What is International Fake Journal Month, Anyway?

Technically, this post is too late. I should have written about International Fake Journal Month (known as IFJM to its friends and fans) at the beginning of the year, before it began in April. But it didn’t cross my mind, alas, until someone in my art journal group (go here to join us) mentioned it, and then someone else asked about it, and I posted a note about what it is and realized there are a bunch of people who would LOVE to do this, whether they participate in the actual Official Month or just do something similar all by themselves in their own person journal (but you really do need to join Roz next year because she posts on the IFJM blog and shows what she’s doing in her own Fake Journal and just all kinds of cool stuff).


So, the info: IFJM was begun by my friend Roz Stendahl in 2001, just for fun, and the motto (which I absolutely adore) is, “Life’s so short, why live just one?” If you don’t know Roz and haven’t ever take a workshop from her or followed her blog, you really should: she’s funny and brilliant and amazingly talented and has this wonderfully wide-ranging curiosity about, well, about just about everything in life. Did I mention she’s funny? I’ve told her that sometimes her sense of humor doesn’t come across in print unless you know her and have talked to her in person: when we’ve talked on the phone, I have to get out of my desk chair and lie down on the floor and spend most of the conversation wiping tears out of my eyes. Seriously. And that includes when I’m supposed to be interviewing her, which is almost impossible for me.

Roz working in one of her journals

Roz working in one of her journals

Anyway, so Roz came up with IFJM and then decided to invite other people to join her, and they do, and they have a ton of fun. Go here to find out everything you need to know. What I think is the coolest about the whole idea is that it encourages you, for at least a month, to not take your journal so seriously. It doesn’t have to record every fact about your days. It doesn’t have to accurately capture your life. It can be, in short, whatever you want it to be. And if you can do it for a month, why not do it for as long as it’s fun for you?


I think a lot of us have gotten caught up in the idea that our journals are going to be around forever and that we have to be “truthful” and accurate so that, 200 years from now, someone can pick them up and read them and know what it was like in 2013. If that’s important to you, well, sure. You can do that. But if, like me, you kind of doubt that’s ever going to happen, and you’re pretty sure researchers aren’t going to rely solely on your spiral notebooks to determine what happened in the beginning decades of the 21st century, then what’s to stop you from having a little fun with it? Make it not about the life that you live every day, but the life you *wish* you lived every day. Or about the life you thought you wanted to live but are now reallyreallyreally glad you’re not living except in your imagination, where huge snakes and man-eating lizards are kind of fun, rather than terrifying. Imagine what your life would have been like if you’d become an astronaut, and write about that. Imagine what would have happened if you’d sailed around the world by yourself, and write about those adventures.


Until next year, while you’re deciding whether or not you want to participate (and you definitely should), go here to check out Roz’s Official International Fake Journal Blog.  Really, how much more fun can you have for free?


And if, like me, you need even more of Roz’s fabulousness, here’s her website, and here’s where you start if you want to look at her amazing journals.  Go here to listen to Roz talk to Danny Gregory about visual journals. (She’s had several conversations with Danny, so take some time to poke around.) Roz is in several of Danny’s books, including his most recent, An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration from the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers.

An Illustrated Journey




Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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3 Responses to What is International Fake Journal Month, Anyway?

  1. joneam says:

    I LOVE this idea. I’m starting my fake journal as a way to jump start my fiction writing but I’ve got a feeling I’ll be joining the actual month next year with an art journal.

  2. Roz Stendahl says:

    Ricë, thanks for the shout out about this project. You left out the most important thing: WE HAVE BUTTONS! (They change every year.)

    Seriously I appreciate you getting the word out to folks. Fake journaling is something I’ve done all my life off and on and with the nudging of my friend Linda I made gave it a whole month every year (April for obvious reasons if you’re going to do something fake). The really great thing is that your readers don’t have to wait until next year to keep a fake journal. It’s something you can do any time (though of course there might not be buttons!). You can decide to do it for a week or two, or a weekend, or a month.

    I introduced it in 2001 to my journaling students because many of them were having trouble with their internal critics. If someone else (not you) is keeping the journal it’s pretty hard for the IC to get any traction criticizing the quality of a page or drawing, you can just say, “Hey, I didn’t do that.” Whatever helps someone step out of the way of their IC is a good thing. (I don’t tend to have much trouble with my internal critic but I find that being a different character allows me to create things that don’t fall under the “usual” stuff I do, and I find this very liberating.)

    For me it’s a way to explore something that I want to explore—perhaps an art technique I would never try because it uses materials I don’t normally use, or some sort of attitude about something. This year was fun for me because it kept me occupied during off times during a very stressful time (father-in-law hospitalized and moving both him and his wife into new living arrangements), but it also gave me time to look at how I use the page now and how I once used the page, and the whole issue of “understandability” in journals.

    Like you I believe I’m an end-user of my journals. They are for me to stretch my creative muscles and experiment with my brain. I don’t have kids so they aren’t going to go to someone when I’m gone. And as you know, many early journals from my childhood and teen years and some even from collage were lost in a moving mishap (they ended up at the Goodwill, where I hope they at least became collage material for someone else). I think journals have to be for the journal keeper first and foremost or there is a level of honesty and usefulness that is missed. It has been my mission to encourage that use of the journal in every way I can.

    And of course if I can make a button, then everyone is happy!

    I recommend people read the tips section (click in the category cloud), and really consider making their fake journal manageable—i.e., something that is doable in only a few minutes of journaling each day. At least the first time they participate. I want people to get the experience of working in a different mindset each day, not getting frustrated and quitting. There are posts on where to set your fake journal (close to home is always easiest, but many travel with their characters) and how to narrow your choices to increase success http://officialinternationalfakejournalblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/narrowing-your-choices-to-increase-your_22.html

    And so on. I think by creating limits in character, media, and time involvement you can push yourself to grow in specific areas. So I write a lot about that on the blog too and those posts can be found in the category cloud.

    The best thing about IFJM is what you get to take back to your regular journal—new insights, understanding, methods of working, and often gratefulness for the real life you have. And of course there’s always that button!

    I hope your readers will jump in with their own impromptu fake journal session when they feel like it, and of course join in next year April 2014. I’ve got a couple wrap up posts still coming in the next couple weeks for this year and then the blog will go pretty silent until around February 2014 when things start to gear up. (So it’s the perfect time to start reading and catch up!)

    Oh, and this year I did a lot of product reviews on the materials I used in my 2013 fake journal. That’s something that will be of interest to anyone keeping a visual journal of any kind. “Product Reviews” category will get people to most of those from this year. (I guess I can’t every really escape my experimenting mind).


    • Rice Freeman-Zachery says:

      Thank you SO much for taking time to come by and give more details, Roz! I love that you explained that people don’t have to wait until next April to get started–that’s a good thing, because so many of us would forget by then, but if we’re already doing it on our own, it should be way easier to get involved next year.