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  • Writer's pictureDavid Beatty

Keeping a Journal

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

"Process" is literally whatever you do to create your art. It's routine. It's technique. It's action. It's your physical and mental practice to manifest work. Over time you evolve, perfect and define your process in relation to your work and discover your unique recipe to grow and develop as an artist. Ultimately, if what you're doing is effective, then you can repeat it and get similar results.

One of the things I do as part of my process is keep a journal. It began around 1997 to try and articulate what I was doing as an actor to create a character. I wanted to document my own personal exploration. And I don't mean my character kept a journal, I mean that I did. Me, the actor. To this day, I find that writing and trying to articulate is the most important part for me. That may not be true of everyone, but for me, it's at the center of creation.

My process includes many other techniques. For example I like cross-pollinating art forms as a way to discover new things. I might shoot photos of flowers to inspire a series of ceramic pots. Or paint landscapes to envision a future world for film. Or create a scrapbook of photos to inform a character. It's both using another language as a form of discovery and articulating my process in unexpected ways to get unexpected results.

In 2003 I did an entire study of Marc Chagall because I was working on the short film Wholesale with similar themes. I started painting, mimicking his work, to capture the playfulness and whimsical nature of his painting. Those small paintings I did became an entirely different exploration, eventually having a life of their own. It's a reminder that process can spout new branches of unexpected creativity.

Because process is ever evolving, what worked before may not work again so the key to an effective process is to allow it to evolve and change over time. You have to be flexible. For example, you might work with people who don’t work the same way you do. That might be frustrating, but rather than quit, see it as an opportunity for growth. This is a chance to evolve your process. You can learn from experiencing a way of work that is unfamiliar to you. It's like learning to speak a new language and the more you practice, the more languages you speak. That is the power of evolving your process.

No matter what technique I newly learn or old method that evolves, I always return to my journal to write about the experience. It's a way to force myself to articulate the next step along the evolutionary path of my creative process.

Recently I was listening to the audio book Calypso by David Sedaris, I learned that he too has kept a journal his whole life. I've always liked his work, and now felt a very real kindred spirit on the other end of the audio book.

In fact, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Lewis and Clark, Thomas Edison, Frida Kahlo and Leonardo da Vinci are among many who have kept journals.

So if you walk away with anything after reading this... keep a journal.

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