"Wreck This Journal," Keri Smith

Pros: Very freeing; highly unusual; childlike and playful
Cons: A couple of details could have been thought out better
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group..

 

*Sounds of disused muscles stretching* It’s been a while since I last reviewed a bunch of writing and creativity books, but when I heard about Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal I couldn’t resist asking after a review copy. (I blame a friend of mine, who knows my weaknesses and occasionally emails me summaries of books.)

The subtitle of Wreck This Journal is, “to create is to destroy,” and the concept is simple: through a variety of exercises, the book encourages you to break free of rules and assumptions, to think seriously outside the box, and thus free up your creativity:

WARNING: During the process of this book you will get dirty. You may find yourself covered in paint, or any other number of foreign substances. You will get wet. You may be asked to do things you question. You may grieve for the perfect state that you found the book in. You may begin to see creative destruction everywhere. You may begin to live more recklessly.

All of the above is true. It isn’t an exaggeration. Open to any page, and begin.

 

All right, maybe not any page, at least not at first. You might as well fill in the “this page belongs to” page first, where you write your name in a number of ways, then include return information, and find that the last instruction on the page is to:

If found, flip to a page randomly, follow the instructions, then return.

Already you can see the difference between this and other journals. Other people—strangers—contribute to your creative journal? Talk about outside your comfort zone!

The included instructions are simple:

1. Carry this with you wherever you go.
2. Follow the instructions on every page.
3. Order is not important.
4. Instructions are open to interpretation.
5. Experiment. (Work against your better judgment.)

Want to know just how far outside your comfort zone you’re likely to go? You’ll be instructed to burn pages. Rip pages out and throw them away. Spit coffee on them. Scribble on them. Rip them up. Turn them into paper airplanes. Compost them. Draw ugly things on them. Document a boring event. Deface a photo.

Many of these exercises sound silly and pointless, but they aren’t. Many writers and book-lovers find themselves highly reluctant to break the rules they’re used to following—how many book-lovers do you know, after all, who refuse to so much as dog-ear a page? Wreck This Journal forces you to work through the blocks, fears, and even grief caused by rule-breaking. It helps you to think in new ways, do things you fear to do. It might sound over-wrought, but when you stare at the page that instructs you to rip it out and lose it, and you get that knot in your stomach at the thought of defacing a book, you’ll understand what it can do for you.

It’s hard to be truly creative, after all, if you continually color inside the lines and do only what you’re supposed to. Writing “rules” are there for a reason, after all, but that reason isn’t to stop you from doing new things, just to make sure you know why you’re doing them and do them for a good reason—something that all too many people forget. A book like Wreck This Journal can be a lovely way to drag yourself out of a rut if this has happened to you.

 

My only reservation is that there are a couple of things that could have been thought out a little better. For instance, one exercise has you tie the book to a string and take it for a “walk”, dragging it along the ground. Another has you lick a page. Do these in that order, and you’re just asking to get sick from whatever the book has picked up from the ground.

So use a little common sense, but otherwise, go crazy! Set your creativity free.

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