Day: September 23, 2011

Making River Song’s Journal

The new iteration of Doctor Who is by turns silly, clunky, brilliant, heart-breaking, and delightful. I watch every episode. I like the essential hopefulness and joyfulness of it. There are piece of the stories which stay with me even after I walk away from the screen, like the story between the Doctor and River Song. They both travel in time and have met each other many times, but always in a random order. This makes reminiscing difficult because they don’t want to accidentally give away the future of the other person. To solve the problem the Doctor gives River Song a journal. It looks like this:

I love the idea of this journal. It’s tattered condition implies hundreds of adventures that River and the Doctor have together. Through it they are able to find where they are in relation to each other and then proceed to have yet another adventure. Possibly my interest in the journal is due to the fact that I love journals. I always have. I wondered if it were possible for me to buy a journal with a cover made to look like River Song’s. I googled and discovered that the BBC has released a printable PDF which one can use to cover a journal, but that there is no officially sanctioned journal for purchase. There are several etsy shops which sell handmade ones, but the prices were daunting when I’m trying to cut back on frivolous spending. I sighed and gave up. Or so I thought.

The next day I kept bumping into supplies. My on my craft desk was some dark blue tissue paper and Modge Podge (a decoupage glue) which I’d been using to re-decorate some little metal boxes. Sorting through a pile under my desk I found an unused journal which I bought some time in the past six months. I knew I had card stock, scissors, and an exacto knife. I had everything I needed. So without exactly deciding to, I began making a River Song journal.

I began with this black journal. Having it be black was important so that the dark could show through the tissue paper and make the shadows which can be seen in the recessed portions of the journal cover. I colored over the red line with a sharpie marker.

Next I printed out a copy of the PDF and sized it so that it would fit the cover of the book I had. Then I cut out the pieces as a pattern. I arranged the patterns on the book to make sure the proportions were correct before I proceeded.

I traced the pattern onto white card stock. Once I had it all traced, I glued a second piece of card stock to the back to give it the thickness I wanted.

I used a knife and scissors to cut out the pattern pieces. I deliberately made everything not quite square to resemble the PDF better. Once the pieces were cut out, I arranged them on the book. Then I glued them down using Modge Podge.

I waited for that to dry thoroughly before proceeding. Fortunately this particular glue dries quickly. Next I cut a piece of the blue tissue paper so that it was larger than the book. I applied glue to the cover in sections and carefully pressed the tissue paper down so that it got into the recessed places as well as the top of the card stock. On the binding side, the tissue lined up with the edge of the cover cardboard. Glue does not bend well and I wanted my book to be able to open. I had to be gentle and careful so that I did not tear the tissue paper. I used two layers of tissue, letting the glue dry completely between layers.

I clipped the corners of the tissue paper and then propped the book open so that I could wrap the tissue around to the inside of the book. I glued it down, making sure to slather a layer of glue across the top of the tissue so that it was protected. I also put a layer of glue all across the top of the cover, both front and back.

All that was left was the spine. I cut some pieces of card stock to fit and repeated the process of laying down tissue paper. Again I was careful not to glue anything to the binding crease so that the book would open easily.

And here is the journal completed:

It is not perfect. Intentionally so in some places. I do wish I’d figured out how to give it a more leather-like texture. The Modge Podge is smooth and shiny. You can also see the strokes of the brush I used to lay down the glue. I’m pleased with the result even though it definitely has a home made look. Perhaps as I carry it around, and use it, the shine will wear off a bit. I’m far from the only one who has committed this particular act of geekery. A little googling will find similar journals in leather, paint, knitting, fridge magnets, key chains, and all sorts of other forms.

The question I began asking myself almost as soon as I began construction was what I planned to do with the thing once it was made. I already have a journal. Several. It seemed foolish to spend so much work to make another one. Then I realized that what I loved about the idea of River Song’s journal is that it was full of amazing things all out of order. I wanted a book like that. One where my usual self-imposed writing rules don’t apply. I wanted to see what deliberately changing the structures of my creativity would cause to fall out of my brain. Once I knew that, I also knew what my rules for filling the journal needed to be.

1. Don’t write it in order. When I have something to write, pick a page at random and begin.
2. Date every entry.
3. Write only things that matter to me. Nothing boring. That said, sometimes small and insignificant can also be fascinating.
4. Leave the first two pages blank. Write them last.
5. Draw as many pictures as I wish. They don’t have to be good.
6. I can update, change, or alter anything that I have already put in the book. I just need to note the date of the change.
7. Writing sideways or upside down is fine.
8. Find things to clip and tape into the pages.
9. Neatness is not required.
10. I can make stuff up, write stories, or pretend to be someone else.
11. I can invite others to contribute to the pages.
12. I am the maker of all these rules. I can break them if I wish.

And so my River Journal adventure begins. I wonder where I will travel.

Analyzing Anxiety

I’ve been paying attention to the shapes of my thoughts lately. I’ve figured out that I am living with levels of stress and anxiety which are too high for my body to sustain on a long term basis. Combine that with recently watching a documentary showing scientific evidence of how stress can reduce both health and happiness, and I’ve felt highly motivated to figure out where all of the stress is coming from. It is not merely the result of being busy. It is possible to be busy all day long while also being relaxed and happy. I’ve done that before and it is where I am aiming to dwell again.

I noticed that many of my thoughts had the shape of perfectionism. I put great pressure on myself to stay on schedule, to get things right. Yet I don’t think I’m inherently perfectionist. I am quite willing to allow myself mistakes and errors. This morning I realized what it was. I am not allowed to let down people who are counting on me, or people whom I perceive as counting on me. The more important the person is to me, the less I am allowed to fail them. No one else is imposing these requirements on me. I do it to myself and sometimes to a ridiculous degree. I will berate myself for failing to complete something that the other person had no idea I was doing for them. If I do fail at something I generally pick up and move on fairly quickly, but it adds stress to the next round of “I must not fail.”

I’m not entirely sure how to disconnect this as a source of stress, because I want to retain being reliable and dependable as core elements of my self-definition. I’m in the process of re-defining the boundaries of my jobs so that I take less responsibility on myself. I know I tend to snatch responsibility when it would be better to let others handle it. Most of this gets expressed in my home life. This makes things murky in the areas where personal and business overlap, such as my relationship with my husband-and-business-partner. We’re working on it and finding better balances.

The best avenue of attack has been to sit myself down and ask exactly what I’m afraid of. I’ll pull out the anxieties and sort them then think step-by-step through all the possible consequences. Usually I discover that the worst case scenarios are well within my management capabilities. That works for anxiety which has basis in thought. Other times the anxiety starts as an agitation in my body to which my brain tries to attach explanations. Re-balancing my thyroid medication may resolve most of this. I’m also actively seeking out relaxation / recreational activities. I’m exercising, gardening, and spending time on projects that don’t have much purpose other than my desire to do them. Bit by bit I am teasing out the knots of stress and tension. So far so good.