Photo Credit: Jennie Anne Benigas



October 2008

"Welcome to my website and to my first monthly journal entry. I will explore topics under the general heading of 'the creative process' that are important to me, and that I feel compelled to write about in a personal and informal way."


Judy's Journal, September 2004

Judy's Journal: Four Years and Counting

Dear Reader,

As I was searching for a topic to write about this month, it struck me that exactly four years have passed since my first Judy's Journal. I remembered that when I was teaching, my students wrote in their journals each day, and we set aside Fridays for a written reflection on their previous entries. It was an exercise in learning about learning, as they pondered what had been worth writing about a few days or weeks ago.

Written reflection is a method I practiced in graduate school at the University of New Hampshire. For more about this and other learning theories, you can read books and articles by Jane Hansen, Donald M. Murray, Donald Graves and Tom Newkirk.

I have reread my 48 journal entries, using the same questions my students applied to their reflections:

  • What do I notice?
  • What I have learned?
  • What could I do differently in the future?

What do I notice?
My original questions (September 2004) formed the guts of all future journals. Thinking it was a starter list, I intended to keep pursuing new questions. However, I notice that each month, I write about another aspect of one of those questions. It seems as if they were basic to what I have needed to think about.
This month's opening quotation, taken from the first journal, mentions my writing "in a personal and informal way." Rereading all the journals made me feel vulnerable and exposed, but no more so than seeing my poems published or my paintings exhibited. Each journal, poem or painting is a self-portrait, which brings me to the next thought.

  • Who cares about the ruminations of a visual artist/writer, not famous, not notorious or not dead yet? Evidently, according to my website statistics, some people do. Thank you for reading. This connects to the next thing I noticed.
  • Many read Judy's Journal, but very few take me up on my invitation to "contact me." I am not sure what that could mean. Will you tell me?
  • Noting how many times I reference or quote him, I see that Donald M. Murray has been a big part of my writing life. That is an accurate reflection of his influence during the forty years I have taken myself seriously as a writer.
  • It is a dead give-away that a teacher writes these journals because they are filled with strategies and suggestions to solve problems, such as inspiration and acceptance/rejection. Maybe someone can learn from my experiences, successes and failures.

What Have I Learned?

  • Journals are my most valuable tool, because I write in order to problem-solve. Since I began Judy's Journal, I still keep a day book (October 2004). Since then, I have collapsed my art, writing and travel journals into one, because I learned that my creative life is organic, and it seemed unrealistic to keep separating them.
  • Writing a "public" version of my private journal every month has not been as easy as I thought. Nine months into Judy's Journal, I gave up promising what I would write about "next month." I kept getting distracted by other subjects and did not want to be tied down. Now, on the 15th of the month, my muse nags me to get started. Sometimes, I would like to tell her to take a vacation, but I made a commitment. I have to admit that I am always happiest when my new Judy's Journal flies through cyberspace to Patsy McCowan, my web designer and manager (
  • Since I use writing to learn what I am thinking, rather than just to share what I have learned, I have been able to write five exhibition or series statements (August, April 2008; December, August 2006; June 2004). If you have ever had to compose one, you know how much thought and effort they take. Now, when I become involved in painting a series, I have learned to write a Judy's Journal about it because, in all likelihood, it will end up in a proposal or in an exhibition.
  • I found out that I really like writing personal essays. Perhaps that is why I have acknowledged Donald M. Murray so many times.
  • I learn every day what a privileged life I lead. I practice my art, pursue questions about the creative process, read and write. It does not get any better than this.

What could I do differently in the future?

  • Reread my journals more frequently, so that I can uncover clues, see patterns, add to what I have learned. The price of taking more time to reflect will be to make less new work, but it is something to consider.
  • Review those original questions and see if there are new areas to explore.
  • When I reread Judy's Journals about specific pieces of artwork, I remembered how much fun it was to write about them. I could look in my Gallery Chapters and see if there are stories to write about any of those paintings.

That's it for this month! You can always email me at!