On October 25, 2018, the New York Times published an online article by Hayley Phelan — who generally reports on fashion, shopping, and culture — entitled “What’s All This About Journaling?“* It’s worth seven minutes of your time.
Why? In her short piece, Ms. Phelan (who is pictured above) shares details of her recent return to journaling as an adult. She also provides commentary from two of the most respected names in the field of expressive personal writing: author Julia Cameron and social psychologist Dr. James Pennebaker.
Now in her early thirties, Ms. Phelan began journaling as an adult at the age of 29. Why? Her now ex-husband recommended she do so to, in part, cope with the stresses of their dissolving marriage. At the time, he was journaling by following the recommendations that Julia Cameron describes in her landmark book The Artist’s Way, which has sold more than 4 million copies since its publication in 1992.
In her seminal work about creativity, Cameron challenges readers to pen three hand-written “Morning Pages” shortly after rising from bed each day. As Ms. Phelan notes in her article, Cameron describes this writing as “strictly stream of consciousness.” To read about how Cameron addresses questions related to the Morning Pages routine, please see her 2017 blog post entitled Morning Pages: FAQ.
In addition to interviewing Julia Cameron for her article, Ms. Phelan corresponded with the foremost researcher in expressive writing, Dr. James Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin. Nearly every news story about the process and potential of journaling written in the last decade features at least a quotation from Dr. Pennebaker, who is recognized as one of the world’s experts on writing therapy, a form of expressive writing that he is credited with developing in the 1980s.
Pennebaker’s book Opening Up by Writing It Down, which is now in its 3rd edition, shares his research about how focused writing can help us process trauma and lead to faster recovery. Ms. Phelan notes that Dr. Pennebaker is not necessarily an advocate of daily writing. Why? If frequent journaling results in “rumination” that causes anguish, he recommends a shorter-duration approach. His research has revealed that just several intensive writing sessions lasting 15-30 minutes can yield measurable decreases in stress and increases in one’s ability to cope effectively in the aftermath of trauma.
Ms. Phelan describes how her journaling practice, which has now stretched into its third year, resembles Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. She writes “three to five pages every morning by hand.” And how does Ms. Phelan assess the effectiveness of this routine? She explains: “[J]ournaling provided me with an important outlet for the debilitating anxiety that had come to paralyze me at odd hours each day. And besides, I enjoyed it. It was fun to wake up every morning and spew a hurried black scrawl all over those straight blue lines.”
Please see her full article “What’s All This About Journaling?” if you are interested in personal writing; it is worth seven minutes of your time. And stay tuned for future blog posts about Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Dr. Pennebaker’s Opening Up by Writing It Down later this spring. In the meantime, pick up a pen and give journaling a try!
* — Three days later, a version of the article was featured on page ST7 of the paper’s New York edition with the title “Writing in a Journal Can Help.”
Note — The photograph of Haley Phelan at the top of this post was obtained from her website, hayleyphelan.com. The illustrations featured in this post were borrowed from the online version of Ms. Phelan’s article, which can be reached at nytimes.com. The covers of The Artist’s Way and Opening Up by Writing It Down were taken from Julia Cameron’s website and the website for the Guilford Press, respectively.
This is my new journal, and I love it. Skateboards cover the front and back. The teenager in me, who recalls the “old guard” of skateboarders of the late 1980s, feels drawn to this notebook’s bright colors and playful graphics.
As a high school student, I remember Mike McGill, Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero and others gracing the covers of magazines like Thrasher and Transworld Skateboarding. Those publications still exist, and those athletes — especially ones like Tony Hawk — are still influential even though they are in their early 50s. And their original brand, Powell Peralta, continues to produce visually-stunning boards, including an annual Bones Brigade Series that draws on artwork from those legendary skaters’ first designs.
Here is what 2019’s Bones Brigade Series 11 looks like:
I never owned one of those boards — or any other one. Although I loved the bold graphics of the skating community, my personality did not align with those of my peers who were part of that scene. So I watched from a distance and admired the artwork of their boards, t-shirts, and stickers. And I paged through magazines, imagining what it might be like to be one of the guys featured on the glossy pages and in the cool ads.
Today, those gentlemen look like this:
When I stumbled upon this notebook in the clearance section of my local STAPLES store several months ago, I immediately scooped it up. It was only $1.00.
At the time, I didn’t think that I would use it myself. Rather, I imagined possibly making a blog post entitled something like “Journals for Teen Boys.” It would have featured the skateboard cover and others with designs that might appeal to adolescent males. Note — It does not escape my awareness that most members of this demographic are not hungry to embark on a personal writing campaign or keep a “diary.”
Little did I realize then that the adolescent male in me would begin feeling attracted enough to the skateboard journal that I did not hesitate to grab it after I filled up the last page in my New Year’s Adventure Journal.
And then I remembered something very compelling that I had lost track of while immersed in the essays, lessons plans, and letters-of-recommendation that filled much of my last few years of teaching: there is a professional skateboarder named Brian Bishop.
Here he is:
From what I have been able to learn online, Brian Bishop was in his prime in the early 2000s. He skated for a brand called Original, which was established in 2002 by brothers Scott and Brad Imbrie. Although Original is still producing skateboards, Bishop’s name almost cannot be found on its website. To the best of my knowledge, he has shifted his attention to a career in architecture and only occasionally shows up to skating events to lend support to his former brand.
