Mental Sketchbooks


I follow Shari Blaukopf’s blog. (It was a protected blog when I started following and because I’ve been following that long I don’t know if it’s public now or not.You might need to request a subscription.) Anyway… Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 8.13.22 PMI found her recent comments fascinating — about who much pressure some artists feel when starting a new sketchbook — what do you put on the first page of that sketchbook? Shouldn’t there be something significant on that first page.

I thought about that a while. I wonder if my blog is a writer’s mental sketchbook.  Any given day’s post isn’t a ‘finished’ thing, it’s a starting off point for the day’s thoughts and thinking. It’s a collection of ideas to pursue at other moments.  It’s the punctuation at the end of a day.very little is needed

I don’t know how many people lead the same double live that I live.  There’s my life of thoughts, and a very different life of actions.  Ever so much of life is routine and mundane — I quickly tire of that and discovered long ago that I don’t really need to be present for that stuff.  Habit will carry a person through and while habit is working there’s time left to think!

It’s like I’m driving down the road and it’s a bumpy road.  I can spend time thinking about the bumpy road or I get off the topic of the bumps and wonder how long it might be until they fix the road, or whether my shocks need replacing, or 1000 other things that take my mind off how bad the roads are.  Or maybe I’ll think about what to make for supper — food’s a better thing to think about than bumpy roads, right?

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.
It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

― Albert Einstein

That applies equally to our lives as to RV’ing.  RV’ing can be both fun and a horror.  RV’ing can set you free or enslave you.  How much you insist upon forcing your RV lifestyle into the mold of your preconceived ideas will determine whether you enjoy full timing or whether you take a couple trips and end up selling your RV before it’s even broken in.

Of course there is the principal truth that there’s no right way to RV — and conversely there’s no wrong way to RV.   Because we live our own lives what works for me might not work for you.  I can say “You should buy the RV that you like  while someone else might say, “You should buy the RV that you can modify into what you want.”  I don’t particularly want to spend weeks and months modifying 23 different aspects of my RV, but I know other RV’ers who need projects and they could never afford to buy the RV that had all the little bells and whistles they want — so for them the best best is to buy something less expensive and spend however long fixing it up until it’s what they want.  And perhaps selling it then and buying another  to start the process all over — except with the knowledge that doing it once has provided.

Everything starts with a thought. Sometimes everything stops with a thought too!

If you’re an RV’ing couple are you always agreed about what you want in your RV, or where you’re going to go in that RV, or how long you’re going to stay where you went?  I doubt it.  Peg and I are about the easiest going couple when it comes to making such decisions and even we have our moments when one wants one thing and the other wants something completely different. Working through those differences is also a very individual process.  When I was still in ministry and counseling couples for whom I was officiating at their wedding I was always amazed at how completely unique the “peace” between them was.  I never met two couples who had the same dynamic; I never met two couples who processed decisions the same way, or who processed conflict the same way — love is truly a unique phenomenon.  About as unique as the Full Time RV lifestyle. 😳😳😳

But, back to my original thought…

Mental sketchbooks;  I suspect we all have our own little mental tricks to remind us about things we’ve seen or places we’ve been or ideas we’ve had.  For me this blog is part of that process.  The day I wrote about our Brake Buddy being on the fritz one of my readers wrote privately to suggest that I was sending mixed signals, and perhaps not being completely honest about why I chose to hook the car and tow it anyway.  I’m glad they brought the subject up and publicly I’m not going to explain in detail the circumstances but I did want to comment on one thing.

I do think it’s important for me to be honest about my writing. It would have been easy not to write about that experience at all, or not to have written about the compromise solution I ended up choosing.  The thing is, that as any RV’er will tell you, the full time RV lifestyle is filled with best alternatives.  We don’t/can’t always do or afford the optimum choice.

Maybe in my case that’s tempered by knowing a fellow high school classmate who married a person who labors over decisions and every decision has to be the absolute correct decision — that means that 10 or 20 years from now it has to have been the decision that they would not regret having made with more knowledge at a later time.  If you use your imagination you can  realize that living with that kind of burden — having to know everything perfectly so that you never make a bad choice — is a horrible burden, a debilitating burden to bear.  And I guess that has helped me even more to look at a set of circumstances, to weigh them, and then to act without a lot of delay upon the best combination of options.  And then forget about it.  To move on.  To let it go.

