create a fake journal and not a narrative document—because you are working on creative skills not fiction writing skills.
IFJM is supposed to be easy. (Maybe not easy breezy—because you do need to show up and put yourself in your character's mind space and create something visual or written or both.)
IFJM is most of all set up to be doable.
If you think about who your character is (write a little profile about all his likes, dislikes, etc. before April starts. Include details about where he works, what he eats, if he cooks, how he dresses, etc.) you will be able to sit down each day in April, put that person "on." Look where he would be in his day. Mentally shift there yourself, and create something in 15 minutes. Put the date and time on it, and reenter your own life.
That's all it takes. You can of course spend more time than that. Maybe you want to do a finished color pencil drawing and have set aside an hour a day—OK that's not going to happen in 15 minutes.
But the important thing is to set a small amount of time aside and get it down every day. That's how the most benefit is derived from the project. That completed 30-day journal will give you the most satisfaction at the end, if you meet your intention to enter your character's mind each and every day. It's the kind of satisfaction that will propel you into other projects that require stamina and daily practice.
That commitment and result will also help you with the many internal critic issues I bring up in the pages of this blog. Dealing with the internal critic is one of the reasons I went public with IFJM in the first place. I realized, by listening to students who didn't work on longer term projects that they were being held back. Here was something they could do that side stepped the internal critic.
OK, So Why Is "Details Matter" the Tagline and Theme for IFJM 2017?
I want to encourage as many people as possible to participate in IFJM. I want to them to understand it can be simple (don't let your internal critic encourage you to over think it), and from that simplicity great creative benefits can be derived.
I want them to realize the process is fun and doesn't need a lot of planning or calculating or plotting etc.
But I want them also to do real work, oops I mean PLAY, in which they learn new skills or hone existing skills that will improve their real journaling as well as their real creative lives.
The tagline/themes are a way to give participants a specific way to stretch.
This year, I selected this tagline/theme because I hope that if people see the emphasis is not on a "finished narrative piece" they will be more inclined to jump in and participate, have fun, and end up with a journal full of possibilities they can take back into their real lives.
Think about what attracts you to the journals you might have read online or in the library. You might love the artwork, that's first to catch your eye. But ultimately your enthusiasm for someone's work comes from seeing how the journal captures that person's life.
That capture takes place through details. These can be a keen eye that illustrates the nature of light, the nuance of humanity, the delicacy and strength of buildings—all through the details they observe and deem important. Or these details can be the specifics of all those observations captured in the text the journal keeper writes next to the drawings.
It's really that simple.
If you make entries while in your character's head space and include the smells, sounds, sights, and tastes that character experiences you'll have a document that weighs in as more authentic. Additionally the details you decide to include or deliberately leave out tell the reader of that journal something about that person. (This is a lesson you can apply to your own life.)
Why do they make these choices? These omissions? Inclusions? You can't very well write as someone who formulates perfumes for a living and not constantly refer to the odors your character encounters throughout the day. Or if you do what does that tell you about your character?
By practicing how your character focuses his intention you practice making intentional choices for yourself.
And details are also fairly easy to conjure up. So the price of playing is low. Which is another goal I have about IFJM.
My Hope for All Participants of IFJM 2017
This year I hope is the year you jump off the fence and join in IFJM. Or the year you return, whether or not you've completed a month before.
I hope you come back and create an approach that allows you to see how details really do matter in our creative lives.
We need details on the page, whether written or visually observed.
We need details because only when we have details can creation take place. Only with details down on paper can we begin the real work of editing and shaping those details into art.
Think about this. Your resistance, your internal critic, your own simple sense of "I don't have time to be creative today," will try to talk you out of this simple truth:
Go for it.
Life's so short, why live only one?
Note: Long-time participant Dana Burrell just pointed out to me in a comment that "Details Matter" was indeed the 2012 tagline, because she has the Chihuahua Button to prove it. (Mine are all gone.)
I guess I have dementia coming on—or at best lack of sleep! I also decided, after hearing from Dana, that I'm going to trust my gut. This tagline has been rattling around in my brain and I always believe there is a creative purpose to my brain rattling. Also I really, really want to make the point that it is details that matter and not a narrative thread, so that newbies or returning participants who stress about doing something that has a narrative can RELAX and just focus on the details of what their character is seeing and doing and sketching, or whatever. Because it's that experience of capturing the details in their character's journal which will help participants most when they return to their real lives and their real journals. Have fun with it!
Need Tips To Get Started? Please go to the category list and find "Tips" but also read the post "What is IFJM?" A link appears always at the top of the blog page if you forget how to get back to this post. Need some help thinking about your character, selecting a book, selecting a medium in which to work? The category list will help you with that too.