Wednesday, October 24, 2012

But That's Just A Suggestion

This is a story about a person with too much energy, a plane trip, and a book with a misleading title.

The person with too much energy...well, that would be me. While I was away from home these past few weeks, I did lots of visiting but precious little work. I like to do work. It keeps my brain busy with problems to solve and challenges to overcome, and leaves me with a sense of satisfaction. The night before I was to fly home, I found myself feeling restless and bored, which is not a good recipe for a happy plane trip.

Well, I just happened to be at Target that evening, so I browsed the book section in the hopes of finding something that might stir up my brain and keep me occupied for four long hours of sitting. What I discovered was both a book and something much better than a book.

Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith.

Technically, it's a book - pages, cover, spine: all the essential ingredients are present.

But the pages are mostly blank, with just a simple instruction posted on every double page spread. These challenges are designed to unlock the reader's imagination and creativity, as well as mess up the pretty perfect pages of the book, and I found them to be interesting and entertaining.

As the author explains, order is not important. I flipped through the pages to find plenty of activities that were suitable for a seat in the coach cabin, and also found some interesting challenges that I can take on now that I'm back at home:

Make prints using an ink pad and cut vegetables.

Collect the stamps off of all your mail.

Sew this page.

Those ideas - and many more - spark my imagination and fill me with interesting ideas. I can't wait to try them, and wreck my journal some more.

* * * * *

However, I noted quite a few instructions that strike me as either kooky or kinda disgusting, maybe even borderline gross:

Tongue painting: 1. Eat some colorful candy. 2. Lick this page.

Collect your pocket lint. Glue it here.

Do a really ugly drawing. (Use ugly subject matter: gum, poo, dead things, a badly drawn bird, mold barf, crud.)

Now I get what Ms Smith is doing here. An essential element of making art involves freeing ourselves from self-imposed restrictions or rules about what is allowed. We tend to worry about making something that is 'good.' Our fears of failing shut down our instinctive abilities to imagine and create, and we get all weird and insecure about our natural gifts as artists. 

Our dear author is trying to push me past that point of fearfulness by instructing me to do some ridiculously dumb things. Of course, if I follow her instructions, I will undoubtedly see that there are no rules in art, and therefore, no way to fail. 

On the other hand, if it's true that there are no rules in art, then it's also true that I am under no obligation to follow her ridiculous instructions. See what I mean? Art does not demand that I collect my pocket lint. I can throw those fuzzy little furballs directly into the waste basket, and still be in touch with my creative nature.  

Which just goes to show, once again, that all rules are meant to be broken.

I still love this book, and recommend it to anyone who likes to play. But probably a better title for this volume would be:

Wreck This Journal (But That's Just A Suggestion)

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