No matter what we ‘write’ in our mental sketchbooks it’s not going to be perfect.  It’s a SKETCHBOOK not a completed art work.  It’s a collection of ideas not a binding contract.

When I’m out in the field making images I know full well that the process of making the image I see in my brain before I click the shutter is not the image that I’m going to get when I look at the photograph.  The image I see in my brain when I create the photo is but the first step in what I want to see on a piece of paper some time in the future. In the days of Ansel Adams half of any finished image was created in the darkroom.  Sure, he labored over exposure and composition whilst in the field but he labored longer and harder in the darkroom dodging and burning the highlights and lowlights in each print until they were perfect.  A sketchbook isn’t supposed to be perfect.  Our mental notes on what we’re thinking aren’t supposed to be perfect.  They are works in progress.  They are tinkering with perspective and form, and perhaps the realization that this technique won’t ever work, or finding another technique that becomes one’s signature.

Mental Sketchbooks.  I like that.  I guess if someone were to ask me today why I blog — I think I would tell them that just as a sketchbook is a place for a graphic artist to play around with ideas, similarly, my blog is a place for me to play around with ideas.  Some of them have to do with RV’ing;  others have to do with life;  sometimes I wander aimlessly without making a point, and occasionally I’m straight to the goal.  But I always have fun.  I’m always glad to share.  And I always enjoy the interaction between readers and myself.

Thanks for stopping by, and let’s do this again tomorrow.

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5 Comments

  1. I love Shari! She was actually the one who started my creative juices flowing, though I did not act upon them for almost two years…she was the inspiration. Mental sketchbook appeals to me and is one reason though I don’t think I’ve mastered the art of mental sketches using words.

    I think I am more into physical media and have recently been interested in doing a collage book. You just start with an idea, start the layers and paint and in the end you have a finished concept. I’m pretty new to it but my friend has been doing it for years and when I saw her stuff it blew me away…it really was her in a nutshell…very different from me, but that’s what’s neat about people, we’re all different.

    I love the idea of staring in the middle, though I don’t usually have trouble with beginnings. Most of my creative ideas come to me in dreams. It’s wild and cool at the same time. If I don’t know the direction I want to go in, I don’t sweat it too much because sooner or later I will have clarity in the form of a dream.

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    1. I so agree on the inspiration Shari provides. And as far as mental sketches… we are all different and that’s OK. I’m not a good writer — I don’t spend enough time finishing what I write — but I’ve always written. Words are my friends. And after I learned touch typing I had finally found a way of communicating that was the right speed. Longhand was way too slow. And the process of hitting keys by muscle memory sort of slows my thinking down a little but not too much. I find it helpful for thinking things through.
      I might add one thought….
      It took years for me to know what kind of photographer I was — not meaning good or bad, but what my style was. If indeed I had a style. I struggled with that, eventually I figured out what I was doing and settle down.
      I think, when I read some of your comments, that you are sort of in the same place. You have your creative juices but you sometimes sound like you’re still coming to terms with how to use them. And of course there’s nothing to say that you can’t do one thing for a while and then change to something else — that’s equally acceptable (in the grand scheme of things that no one pays any attention to). That being blown away by other people’s style — or technique — or media, etc.
      LOL — dreams, eh? I wish I could remember enough of my dreams to KNOW whether there’s any inspiration there, or clarity. I listen to Peg’s dream memories and they make much more sense than what little I can remember of mine. And I rarely have people I know in my dreams — she always does. Dreams befuddle me. If they are supposed to be your brain making sense of the previous day’s activities then I much live in La La Land….

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      1. You pegged me right, I’m still figuring out my style in painting, in writing, I just write what’s on my mind but I have encountered so many people who see to do it so much more eloquently than I. It’s funny, I often say more in comments than I do on my blog, I find conversing is much easier than writing.

        I have no certainties of what my dreams mean, I don’t try to interpret them. Sometimes they are strange…really strange. Sometime they are a mix of people and places from different unrelated times in my life and some times they are inspirational. Just like fortune cookies…If I like the message, it was a good dream.

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