words + photos : wednesday

Today I want to focus on the words.

  • What if you collected stories the same way you collect supplies?

  • What if you did your journaling first, rather than last, in your creative process?

  • What if you began paying attention to your life in a way that enabled the stories to free-flow from your fingers onto the page?

  • What if you encouraged your kids (by example and through encouragement) to be the kind of people who grow up telling their own stories?

  • What if you truly valued your individual story and life experiences and were brave enough to share them with others?


[ this is scrapbooking : part of a series on Simon's journey from Life Artist ]

I am one of those people who actually enjoys the process of adding the written story to my layouts. I begin most of my pages with something to say or a specific story to tell. Sometimes the words have been thought out (or written out) in advance and other times they are gathering together as I am grabbing my supplies and printing my photos.

Overall, what do I want to say?

  1. I want my stories to be real. Real to me means that I leave a part of myself within each story. I want to leave evidence of my existence in the words I chose.

  2. I want some stories to be long and complete. I want other stories to be quick - maybe just a few words to complement a photo that really needs few words to communicate a message.

  3. I want to tell stories that celebrate our everyday life as well as stories that deal with our challenges.

  4. I want to grow as a writer. I know that writing helps me know myself better.

  5. I don't want to be bound by fears of misspellings, grammatical errors, etc. I just want to tell my stories.

  6. I want my stories to show that I was paying attention to my life.

What do you want to say?


[ MacJournal screenshot ]

How do I keep track of the stories I want to tell?

  1. Blog Posts : I have talked some in the past about using your blog posts as the content for your layouts. This has become routine for me. Remember you don't have to create a public blog - most programs give you he option of creating a private blog. Writing while you are living through an experience (even everyday life) is completely different than going back and trying to document something after the fact.

  2. Not all our stories are shared on this blog. Many of them go into a program I use called MacJournal. I use it to keep track of daily thoughts, stories, lists, etc. I have folders for me, Chris, Simon, Family, etc. Many of those words will end up on a scrapbook page or in a minibook. An easy way to do this if you don't have a Mac is to set up a Word document (or a folder with other topic folders inside) just for stories. Keep it on your desktop for easy access. Does anyone have a journal-type program they recommend for a PC?

  3. I also carry a Moleskine notebook with me for on the go thoughts. Over the last couple of weeks I think I finally made the move to one notebook (it was just getting to crazy with too many random books).

  4. If my notebook isn't with me I have also been known to use my phone to jot down story ideas as well.

  5. I don't write everything down. I tell stories I am inspired by at the moment. Sometimes I will be reminded of something to document at a random time - this is when a notebook or a computer file really comes in handy for jotting those things down before they are gone.


[ from A Designer's Eye for Scrapbooking ]

Writing techniques:

  1. Start each sentence in your journaling with the same word. In the layout above about my Grandpa I used a bunch of choppy sentences that say things such as, "A family man. A farmer. An educated man." Inside the pocket is a note he had written me. Another favorite of mine was a minibook recently where each page began with the word "sometimes." There is no right or wrong for documenting your stories with words.

  2. I journal both on the computer and by hand for my layouts and projects. It often depends upon the length of the story and how much I care about getting the details right. I tend to be more organic when I write by hand (both in sentence structure + overall feel) and more structured when I use my computer.

  3. Make friends with your thesaurus. I refer to my computer version often.

  4. I aim for a combination of feeling + fact. Sometimes it is heavier on one or the other but in general I like to include some of both. The facts ground the story and the feeling gives it heart.


[ from CK  Studio A February 2007 : read the journaling from a blog post here ]

Things to keep in mind as you focus on the words:

  1. You only have to tell one story at a time. Tell one story. Move on to the next one.

  2. Break your story down into manageable chunks. Some stories are super overwhelming. Where do you even begin? When you are documenting a story remember that you don't have to start at the beginning. Start in the middle. Start at the end. No one will ever know where you began your process. Write the easy part first and then move on to the tougher portions (or vice versa).

  3. It's ok to begin a project without knowing what you are going to say. It's ok to create layouts that  have just a few words. Often the process of creating the page can help you identify what is most important and what you want your words to communicate. The key is to make sure you add that story before you move on to the next project.

  4. Keep writing. Confidence comes with practice. Confidence comes with accepting your own personal voice.

  5. Everyone has their own issues related to writing. It is a very personal thing. Telling our stories is a very personal thing. Identify your own biggest writing challenge and begin working through it. Practice and patience with yourself are a couple things that will help you tackle those issues.

  6. Your family will thank you for taking the time to include the words (even if you are not there to receive the thanks).


[ The full words + photos series can be found here: monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday, friday. ]

60 thoughts

  1. jc

    2008-05-07 08:47:25 -0400

    I just want to say thank you. You inspire me to live life, love life & record life. Not just for my children, but for myself.