Curiously, Brian Bishop did not use boards like those of the 1980s Bones Brigade squad. Rather than ride skateboards that were well-suited to stunts on half-pipes and acrobatics in empty swimming pools, Bishop piloted something called a longboard. As the name suggests, longboards are longer than their brethren: they measure 40 to 60 inches (nose to tail) instead of the 30-inch boards that were — and still are — ridden by the likes of Rodney Mullen, Tony Hawk, and Steve Caballero.
When I laid my eyes on the graphics of today’s longboards, I felt the same surge of excitement that I did as a teenager when admiring the artwork on boards from high school. Longboards look cool. Here is one from Koastal, which offers boards that are handmade in the USA. This is their 38″ Pin Tail, and its colors make my mouth water:
This sidewalk cruiser mixes modern materials, a classy script logo, and a retro-cool shape. I just love it. The top looks like it could be a surfboard from the 1950s.
Anyway, all of this has been resonating inside me recently. So when I opened the cover of this notebook a week ago and penned my first entry, this is what spilled out onto the page (transcription follows):
2-11-19 7:37 AM — kitchen table, Crow’s Nest
Skateboarding? Yes, this journal features a design that I didn’t think I would ever gravitate toward — but I have. There’s something so appealing about the multi-colored geometric designs and the small wheels and trucks. The skateboards look like little toys that a very tiny person could ride right off the cover! I admire the gray, slightly-textured background, too.
The tri-color deep blue/light blue/sea foam board draws my attention immediately. But I also like the green deck with the brown and white pinstripes running length-wise. I imagine that if I could turn that board over I’d see a textured maple underside with a glossy finish. The contrast between the natural wood and the plastic wheels and stainless steel trucks would be pleasing. Three elements combined to create a simple device for rolling along streets and sidewalks. Simple, yet a vehicle for hours of fun and afternoons of exploration.
Former pro longboarder Brian Bishop may be retired, but former high-school English teacher Brian Bishop may be headed toward the skate shop this spring. Lake Orion is the place where living is a vacation. Perhaps it’s time to connect my teenage awe with my forty-something curiosity and hop on a board when the snow thaws and the temperature rises.
My vacation could get started this year on four small wheels and a flexible platform of seven-ply maple. Thank you for helping to inspire me, Brian Bishop.
Now, what I’d really like to know is this: Can I get you interested in journaling?
I altered the bottom photograph of longboarder Brian Bishop by inserting the journal. If I knew he’d use it, I’d pick up one at STAPLES and mail it to him.
Dear former students,
This website, ink + sky, functions like a classroom; it is a place for learning, growth, community, and creativity. It is a safe space. Like my former classroom, my blog is not a place for harm or hate.
It is also not a platform for advancing others’ personal agendas or promotional campaigns. We all possess invaluable First Amendment rights, and venues and vehicles exist for us to exercise those rights. Please take advantage of those resources instead of attempting to use ink + sky. Thank you.
Please read the following information carefully before you request a postcard:
If your response to the writing prompt (“I am trying to figure out…”) suggests any of the following, your postcard will not be published:
- Harming yourself.
- Harming someone else.
- Being harmed by someone else.
For help in these matters, please contact local law enforcement, a health-care provider, and/or a trusted friend or family member.
If your response suggests any of the following, your postcard will not be published:
- Hate language of any kind, including symbols and/or images that represent hate groups, their missions, and/or their tactics.
- Religious or political criticism.
- Slurs and/or derogatory language related to gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, ethnic and/or racial identity, age, class, financial status, and disability.
- Defamation of another’s character.
- Support for any activity (criminal in nature) that could result in distress to people and/or animals.
Personal Agendas and Promotional Campaigns
To exercise your rights of free speech and expression, please consider starting your own blog if you would like to advance a personal agenda or distribute promotional media.
If your response suggests any of the following, your postcard will not be published:
- Religious or political commentary. This includes contentious public policy issues (border wall, immigration, health care, etc.).
- Profanity beyond those words permitted in classrooms (i.e. Mr. Bishop’s).
- Recreational drug use, even of legal substances (e.g. alcohol and marijuana).
- Any references to the debates about abortion, gun control, euthanasia, the drinking age, and/or drug legalization.
- The naming, description, and/or imagery of genitals and/or sexual acts.
- Advertising for non-profit organizations or for-profit entities (companies, individuals, etc.).
- Marketing (web addresses, phone numbers, street addresses, QR codes, etc.).
- Publicity for gangs and/or gang membership.
- “Secret codes” of numbers, letters, and/or symbols that could be used to transmit information to others in order to advance a personal agenda.
My blog, ink + sky, functions like a classroom; it is a place for learning, growth, community, and creativity. It is a safe space.
Assuming you have read this far — and that you agree to the parameters described above — please message me on Facebook and include this phrase: make it count. I will mail you a pre-stamped postcard like the one below. Directions are printed on its reverse side. The rest is up to you.
Note — A limited number of postcards have been created. Please request one only if you are committed to completing it and mailing it back to me. I am covering all of the expenses of this writing project. Be mindful of that fact.
We are all people first.
Note — The photograph featuring the “no hate” sign was taken by T. Chick McClure, and it is available on unsplash.com. The image of the binder and bar chart is by rawpixel, and it was obtained from unsplash.com.