Finding freedom through journaling

Artistic journaling acts as a creative outlet

Story by Audrey Haskins, staff writer

At the beginning of the school year, everyone feels overwhelmed as they’re being thrown into the belly of the beast that is high school. Being so busy, students feel like they begin to lose themselves, drowning in textbooks and essays. Artistic journaling is a positive way to reclaim yourself through the freedom of pen and paper.

“Artistic Journaling is coming to the page with something to say that’s more than words. It is the creative expression of anything that matters. It allows for artistic freedom, it allows for creativity, it allows for you to bring to the page whatever your heart speaks to you,” English teacher Michele Rigdon said.

Rigdon uses enrichment periods to give students the opportunity to experience artistic journaling. The belief that this creative outlet is beneficial for one’s mental health is instilled in her.

“I love doing this. Artistic journaling allows for your journal to become a canvas for whatever purpose or creative means you would like to bring to the page. It’s beneficial because it feeds the soul. It feeds the creative side or the artistic side of someone. Especially somewhere where we are so academically focused, writing provides an outlet. Journaling is something you can do for yourself,” Rigdon said.

Her students benefit from the class and thrive from the opportunity being given to them. Chris Geyer, a long time artistic journalist, is one of those students.

“I journal at least once everyday. I do it all the time. It’s a bunch of sporadic thoughts that I put down in one place,” Geyer said. “My art has improved so much because it allows me that time to constantly put something into that work. My writing has changed so much, as well.”

Senior Mariah Jones uses this art form to reclaim her life and improve herself overall.

“My mom passed away, so whenever I have something going on that I would normally tell my mother, I just write it down as if I’m talking to her,” Jones said. “Every year on her birthday, I go to where her ashes were spread and set the pages on fire. It gives me a way of letting go of all of it. It’s very therapeutic.”

Personality can fade in many ways. School can be so overwhelming to the point that you can become lost in it. Spending time focusing on yourself and taking a break from academics is a healthy way to rediscover your identity. There are many ways to journal for self-expression to claim that part of yourself once again.

“You can have multiple journals. Tessa Ray, the ESL (English Second Language) teacher, keeps hers as a biblical journal. She pulls out a verse and that becomes her focus. Each page is a focal point for her,” Rigdon said. “For me, I’m doing a gratitude journal where I am doing what I am grateful for. It’s something that can maybe take me away from other things to help me focus on something that speaks to me. It reminds me that in life you should have balance and [life] can’t be all academic.”

Rigdon wants to share this newfound interest with her students. She encourages and gives her students the opportunity to love being creative.

“My enrichment class is using an altered book where the page becomes a statement in some way, but you can also have one with just words and sketching, or just verses or multimedia. You have so many different mediums coming together to try and convey whatever it is you’re trying to do. It’s up to the you what you want to put on the page,” Rigdon said.

A journal is anything you want it to be. It has no rules, it has no guidelines, and it’s a positive way to go on improving your life.

“Here’s the thing, when you drink the next day it’s going to suck. When you do drugs the next hour it’s going to suck. When you journal, there’s not an ending punchline. You can carry on and be okay,” Jones said. ”A lot of times we bottle everything up, but with journaling, you don’t have to open up to anyone but yourself. You already know the  information, you just have to write it down and let it out.”

“My son keeps a journal, and in it he puts things from his own life in the moment to remember, so that might be something he finds or a ticket from a movie. You could do a journal as a testament to the year,” Rigdon said. “If I put happiness on a page, however I decide to convey that, it will be up to me. Whether it’s a mix of words or color or print or newspaper print. It’s whatever I choose to do.”

All you need is something to work with. It doesn’t have to be what is typically seen as a traditional journal. Find inspiration in yourself or in the world and channel that inspiration into art.

“I was inspired by two things. First was my friend Ms. Ray, who had a journal and talked about how it’s therapeutic. I also read a book this summer called ‘A Thousand Gifts,’ which is a list of a thousand things to be thankful for,” Rigdon said. “It’s easy to get caught up in all of the other things that can be so hectic that we forget to stop and think of things to be thankful for around us, even things as small as a ladybug.”

You don’t have to be artistic to be creative. Appreciation for the beauty of things is an essential part of life. Art is a necessity. Rigdon is opening this thought to the rest of Texarkana.

“My first plan is to exhibit journals that students would like it share in a community setting. Hopefully in October we will be partnering with the Ritchie Grocery Store,” Rigdon said. “The old building in itself is a piece of art, if you look at the architecture. They’re trying to bring the building back to life, and bring into it an exhibit of the life that can be found through the art that’s created. We’ve been approved to move forward with that. I want to get more people interested, or to at least appreciate what we’re doing here. Hopefully that will help us move forward as artists.”