  2. Trina

    2008-05-07 09:25:26 -0400

    Ali--I am loving your posts this week and look forward to it every morning! I especially love todays post because it rings so true for me. The journaling is the part I struggle with the most. I used to love to write,in fact, I once thought of a career in journalism. I even took a creative writing class in high school (many, many years ago!) but these days I feel very insecure about my writing, like it is not good enough, or that what I have to say isn't all that important. I like your ideas and I think I'll be purchasing MacJournal today! Also think I better get myself a little notebook for my purse and jot down things that strike me in the moment! I think my biggest struggle is the fact that I get so caught up in the moment that I forget to look for the small things that really end up being the big things, ya know? Guess I need to work on that, too! Hahaha
    Thanks again for all your inpiration! You are still my favorite! "See" you tomorrow!

  3. alyssa

    2008-05-07 09:50:48 -0400

    The very first line of your post grabbed me. It's so provocative and so telling. Even though I'm a writer in much of my professional and personal life, the way you expressed this - the idea of what we collect - is so powerful.
    I sometimes have the impression that people collect supplies as some sort of badge of honor. But how much more would we honor ourselves, our loved ones, our experiences if we collected words this way? And what a powerfully different connotation "collecting" might have.
    Your series is simply amazing. Thanks you.

  4. Mary

    2008-05-07 10:21:19 -0400

    I'd love to hear how you handle difficult times in the journaling that you scrap ... not the inspiring story of "how we got through the job lay off and now things are better than ever" but journaling something difficult such as a teen hitting a bump in the road.
    I love your opening point "what if you collected stories the way you collect supplies?" That is a great thought and it won't leave me soon. So many supplies look dated a year later but my family loves the stories and reads them again and again and again.

  5. Mary

    2008-05-07 10:28:02 -0400

    I wanted to add that I keep lots of notes in simple text files on a jump drive - that way it's accessible anywhere on any (well I really don't know about a Mac but I'd have a hard time believing that a Mac couldn't read a text file on a jump drive.)
    I'm considering starting to journal my thoughts, etc. on such a file. Naming it Journal_mm_yy.txt would probably keep things manageable. I could also add little notes if the journal entry has been scrapped.
    I love fun software but often these simpler, more "rustic" solutions end up working day after day.
    I also have a personal wiki stored on my jump drive and it has a place to add a journal entry on a daily basis. Since I use it to rack my professional work as a software developer, I hesitate to add personal journal entries there.
    If I was a SAHM I would use that wiki for both in a heartbeat - google "Monkey GTD wiki" if you are interested ... it presents your projects, lists and work in a dashboard format and does have the journal entry feature if that interests you ...
    mmmm... maybe I need to start a scrap wiki so I can track projects, supplies, classes and journals ...
    ali your writing inspires tons of ideas and I love reading your blog every day. I love Simon and your and your DH make a cute couple!

  6. DonnaC

    2008-05-07 10:34:07 -0400

    Ali - I bow to you!!!. You have such a knack at identifying the really meaningful stuff that is usually hidden below the surface somewhere. Thank you so much for articulating all of these thoughts, techniques and ideas.
    Donna in Vancouver

  7. Lisa

    2008-05-07 10:53:58 -0400

    I love the idea of writing the story first. There have been many times when I have done that (though not the majority of the time) and those are all the layouts that I am most connected,too. Interestingly, they are also the easiest to design and put together because the story is so clear that the design just flows. I think I will make a policy of journaling first for the next little while and see what comes of it...

  8. kellyv

    2008-05-07 11:03:41 -0400

    Hi Ali,
    I always begin my scrapbook pages with the words and stories and, to be honest, usually I feel like I must be doing something wrong but if I don't have a story to tell with my page, it doesn't feel authentic to me. Thanks for validating this process. We could all still have amazing scrapbooks or journals full of stories and photos and the truly important 'stuff' even if all the embellishments and ribbons and tassels and bows disappeared. Pretty great, huh?

  9. stella

    2008-05-07 11:13:25 -0400

    Oh Ali! I MUST QUOTE YOU! you have so many true and beautifully written lines in this post. I am a teacher, and I LOOOOOOVE to teach writing. I will share with my students this line from you and you will now have officially a place in my classroom with "QUOTE CORNER"
    T"he facts ground the story and the feeling gives it heart."
    by Ali Edwards
    Thanks for your contribution to my writing classroom!

  10. Kim

    2008-05-07 12:06:59 -0400

    Ali, I just want to take a minute to thank you for taking the time out of your busy life to teach us so many wonderful things. You truly are amazing!

  11. Marilyn Tan

    2008-05-07 12:09:03 -0400

    Thanks Ali, for sharing the experience of how you document your story and also about how we should love the things in us. Thank you for providing the useful links to the sites as usual! They are great stuffs to share.

