I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s inspiration-fest! The gallery theme for June, paired inspiration, has left me thinking quite a bit about how we develop our personal scrapbook styles. How much comes from other scrappers’ influence? from our life experiences, education, and personality? We stumble across concepts we like that inspire us, but we also tend to put our own spin on the concept, to make it work with our own personal style.
The longer you scrap, it seems, the more definite your style becomes. It's defined by the products you use and how you use them, the things you put on our pages and leave out, the way you organize your elements. Given the same supplies and photos, two different scrapbookers are likely to create two
fairly different layouts—but only if they've both begun working on their own style. Trying to make layouts that look like my layouts (instead of the ones created by whatever other scrapbookers I admire) is, to me, one of the best parts of scrapping because it is a space where I allow myself to be who I am, despite trends and products and other people's influence.
The same thing goes for your journaling.
In fact, I think that the most common of journaling troubles—not knowing what to write, or feeling silly/awkward/unsure, or not being inspiration—come from a need to develop and to trust your own journaling style. Because here's the thing: no one else can write what you have to write in the way that you can write it. Even if you and I experienced the exact same experience, we'd write about it differently because we each have our own style. If you are able to embrace and to understand your writing style, you'll find it so much easier to write your journaling.
My favorite author is Margaret Atwood. I like her books (all of them, even the poetry!) not just for the story and the characters, but for her writing style. She writes in a way that evokes emotion without using sentimentality. "OH!" I always think when I am reading a book of hers, "if only I could write like she does!" But deep down, I know that's a silly thought because no matter how many times I put "write like Margaret Atwood" on my wish list of impossible things, I know that the only person I can write like is me. And if I spend my journaling time trying to write like someone else, then I'll get frustrated with the story.
You can only write like yourself. Sometimes (if you compare yourself to other writers) that feels sort of depressing. But it isn't! Because once you understand your journaling style and grow comfortable with it, you'll see that it is as much a part of you as your other scrapbooking skills. My writing style tends toward the wordy (but not, I hope, obnoxiously, holy-cow-you-need-to-edit-this wordy). I like to use the em-dash and the colon to emphasize important bits. I like a mix of long and short sentences and even an occasional fragment. The parenthetical aside is my friend. More than anything, I strive for a style that relates story and emotion in an authentic way. And, try as I might, short journaling just doesn't feel like me, and that's a part of my journaling style, too.
What is your journaling style? Here are some tips for developing and embracing it:
1. Use your words. Do you use, for example, the word "y'all" in your everyday conversations? Then use it in your journaling, too! If you write with the same vocabulary and grammar that you use when you speak, your journaling will sound more authentic. On the other side of that idea is this one: don’t feel like you have to use what Hemingway called “ten dollar words.” If you don’t routinely use the word “advantageous,” for example, in your daily conversations, then don’t use it in your journaling, either. (Unless, of course, it is the exactly right word for what you want to say!)
Here’s an example. In this layout:
Marie wanted to write exactly like herself, and she nailed the idea on the head when she told me this: "I feel like that was the first layout that I actually used MY voice instead of my “voice for posterity.’” When you get caught up in the posterity voice, you stop sounding like yourself. Trust me: your posterity will want to know what your voice is, not what you think your voice is supposed to be.
2. Use your personality. If you were to hang out with me for a few days, you'd quickly discover that I have a well-developed sarcastic streak. I incorporate that into my journaling, too, if the opportunity presents itself. Don't feel like you have to present a different version of yourself in your journaling—sharing your personality will help your story feel true.
About personality, Marnie said this:
I feel like I have two distinct journaling styles. My heartfelt stories, and my funny side. for awhile i tried to be everything on every page, but then realized that it felt forced. Sometimes I am silly or sarcastic, and sometimes I am mushy-gushy. If I only had one page to represent me, I suppose I would try to fit it all on one page. But being that I have album after album, I think my family will get a sense of all of me. Curiously, my heartfelt pages are usually a whole column of journaling while my funny pages require only a sentence of two. apparently my funny side has much less to say!
Here's a layout showing her funny side:
And a heartfelt one:
3. Be real. No one lives a perfect life. We all make mistakes. We go through bad patches in relationships, buy the wrong size of shoes, forget to put the baking soda in the pancakes every once in awhile. Presenting a perfect view of a story is a certain way of writing journaling that doesn't sound like you. Be real and honest with how things really happened and you'll find your writing hesitation might just vanish. Here’s an example:
In this journaling, I wrote about how much I love this photo of my mom (who is pregnant with me) and dad. It wouldn’t have the same impact if I didn’t make a reference to my parents’ marriage troubles. The fact that I sometimes doubted if they loved each other makes that raw affection beaming out
of my dad’s face mean that much more. Had I just written something mushy about love, it would have sounded false.
4. Include authentic details. A few years ago, I found a transcript of a journal my great-great-great-great uncle had written when his family migrated across the American plains. About half way into his journey, he wrote this sentence: "Meat has become like a drug to us." I love that detail! He could have written it in a different way: "we miss eating meat." "We are hungry for meat." Even, "We are starving for meat." Writing that it is like a drug is a detail that communicates something bigger than the words, plus it just sounds like a thing family members (at least, my family members!) would say to each other. Inside jokes, family sayings, familiar ways of structuring a thought: these details
are all parts of your individual style.
5. Don’t be afraid to show emotion. Writing about emotion is tricky. No one wants to sound like a Hallmark card! The trick is to write not about what you think someone might expect you to feel in the situation you’re writing about, but what you really felt. Maybe, for example, you felt nothing but
exhilaration when your five-year-old started kindergarten, even though the other moms were sniffling. Pretend that you were sniffling, too, and your journaling will sound stilted. Write about how you were excited for him to start learning and making new friends and going on field trips and your journaling will sparkle.
Lisa O. said this about her journaling style: I often keep my journaling short and I almost always include some kind of emotion. In this case
When I asked my fellow WCS team members about their writing style, one said “I don’t have a writing style.” Au contraire, my friend! (And all of you reading this and thinking the same thing.) Just like you have a scrapping style, you do have a writing style: your way of stringing words together. Embrace it! Because once you're comfortable with it, you won't have to fight the "shoulds" anymore. (You know...I should write more! or I should write less! or I should...) Instead you'll know what is real for you. Let yourself find your authentic journaling voice and you'll find your words come easier and with more sincerity.