None of us are immune to the intimidation of the blank page, no matter how long we’ve been writing.
How to begin? Where to start? What to write?
Those questions can easily spin into the “what if’s”.
What if I have nothing to say? What if whatever I write is terrible? What if all this effort is for nothing?
One way to sidestep the anxiety of the blank page is to transform it — so it isn’t a blank page anymore, but something else.
In ‘A Tool To Move Past Writer’s Block’, You’ll learn:
- What a visual essay is and how to use it
- How visual journaling can help process an experience before we write
- Visual journaling as a tool to help write trauma and grief narratives
- A 5-step exercise to visual journal your way into a new story
- Craft Essay: The Diptych as Short-Form Memoir
Your Key Takeaways From ‘A Tool To Move Past Writer’s Block’
The visual journal: what it is and how to use it
A hybrid of traditional journal-keeping and scrapbooking, a visual journal can serve a number of creative purposes.
You might use yours as a place to doodle, sketch, craft mini-collages and vision boards, or to jot down thoughts, feelings, impressions.
Selecting and arranging a variety of images can help capture the mood or essence of an experience, allowing it to be processed and some kind of meaning made — before we even write a word.
Some use their visual journals as a place to collect photos, magazine images, artifacts, pressed flowers, reflections, and story ideas–then journal to discover how they might open up into stories.
How visual journals can help us “envision” and tell our stories
Above all, visual journalling is a reflective practice that helps us to understand what we think and feel, discover what we want, hope, and wish for — and make deeper connections.
Perhaps the reason visual journalling is such a powerful tool for accessing our intuition and imagination is because it allows us to explore and partake in artmaking privately, just for ourselves.
Working with image and symbol can help us tap what exists “below the surface of awareness—an implicit knowing that contains more than what can be put into words”, observes Cathy Malchiodi.
One image randomly torn from the pages of a magazine may trigger a feeling or memory we can write deeply into; what may follow is a surprising articulation or revelation.
Try the following 5-step exercise as a first step toward storymaking.
- Divide a blank page in your visual journal in half.
- Select two images, either from magazines or personal photos, that feel important or symbolic in some way.
- Paste an image on each half of the page.
- Freewrite about each image in the white space remaining.
- Once you’ve completed your freewrite, read what you’ve written — and start thinking about a longer essay or story your journal entries might inspire.
Pro top: You might try writing a piece based on this freewrite structured in two sections (i.e. a diptych essay.)
A visual journal can be a useful and healthy way to process trauma or grief.
As Cathy Malchiodi’s notes in, “Visual Journalling, Self-Regulation and Stress Reduction”:
Creating an image, even a simple one with colors, line and shapes, expresses the sensory parts of the traumatizing event. It is a way to tangibly convey what words cannot adequately communicate or explain in a logical, linear way.
Visual journals are also used by some writers to record a particular journey.
I began visual journalling as a way to reflect on my learning as I completed my degree in Education. The practice quickly became more of a diary about how I felt and recorded what was going on in my life at that time in and outside the classroom.
However you approach the visual journal, I believe both the process and product are invaluable for helping us to write our life stories.
If you have a story about trauma, grief or loss and are looking for additional resources, tune into my blog next week!
I’ll be sharing a new free resource I created just for you!