  12. Amanda Mac

    2008-05-07 12:26:47 -0400

    I wandered over here because someone at 2ps mentioned a layout I'd done fit your blog topic this week. The story has always been, and will always be, a huge part of the reason I scrap. I guess as a wannabe writer, it just hits home for me.
    But even someone who loves to write needs a few reminders and pointers every now and then. Thanks for a provocative and inspiring post!

  13. katy

    2008-05-07 13:22:24 -0400

    I LOVE the focus on words. I'm a self proclaimed writer and i rarely make a page without some sort of journaling or writing. I'm not as good about writing feelings/thoughts ahead of time (i'm going to practice, or consider using blog posts per your advice). but thank you. There are so many who are afraid to write because it's "no good" when really the only way to get better is to write more. So thank you.
    Question: do you use MacJournal to post to typepad? It supports blog posts to both my blog sites and I'm curious how the interface works. I could easily be converted if it's a smooth process. Thanks!

  14. Leonie

    2008-05-07 13:27:51 -0400

    thanks again for another totally practical and interesting stock of ideas that i can use
    you have a gift for sharing the real
    thanks for that

  15. Stacey from Two Writing Teachers

    2008-05-07 13:35:21 -0400

    Your message about getting kids to be storytellers is exactly what we're striving for in our writing classrooms. If enough of us are in this together, then maybe we can start something and make this happen!

  16. Debby

    2008-05-07 13:50:10 -0400

    This is totally awesome. I'm certainly going to put a lot of what you blogged into practice. Again wonderful wonderful.
    I love story tellers. As a child I use to listen to an old AM radio I hid underneath the pillow on my bed and ear phones on and listen to stories. I also fell in love with the story telling style of Garrison Keller. I love stories and I want to be able to creatively write my own. Thanks for the tools.

  17. Naomi

    2008-05-07 23:21:29 -0400

    Ali, as usual your words are so inspiring. I wonder do you know the positive impact you have. Thank you so much.
    I too struggle with my journalling and one thing that I have found helps when I am stuck with how to start the story is to use a quote from whoever the layout is about. Sometimes it is easier to write your own words when you follow someone else.

  18. Hazel

    2008-05-09 12:45:44 -0400

    Really love this series of posts.
    BTW, Mariner Software have published a Windows version of MacJournal. It's called WinJournal.

  19. Taryn

    2008-05-09 13:41:08 -0400

    So, I'm behind on following along this week, because I wanted to go through your posts when I could have time to really absorb all you're sharing. Thank you Ali, for sharing your thoughts on all this!
    Wanted to toss out something I started doing a few years ago...I keep an "I remember journal" that is about my childhood. When something triggers a childhood memory, I document it in my journal starting each memory with, "I remember..." My dad found my journal (I leave it sitting out.) once and was in tears just reading my simple memories and know that those little things were meaningful to me. I hope my children will feel that way about the journal one day.

  20. Taryn

    2008-05-09 13:42:08 -0400

    So, I'm behind on following along this week, because I wanted to go through your posts when I could have time to really absorb all you're sharing. Thank you Ali, for sharing your thoughts on all this!
    Wanted to toss out something I started doing a few years ago...I keep an "I remember journal" that is about my childhood. When something triggers a childhood memory, I document it in my journal starting each memory with, "I remember..." My dad found my journal (I leave it sitting out.) once and was in tears just reading my simple memories and know that those little things were meaningful to me. I hope my children will feel that way about the journal one day.

  21. Design for Mankind

    2008-05-14 05:31:42 -0400

    I'm going to agree with the masses on this one--- THANK YOU!

  22. Rhiain

    2008-05-16 04:53:22 -0400

    it is so useful to read your guidance on journaling and stories. i always feel that (having no kids) that my life seems very dull if you looked in my albums as there is very little there + then a whole bunch of pics from a holiday! But in actual fact my life is extremely busy as i am a teacher. I want to include this in my lo's but you can't take a camera to work (i have taken pics of my classroom etc when i have left jobs but people think its really wierd!). So i guess what i'm tyring to say is you have inspired me to do lo's with little or no pictures and capture the real emotions (however unpleasent) of my REAL everyday life.
    Thanks Ali

  23. Michele

    2008-05-19 14:02:26 -0400

    This is one of the most helpful blog posts I've ever read! Thank you!

  24. Coleen

    2008-10-12 15:10:29 -0400

    Your words + photos series has re-enforced a lot of things/points for me. Thank you!

  25. Susana

    2009-02-18 06:27:35 -0500

    I just read this section of your blog. Often I don't have time to read every post but I am so thankful I took time today. Of all the scrapbook "tips" I have read, for me, this has to be the one that will make the most impact. I hate writing in my books, but after reading this section I feel inspired. THANK YOU! I now have a focus!

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