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I discovered Keri Smith while wandering the aisles of one of my favorite bookstores a couple years back. I was there shopping for a friend’s birthday—one who loves a good adventure and is a brilliant writer and storyteller—when I came across Keri’s Wreck This Journal. I flipped through a few pages, found it to be all sorts of wacky fun, and promptly bought it for my friend, secretly wishing that at checkout, there’d be some magical BOGO deal, and they’d force another copy on me.

Of course, that didn’t happen, so I spent the next couple of years thinking about it. One day, I told myself, I’d treat myself to a copy of one of her books. I needed to be ready for it, I said to myself. And until I was ready for it, it would just sit on my shelf taunting me with vacant dreams of random creative experience.

Notice I didn’t say expression.

I said experience.

Because that’s what a Keri Smith book is. Keri Smith, from what I’ve gathered in reading her stuff (though she’s a bit of an enigma), is a former bookstore employee turned writer, artist, illustrator, wanderer, amateur philosopher (and I mean amateur in the absolute best sense of the word… see my post “Amateur: Do It For Love” in you want to know of my high regard for being an amateur), and elusive yet prolific creator.

What she seems to do is read a TON, explore a TON, have conversations with friends and with nature, and then synthesize ideas and thoughts on life and creativity into bite-size pieces that cause you to think… and to simultaneously surrender your thoughts.

She makes these books that are truly created by the buyer, with prompts from Keri. But the way they’re created are more based upon the reader’s open receptivity than active intent. Her prompt is just as likely to say something like, “throw liquid at this page to see how it splatters,” as it is to say, “go for a walk and list all the sounds that you encounter.”

(Note: neither of those are her prompts, at least that I’ve seen. They’re created by me, used for illustrative purposes only.)

This probably isn’t making much sense yet, so I’ll share a few photos in a moment. And you can look on Instagram at the hashtags #wreckthisjournal or #kerismith. You’ll find thousands upon thousands of photos, from all around the world, in dozens of languages, by people using her journals to practice creativity in their everyday lives. Or run a search on Google images or even YouTube. People love to post what they get out of a Keri Smith experience.

The books are partially made to help you express yourself. But more than anything, they’re made to help you EXPLORE creativity. They’re made to open you up to new ideas, to encourage you to slow down and observe patterns and details, to hurry up and get something down on paper without overthinking it, to drive you outdoors and into the loving arms of nature, to feel how different materials and art media work.

Her books encourage you to make a mess and throw caution to the wind, within the contained box of a journal, so that eventually you can gain the courage to make a mess and throw caution to the wind out in the real world. By taking the pressure of creativity, her books open you up to discover and feel confident when your creative voice eventually comes knocking, as it surely will.

Is it making any more sense yet?

I’m getting to those photos. They should clear things up soon.

Eventually, after thinking about it for a couple of years, I did pick up a Keri Smith book—but not from her Wreck This Journal series.

The first book I picked up was called The Wander Society, and it’s essentially a collection of activities, quotes, poems, personal ruminations, and reminders that it’s good to leave the house without a destination or purpose in mind. Here are a few photos of that book. (I really love John Muir, so I doodled around his name. He’s one of a couple dozen wanderers examined in the book. Walt Whitman also makes frequent appearances.)

The book is definitely my cup of tea, but may be an odd first Keri Smith book for most. You have to be in the right mindset to be enjoy it. It fits my travel style—which could best be described as show up, observe, and see what happens. It will definitely strike a chord with natural wanderers.

However, it is a departure from the creative exploration of her other books, so if you’re looking to get your hands dirty making something, her second book that I bought may be more what you’re looking for.

The second book I bought is called Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes, which is more along the same vein as the Wreck This Journal series, minus the storytelling aspect. I’ll pick up a Wreck This Journal next, after I’ve made some more headway in Mess. I will tell you: I am having so much fun with Mess. 

I’ve included a few photos here for you to view below.

As you can see, it’s very much about embracing imperfection to play and make and do. Along the way, you fall into this meditative, mindful state of allowing the material to do the talking. When shaving crayons to melt, I tried scraping them in different directions and learned about which colors were smoothest, and which were more delicate. I learned about which ones curled and which fell off in small chunks, how quickly wax melts with a hot iron, how oils seep through the pages, how the colors mix and change with heat. I wouldn’t have experienced any of that without the prompts, without the “permission” to play in that way, without an end or reason in sight.

What I love about Keri Smith is that she is able to accomplish much of what I seek to do as a writer and as a creative—that is: create a thoughtful, inspiring, interactive experience to build confidence and encourage authentic expression. And she’s able to do it in a way that feels light, fun, personal, and also meaningful.

You don’t necessarily walk away from her book with a finished product. But you do walk away with more of a sense of how to use the tools you have, a habit of taking action, and a reminder of the joy and connection we humans find in play and in nature.

ABOUT A TO Z CHALLENGE

This month, I am writing 26 posts starting with the letters A through Z, along with hundreds of other businesses and bloggers from around the world. I first ran into the A to Z Challenge many, many moons ago (circa 2011), when I was brand new to the online writing world. It was a great way to jumpstart my creative juices, and I had so much fun “meeting” men and women sharing what they love to do.

So when I opened Of Love + Light, I knew the A to Z Challenge would be the perfect complement to Daily Dose: Inspired. Enjoy!

ABOUT OF LOVE + LIGHT

Of Love + Light is a place for uplifting media, creative inspiration, art, nifty creative publications, and storytelling. I also offer editing, creativity coaching, and small business communications planning services. Founded by Alana Garrigues, Of Love + Light is your place to come, relax, feel inspired and loved, and share more of what’s good on this beautiful planet.

Of Love + Light has infinite possibilities, and YOU are a huge part of what this will look like. Want to talk? Send me an email!

“Keri Smith and Creativity: Wandering and Making Messes” is part of the Daily Dose: Inspired series. Looking for a small something to get you inspired to take on the day? This is the place to come for a photo, a song, a pick-me-up quote, a little slice of happy. At least, these are the things that inspire me!