1000 Journals   Leave a comment


Two things struck me when I first heard of a project called “1000 Journals.”  One was that the conceptual idea of a San Franciscan who goes by the name of Someguy was something that he could not stop thinking about and felt compelled to see to fruition. How many plans or ideas do we conceive that cannot be deterred? What causes them to be forgotten, sidetracked, given up on? Are they not worthy of our time, or do we let that creative part of us disappear with demands of adulthood?

Creating excites, it makes us lose track of time, keeps us engrossed in something because it fascinates, entices, and gives joy. We have an idea, and cannot get it out of our minds and then do it. This might be a business venture or a new way to landscape the yard, or a crazy notion like moving to another country that suddenly becomes something that you must do.

A documentary resulted from Someguy’s idea. And in the introduction to the film something else caught my attention. The narrator states that if you ask kindergarteners how many of them are artists, they will all raise their hands. If you ask sixth graders, a third might raise their hands. If you ask seniors, you might get a hand or two. What happens to our creativity? Often people will say, “I can’t even draw stick figures.” Well, some of us cannot carry a tune, but it doesn’t stop most from singing, maybe not in public, but it is an instinctual response to move your body to music, to sing in the car, so is there not the same joy of every kind of pre-school activity that remains in our senses, bodies, souls that needs to be re-awakened? Throwing paint on paper because color is cool, stomping in mud puddles, rolling down a hill, singing, beating a drum because it makes a wonderful sound, rhyming silly words because it excites a part of the brain and makes us laugh.

The artist called Someguy explains his idea and project this way,

“I’ve always been fascinated by what people scrawl on bathroom walls and in public spaces. I had been taking photographs of this writing for years, and wanted to put together a book. It seemed appropriate to encourage readers to become contributors, and join the conversation by writing in the actual book. From there, I decided that a blank book might be more fun… especially one that traveled around, to gather a variety of thoughts and opinions. And then, why not 1000 of them? It’s such an absurd number.”

“The project officially launched in August of 2000, with the release of the first 100 journals in San Francisco. I gave them to friends, and left them at bars, cafes, and on park benches. Shortly thereafter, people began emailing me, asking if they could participate. So I started sending journals to folks, allowing them to share with friends, or strangers. It’s been a roller coaster ever since.”

Word spread about the project and a filmmaker wanted to document this story. When Andrea Kreuzhage heard about the project and that only journal No. 526 had returned, she set out to find them. The journals were sent out or placed in various places in the year 2000 and the first journal to return was 3 years later in 2003.

The documentary depicts some of the people who received a journal and what they decided to contribute, and it is a fascinating journey for viewers. The journals do not just contain writing from various people, they come back much thicker with additional pages that have been painted, attached, added to with every conceivable type of artwork, writing, expression and creativity. Hearing people describe what they chose to add to the journal, and how long some of them kept the books shows the desire and the importance that they gave to their contributions. Some kept the journals a very long time. One woman kept it a year before sending it on.  As with many artists, the blank page is intimidating and it takes a leap of faith to start and then dive into your creation. Some were filmed adding or re-creating what they had done, and they looked like intense, busy children absorbed in their work.

Some of the journals were sent to other countries, and Someguy posted the names of those people and email addresses. People who were interested in getting a journal could send their names and addresses to the people who had them. One man from England used the names of the people from the list of those requesting the journal he had, and he put their names on the cartoon characters he created. Some he added messages based on where they lived. One woman who received the journal after him was deeply hurt by the cartoons he drew using her name. It affected her greatly and she took it personally even though she knew he did not know her and so did not create his cartoon based on her, but he used her name and she said it was as if he did know her. There was little negativity overall, but much self-analysis, thought-provoking introspection, wonder about others who had the journals and the things that were created inside of each. Decisions on what to enter and where to leave the journals or send them or when to send them also exhibited interesting characteristics of those who received the books.

The books took on lives of their own and people had trouble parting with them.

A man’s simple idea becomes a study in human nature and our innate desire to create, and how much of that seems to be stomped, stifled, lost in the push to be number one in your class, your track meet, your job, and as consumers instead of citizens.  Admiring the individual attributes that make us unique gives children and adults a freedom to explore as opposed to performing.  Creating, and the joy in that involvement, results in less destruction of all kinds.  So splash some color for the fun of it and rhyme some silly words because you can!

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Posted August 24, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays

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