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My Little Black Book – by Robert Genn

My Little Black Book
by Robert Genn

Like many artists, I've gone through periods of writing down fleeting thoughts in a little journal. Some of the entries are pretty personal--which I'll tell you about later.

Right now we have a worldwide viral epidemic of "gratitude journaling." This is where folks put down a few nice things that happened during the day. A lot of the good stuff takes place under the covers at bedtime, and is not meant to be shared. As my daughter Sara says, "It's not a journal, it's a brain exercise." Fact is, there's considerable evidence it makes us into better people, maybe better artists.

Sara just closed out last year's Moleskine and started this year's. The Italian company that makes these beautiful books with ribbon bookmarks, elastic closures and acid free paper follows a tradition started in Paris about 1850 by a small stationery company that allegedly supplied Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, and Henri Matisse. The celebrated Australian traveller and Songlines author Bruce Chatwin used the little books so voraciously that in 1986 he bought up all copies then available.

These books are more than journals. They're a way of life--key, says the Moleskine promo, to "culture, imagination, memory, travel and personal identity."

Understanding that we become what we think, advanced Moleskiners avoid three main negatives--nostalgic regret, adherence to outcome, and fearful anticipation. These sorts of thoughts, common to all humanity, are banned from the tiny pages. Proper Moleskiners stick to a positive, optimistic outlook.

I find mentioning things that no one else must know about, even if I have to erase it right after, to be particularly valuable. For example, last night I wrote, "Three square inches in the lower left centre of that 11" x 14" are rather excellent." But I wouldn't want this sort of flagrant boasting to get around. Keep it under your bonnet, eh? And even though I erased it right after, I wouldn't want my journal and all that positive erased info getting into the wrong hands.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "To lose a passport was the least of one's worries. To lose a Moleskine notebook was a catastrophe." (Bruce Chatwin)

Esoterica: Painter Nicoletta Baumeister uses her journal for another purpose: "A poem, haiku or a small drawing at night has the effect of driving all other thoughts away. The narrowed focus and purity of intent creates a sense of calm after a day of supersaturated activity. It also affords feelings of satisfaction, job well done, if only in the tiniest work, so that I slip seamlessly into excellent sleep. Too many people out there have insomnia!" Baumeister does it again in the morning: "Gratefulness thoughts in the morning light are about the setting of the daily lens. What will we take in, what will we seek and what is today's sense of self? Feeling grateful puts my feet on solid ground, able to work out the next step; whereas, asking what I don't have sets my day on a frantic course."

Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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