I wanted to share a little bit about the T-I-M-E required to go about using my art journal as a way to process and integrate the magic of a fiction book into my own life.
Though I have done this process of weaving through the two worlds of fiction and reality for quite some time, it's only been over the past year-and-a-half that I have begun (a wee bit) to see clearly what it is I do, why my art journal is integral in the process and to put some language to it so I might attempt to show others the thrills of such a practice.
It was last year I came up with the label Book of Spells and at the time I wasn't entirely sure what that meant. It is still very much a work in progress, but the name has proved perfect for my intent.
In starting The Magic School I was only sure that I very much needed a free pass to ride the waves that undulate between fiction and reality. Now 6 quarters in, I see that truly the vision has a mind of its own and if I am willing to admit I'm not entirely set in stone on where I am headed, then I can be open to doing the very next thing necessary as that becomes evident to me. What this means is that if there were to be an engraved vision statement plaque at the entrance to this invisible university, the only thing safe for it to say would be "Following the White Rabbit since our inception."
In the Fall of last year the "very next thing necessary" became The Magic School Book Club, which I have uttered under my breath and out loud to a friend, "this is the closest I have come yet to the heart of what I believe The Magic School can be."
Currently I have one Make Belief Starter available for The Magic School Book Club. I named them Make Belief starters because they are designed to set your imagination running on the possibilities of what this particular fictional realm has to offer you. You start in their (the characters) fictional world and you end in your real world, pulling bits of their world in through the portal that is your art journal. (If you would like to know more about how to generally Make Belief, there is a week long e-course available HERE.)
What I am finding is that this process cannot be rushed. Well, let me rephrase that, it can and sometimes I want it to be, but the outcome is vastly different and leaves much to be desired. Here's how I came to that conclusion:
When I announced the start of The Magic School Book Club and The Night Circus Make Belief Starter in November of 2016, I was asked by a couple people what my next book would be for December. (Maybe because they weren't interested in reading The Night Circus or because they had already read it and didn't care to revisit it.) The assumption was that I was going to release a Make Belief Starter based on a different fictional book every month. At the time, I wasn't sure what I was going to do, and their question got me thinking: maybe a monthly Book Club subscription made since. Every month a new feature! How exciting! What intrigue!
But then there was the fact that I wasn't even remotely ready to move on. I was just getting started in the world of The Night Circus, and I wasn't sure if I was pitching my striped tent for a month or for a year. All I knew is that I was here for as long as it took.
How did I know I was going to be hanging out in the tents awhile?
When I read a book I collect quotes. This particular book, The Night Circus, I read on a kindle and so I was easily able to save my highlights and print them out. When I finished reading the book I had 10 pages of quotes. I read through them and in the margins made little notations or drew little symbols to flesh out my thoughts.
When I'm ready to think about my next art journal page, I read through the quotes until one strikes me. This becomes the one I will focus on next. Sometimes this means I carry it into my busy day or week. It's like letting something simmer on the back burner, adding pinches of this and that to the pot as needed. Often times I am given secret messages throughout my day that add into the richness of the quote for me, helping me see how that piece of fiction can apply to my very real life. It takes on a life of its own. Visuals offer themselves up to me. Key words become apparent. Scenarios bring "real world" context to the quotes. Then what is left to do is to take all the pieces and connect them on the page. This process feels like incorporating the magic into my life. The necessary steps I must walk through for the spell to be integrated. By the time the art journal page is done, the deed is done. The magic is mine.
Sometimes several quotes combine themselves into one page. Sometimes a mere word from a quote is worth exploring. Sometimes a quote loses its magic and I cross it off my list of possible art journal pages. Sometimes the quote later applies and I add it back on. 10 pages of quotes (not every book I read has this many applicable quotes) takes some time and I want to thoroughly see to what I gathered. In case you're wondering, we're into January 2017, and I'm not done with this book yet in my art journal, even as I am onto reading other fiction books.
I thought I wouldn't be able to read new books if I was still art journaling through The Night Circus, but I am finding it is a rich experience to enter new fictional worlds with this Night Circus portal still open. Turns out there are connections to be made between fictional worlds as well as with the "real world."
I know as a business model it is enticing to offer more, more, more. If 1 a year is good 12 is even better! And sometimes, really and truly, this makes sense. And don't get me wrong, I would love to have a plethora of Make Belief Starters available because fictional portals are not one-size-fits-all. Some day I will. But in this case, considering I am one person who is also using the materials as I am making them, it doesn't make sense to rush the process. Here's why:
Reading a book takes time. Often times I can't sit and read for hours on end. My book has a bookmark tucked in it and some weeks that bookmark flies through the pages and other weeks it barely budges. I return as I can, but I cannot give myself to this fictional realm entirely. I am needed in the "real world."
Sitting with a book takes time. Letting a book penetrate through the rough ground of the real world to fertilize and nourish the inner world of ME is no overnight experience. I need real data from the "real world" to work with. I need in the flesh examples and ah-ha moments of the exchange rate between black and white circuses and running a household or working a job or nurturing a relationship. You know, "real world" stuff.
In The Night Circus terms, I need to wear my red scarf outside of the circus walls, return inside to remember why I am wearing it in the first place, and then step foot back outside. I need the luxury of being able to come and go and come and go and come and go again. I am a detective collecting secret messages that are leading me somewhere important, but I can't just manifest the next clue. I have to find it, over T-I-M-E.
Making art takes time. Often times I can't sit and make art for hours on end. My art journal has a piece of wax paper tucked in it protecting the latest wet paint and some weeks that wax paper flies through the pages and other weeks it barely budges. I return as I can, but I cannot give myself to this Book of Spells entirely. I am needed in the "real world." I have to not only create the spells, but also test them out in the field.
And so in honoring how this practice REALLY plays out for me, I can't very well ask you to whisk through fictional realms so quickly they are but a flying broomstick blur. One art journal page per book is not what I'm after here. There is nothing wrong with that sort of art, but I am finding the way I use art is not to showcase finished pieces, but to make magic through the creating process. Art is my therapy and it is where I develop my philosophies on life. It is where my pieces come together. Where the dots gets connected. Art is a process for me. It is about what I learn while doing it. It helps me make new beliefs on why I am living and how I will continue to thrive. It gives me meaning and purpose and connects me to the wonder-full magic that living can be.
As an artist I am a magician because I take the T-I-M-E to experiment with new possibilities. Because art takes time it gives me time to ponder, which leads me to curiouser and curiouser discoveries. Ancient spell recipes don't exactly call for ingredients that can be pulled right off your pantry shelf. Retrieving eye of newt and unicorn tears requires a quest in and of itself. Quests take T-I-M-E. Secret message gathering takes T-I-M-E.
Following the White Rabbit takes time. We all know hurrying a white rabbit leads to very anxiety-ridden, unpleasant results. One must take their time while in Wonderland.