If keeping a notebook forever handy to jot down the random bits of flotsam and jetsam that wash up on the shores of the right side of our brain is one ingredient of creative success, then the other is the ritualized review of those notes. The gleaning and ordering and reflections that allow new work to bubble up from the sea of parts.
Austin Kleon keeps a log book.
I love the idea of a quick note about an event accompanied by a little drawing. No fancy sketching or artwork. An icon, really. A little cartoon to capture something of the moment.
I tried this for a while, but sadly fell out of the habit as a daily practice.
I resurrected the practice during my 2017 Appalachian Trail thru-hike. It was often all I could muster at the end of a 15-20 mile hiking day that was often filled to the brim with new experiences, strange characters, weird food and random awesomeness.
Who knew walking through the "green tunnel" could be so eventful?
What strikes me as I look back through my journals and logbooks from the trail, and those other logbooks that I started and stopped the year before my hike, is how much more the visual record stimulates my memory and stirs my imagination.
I find I want to linger over those visual records so much more than I want to bother with the written journal I kept in the early days of my hike when I was fresh and hiking fewer miles.
Then the magic keeps coming.
My logbook helps me recall even more details of each day, whether I noted it there or not.
Like making eye contact with the hawk that startled, flew and filled my field of vision as I walked.
The strange grunting/coughing noise we heard in the woods while eating Velveeta mac 'n cheese out of the cook pot after the violent lightening storm.
The 47 attempts to hang my bear bag my first night alone on the trail above the Mason-Dixon line.
The great scrapple debate of 2017 held in the Fireman's Social Club in Port Clinton, PA, where the welcomed us in and bought us a drink and schooled us on the merits of head cheese.
My logbook inspires me to reconnect with the people who appear in its pages and reach out where I might have held back in the past. Who knew a journal could foster human connections as well as creative connections?
My logbook forces me to get out of my comfort zone, to get out there a do stuff...because who wants to look back at a logbook that logs the same ole shit day after day?
If I were trapped in one place, though, I could challenge myself to see something different each day and use my logbook to expand the ways I experience the world.
My logbook encourages me to keep going and to honor that everyday flotsam and jetsam that doesn't look like much as it happens, but that ultimately adds up to a well-lived life in the end.
As evidenced by the logbook.
Which I plan to start up again immediately. Starting today.