The second in our "Journal Affection" series is an interview with Elizabeth Russinko. Elizabeth created "The Unscripted Life," and "Retreat Road Map." where she works with people, like me and you, to inspire conscious living. You can follow her here on Instagram: The Unscripted Life and Retreat Road Map.
1) What are your earliest memories of journaling or writing as a child? What's the first time you remember feeling inspired?
"I started keeping journals as soon as I learned how to write. My journals from those days consisted of one sentence stories that took up an entire page! Even then, I was drawn to recording my experiences on paper. In first through third grade we kept a journal as part of our “library” class, so it was a habit that continued to be reinforced. By the time it was no longer an expectation, it had already become a foundational part of how I recorded and processed my life. I journaled through my whole childhood. As a high schooler, I had a very special and eccentric English teacher who loved that journaling was such an important part of my life. Instead of writing papers like the rest of the class, she allowed me to hand in my journal in as my assignment for the year. During that year I journaled in three ring binders so that I could hand one in, and still have one to write in, moving the “graded” pages as we went along.
I don’t know if journaling has ever been a matter of inspiration, but rather a habit of survival. Journaling has never been an option for me. It is something that I must do. At 38 years old, I have written over 130 journals!"
2) What are your favorite ways to express yourself creatively?
"Pretty much in all things. When I do the dishes I suds up the pans and write words in the soap. On gorgeous days (or when I feel the need to communicate with my local community, haha) I chalk inspiring quotes or political messages on our driveway. I paint my kid’s scribbles, write our grocery list in calligraphy, and take photographs with abandon. Most of all though, I love writing words. Hand lettering in particular is my primary form of meditation."
3) If you've ever gone through a period of feeling unmotivated or that you don't have "permission" to journal, how did you find the courage to journal again?
"Up until I became a mom, journaling was a daily and essential part of my life. Even through my first pregnancy I journaled almost every day. But once I became a mom, I felt pressured to start journaling not just for myself but for my daughter. I also had a new sense of vulnerability within my journals, because I imagined them as a shared space that would also need to be appropriate for consumption by someone other than me. I tried to have a personal journal and a journal for my daughter but it was too much, so I ended up getting a bit stuck. I do wish I journaled more during that time. Within a 3 month timespan I became a mother (and had a traumatic birth), left my 12 year career, and lost my dad unexpectedly. I needed journaling more than ever, but as an overwhelmed new mom I didn’t know how to make time for it.
I became pregnant with my second child around our daughter’s first birthday, and then also felt pressure to keep a pregnancy journal for that baby, which meant three journals. That was a recipe for 3 poorly managed journals!
Pushed by my father’s death to live life more fully, I knew I needed to take my creativity more seriously. Although I incorporated my creativity into my life in many ways, I had always been afraid to share anything from my journals, terrified that people would say I wasn’t a “real artist” or that I had no talent of consequence. I suddenly decided that my desire to share my work was stronger than my fear of being rejected. So one day in late November 2013, I decided to take a leap and share on my personal Facebook page a small piece of lettering I'd made on scrap of paper while my infant was napping: "She Believed She Could So She Did." Almost immediately, people started commenting asking if they could buy a print of it - I was absolutely astounded, but even more, I had no idea how to make that happen. The story of how it all happened is for another time, but suffice it to say that was the beginning of my business, This (Un)Scripted Life.
Accidentally starting a business around my hand lettering and writing has impacted my journaling in a couple of ways. Instagram ended up becoming an important part of sharing my work and building community, and it takes A LOT of time, so my entries became my first online “journal”. I invested in Chatbooks in order to have actual physical copies of my daily entries (Ohhhh, and if I count these I have more like 150+ journals!) Another impact it had was that I started feeling pressure to make everything I do and make “postable”, which is the antithesis of what journaling has always been for me. Luckily, my community is drawn to my penchant for storytelling and willingness to be vulnerable, so I keep it pretty real. ;) But it has been a challenge.
In an effort to give myself space aside from Instagram, I also made a decision to start buying myself gorgeous journals again. After leaving my career for motherhood I had gotten so used to not letting myself spend money on things that I wanted. I gave myself permission to spend money on journals that bring me joy (usually between $12-25), and then gave myself even MORE permission to fill them with lists, or practice lettering, or notes from a doctor’s appointment, or brainstorming, or whatever the heck I want or need to put on those pages, with NO RULES for making anything pretty or worthy or profound. My blank pages, to do whatever I want with, end of story."
4) How is journaling a form of self care for you? Does it help you express yourself, cope or understand the world a little better? Can you explain your process and how you use it?
"Journaling is how I record and reflect on my experiences. I am an external processor, so it is my way of processing life with myself. I don’t know how I would function without journaling.
Along those lines, my husband and I started our kids on journaling when they were 18 months or so (Our son is 2 1/2 and our daughter is 4). They "write" in their journals almost every day. They fill them with stickers from the dentist, doodles about their day, pretend "letters", real letters (our daughter is starting to write). I help them paste cards they receive from family or friends, and tickets from events we attend. There are no rules, and they don't go "in order" of the pages (so I sometimes add in a small date at the bottom of a page). It is deeply fulfilling to imagine that I am helping them establish a lifelong love of journaling!"
5) What inspires your writing?
"Everything! Literally, the experience of being alive - as a woman, a mom, a partner, a person. It is all worth writing about!"