I have been attracted to the idea of nature journaling all of my life. I see myself sitting in the wilderness, journal on my knee, binoculars in hand, sketching birds and painting little landscapes for hours on end.
I look at where I am now and think “I am not a nature journaler” because my nature journaling rarely looks like that. Frequently, I journal indoors, looking out a window. When I sit outside, it’s usually in my backyard. My journal pages are black-and-white, often messy, especially if I’m fortunate enough to be recording bird or animal behaviors. Many of my sessions are only a few minutes long.
Why don’t I recognize that I am already a nature journaler? Because I’m not doing it right. That’s what my inner critic tells me. It’s supposed to look like this. Nothing else counts. But this mentality is wrong and harmful. It keeps me from acknowledging the efforts I am making toward my goal of being a nature journaler.
It’s like when I think about getting into shape. I imagine how I will look when I lose weight and build some muscle, but I have never turned into that person just by thinking about it. If I want to be fit, I have to live like a fit person, making choices daily that move me towards better health. Eventually I will be fitter and healthier, but there is no finish line.
Just as we can be healthier by making healthy choices daily, we can become nature journalers by doing the things nature journalers do regularly. My ten-minute sessions recording what I see out my window? My quick sketching that makes for a messy journal page? Those are the actions of a nature journaler. Just because it doesn’t look like I think it should doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
There will be days when nature journaling looks like my ideal — drawing and writing in the wilderness with nothing to distract me but nature. But if I wait until those rare moments to nature journal, I’ll be stiff and out of practice. I’ll feel like I wasted a precious opportunity because I didn’t have the skill to capture what I saw. I need to be journaling all the time so I can improve my skills and be ready for the glory moments.
So my new mantra is a simple one: To become a nature journaler, be a nature journaler. Do what you can, when you can, and give yourself credit for everything you do.
We are what we do, and doing is how we become.
How are you becoming a nature journaler?