Why you should try journalling during the lockdown

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The start of the lockdown triggered a wave of distress for Shweta Patel. The 25-year-old software engineer was stuck in Mumbai, away from her family, when the first lockdown was implemented. She was hesitant to talk about her state of mind but wanted a way to deal with it internally; so, having long nurtured a love for art, she decided to start journalling.

What started out decades ago as a routine of daily musings in a waiting-to-be-filled diary, journalling has now taken on numerous forms, depending on the creator’s approach. Some types can be likened to scrapbooking — replete with magazine cut-outs, paintings, sketches, dried flowers and more — while others remain traditional to just scripture.

A journaling project by Shweta Patel

A journaling project by Shweta Patel
 

Shweta decided to turn it into a ‘100 days project’. She is currently on day 60, and is enjoying the cathartic journey. She admits it all started with a reach-oriented goal in mind, taking the project to Instagram from the start. When her first post, one she was very proud of, did not get as much traction as she thought it would, she realised that she was supposed to “journalise” for herself. When she approached the project with this in mind, a few of her posts went viral on Instagram. Shweta’s style of journalling comprises a single striking image with an accompanying piece of poetry or an impacting line of prose.

A journaling project by Shweta Patel

A journaling project by Shweta Patel
 

The ideology that journalling is deeply personal remains universal. Big names like Oprah, Emma Watson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt partake. In India, Shilpa Giri of Workdé.art, Mumbai, has more than 13,000 followers on Instagram; her website is a guide for many newcomers.

In recent weeks, journalling has been on the rise across India for its therapeutic effects of escapism — for Shweta and the like. This analogue activity also means a step away from screens.

A journaling project ‘Postcards from Cities’ by Safiya Siddiqui

A journaling project ‘Postcards from Cities’ by Safiya Siddiqui  

A recent graduate from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, 22-year-old Safiya Siddiqui had been journalling for about two years now. During the lockdown, she found herself engaging in a wholly different way, while waiting for Masters admissions to open up. After experimenting with acrylics and sketches, she has found her journalling voice through the dreamy medium of watercolours, often laid atop sketches.

Safiya says, “I’m inspired by vintage settings, handwritten letters and other old school elements.” Her most recent post expresses a deep desire to visit Kolkata in a series called ‘Postcard from Cities’ complete with a faux stamp and sketches of the famous yellow taxis — as though she is mentally preparing for travel, post-pandemic.

Kit concerns

Browsing through Pinterest, one can either be tempted or intimidated by some people’s journalling stations that resemble mini art stores: organised cups of pencil colours, felt-tip pens, stacks of various paper types, and more. During the lockdown, do not worry about getting the Pinterest-worthy art studio. Acquiring material may not be so easy, after all. Safiya and Shweta insist that this is not the point of journaling anyway.

Shweta says that while she does not exactly have a studio’s worth of art supplies (far from it actually), she is able to journalise to the best of her abilities during the lockdown. “All my art supplies are in my flat in Pune, and I was in Mumbai for much of the lockdown. I just had my A5 sketchbook, watercolours, brushes, and brush pens. Now I’m back home, I have ordered a few more materials! My parents, who’ve been seeing my work, are also supportive.”

A journaling project ‘Postcards from Cities’ by Safiya Siddiqui

A journaling project ‘Postcards from Cities’ by Safiya Siddiqui  

Saifya, too, is not too fussed about having an extensive inventory. “I started with Camlin water colours which come at a very minimal price, which I guess is how most people in India start out,” she recalls, adding she explored other names in watercolours too. “I also have various fine tip illustration pens.”

Matter of perspective

For Shweta and Safiya, journalling is not just about artistry and getting lost in the moment. It is also about creating something which they can look back on after the lockdowns lift.

According to University of Rochester Medical Centre’s ‘Journaling for Mental Health’, this type of day-to-day record-keeping can be useful in “helping you prioritise problems, fears, and concerns, tracking any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognise triggers and learn ways to better control them, and providing an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviours… once you’ve identified your stressors, you can work on a plan to resolve the problems and reduce your stress”.

New to a long-existing community, Shweta and Safiya say the online space for journallers is growing not just out of a need for coping mechanisms, but also out of acceptance. Both have been approached by expert journallers on social media with messages of encouragement and commendation for their contribution to a developing art. “It’s nice to know that in these lonely times, there are people who do not even know you but take a few minutes to say ‘well done’,” muses Shweta.



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