Wreck This Journal

Wreck This Journal ($15) is a book full of unique, artistic doodles and prompts that encourage readers to creatively destroy the book.

Canadian artist Keri Smith instructs users to take their journal for a walk, poke holes in pages, paint, draw, color, rip, stomp, freeze, throw, and so much more. These prompts encourage readers to embrace their own creative processes and reinforce a culture of finishing what is started.

I’d always wanted to try a Wreck This Journal, but I had never had the time until three years ago when I found myself unemployed and home with my two children for the first time in their lives. The older of my two children, my son, was 3 at the time and was constantly being overshadowed by his younger sister, both because she was younger, requiring more parental care, and because it was increasingly obvious she was developmentally delayed. He needed something that was just for him and Mommy.

I had no idea how to fill the long hours from sunrise to sunset, and more importantly keep him engaged and learning. That is, until I was reminded of Smith’s book when I saw it on a suggested Christmas gift list for grade-school children. It clicked.

151020-002Wreck This Journal comes with a fairly arbitrary age limit, 8, a label I assumed was placed on the book only because younger children would be unable to read the wrecking prompts. This conundrum could be solved by working on the project with my child as I had already planned to do, so we dived in. The instructions read:

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

Our interpretation of these rules was that they didn’t really matter and creativity was key.

Often I would draw a picture on a designated page and he would destroy it; I once drew SpongeBob SquarePants and the boy used a pencil to poke holes in the page. Other times I would start a project and instruct him to finish it however he wanted; on one occasion I traced his hand as the book instructed and let him color and decorate his hand the way he wanted.

When it came time to do the “spill coffee on this page” page, we made the mile-long trek to the closest Starbucks for a hot chocolate and though he was tired he hugged the book tightly to his chest the entire way.

Nothing filled his heart with more glee than the day we took our journal for a walk. The book instructs the wrecker to “tie a string around the book and take it for a walk.” The boy smiled through the entire outing and checked behind him every other step to make sure the book was still trailing along. When we arrived at the park, the book took a few solo trips down the slide and into the damp wood chips below.

Over the last three years my stay-at-home mom status has expired as I moved on to different endeavors in my professional life, but we still work on our journal whenever we have free time. As the boy gets older, the role of the project has morphed from an engaging, educational project into a ploy to pry him, kicking and screaming, from the digital world of Minecraft.

Every new page provokes a smile and makes a memory that was ours and ours alone. The wreck journal isn’t about the final product, which, let’s face it, is a mess, but about the journey.

My Wreck This Journal advice: Take the book one page at a time, one day at a time, and make the memories that a child will remember forever because these years are fleeting.

Wreck This Journal is one of many similar books by Smith, who is known for her doodle-like sketches; others include Finish This Book, The Pocket Scavenger, This Is Not a Book, and The Imaginary World of … 

is the managing editor of South Sound magazine. Email her.
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