Scrapbook Journaling: Going Beyond the Five W’s and the H, Part One

by Lain Ehmann on October 18, 2010

Scrapbook journaling is a passion of mine. As a journalist for the past 10-plus years, and as a scrapbooker for about that long, I’m trained to think a little deeper about things. The crazy thing is, while I “think deep thoughts,” I don’t always convey those to the journaling on my scrapbook page. Weird, huh?

As I’ve been leading the LOADsters through the process of telling our stories in the Layout a Day challenge, I’ve been thinking more and more about what’s missing from *MY* scrapbook pages. And I’ve come to the realization that while I’m a writer at heart, my layouts are missing some words. So here is the first in an occasional series on journaling deeper that I hope will help you in your own process.

Alex S/Flickr

When you start in journalism, one of the first lessons you learn is the “Five W’s and the H:” Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. We’re told that good stories include these items at a minimum, and woe is the reporter who strays from the formula! And in general, it works pretty well — for a newspaper.

Thank goodness, our scrapbooks aren’t newspapers! They’re much more personal, and the people who are viewing them typically already had a vested interest in the events portrayed therein (because I know USA Today will not be knocking on the door any time soon to scoop up that layout I did about my daughter’s pigtails, will they?)

So while the W/H thing is still a good starting spot for scrapbook journaling, it doesn’t completely fit our model. Instead, I’d like to go through each of these and see what WOULD make good journaling for our scrapbooks. Ready? Okay!

Today, we’ll discuss WHO.

The “who” in your pages is easy — whoever’s in the shot, right?

Well, yes and no. First, it may not be enough to just say, “Billy and Tommy.” Sure, YOU know that Billy is your son and Tommy is the kid next door who may as well move in with you, he’s over at your house so much anyway, and WILL HE PLEASE stop drinking all your soy milk because it’s the only thing you can have in your coffee that doesn’t give you heartburn???

But will anyone else know?

No, you don’t have to get into the whole soy milk thing on the scrapbook page (and indeed, I suggest you don’t), but maybe a little context on the relationship might be useful. The scrapbook page is, I hope, part of a scrapbook ALBUM, so you don’t need to provide whole names and dossiers every time you create a layout. But maybe you can put it on your list to do a page about Billy and Tommy, particularly if Tommy is moving in and you may have to pay for his therapy some day. Make sense?

When I scrapbooked chronologically, in each scrapbook I completed, I put a “Who’s Who” in the back, complete with birthday and way they were related to our family (if only via soy milk). You could do the same thing with your non-chronological pages, or you could just make sure the important folks are all present and accounted for, with full names SOMEWHERE. You could even write on the back of a layout the full names and ages of the people in the photos — if Grandma Doris will even tell you her age. If not, give it your best shot.

One other thing before I let you go — there’s another “Who” you need to be thinking about. And that’s “who” you’re scrapbooking for. If your scrapbooking is purely for your own personal enjoyment (and by the way, that’s totally okay by me, especially since you’re dealing with the whole heartburn thing and all), then you can just go your merry way and not worry if anyone else knows who’s in the photos.

But do remember that old age creeps up on little cat feet, and one day you may be sitting in the nursing home, flipping through your scrapbooks, and see that picture of little Tommy. Then you’ll say, in your best little old lady crotchety voice, “Hunh! That one! He never comes to visit.” And you’ll get all upset over someone who you’re not even related to. So maybe you DO want to write down the names, at least on the back of the layout, if for no other reason than to save yourself some future angst that might be better spent on complaining about something real, like the meatloaf you get served every Tuesday and the way the caroway seeds get stuck in your dentures. Now that’s worth kvetching over.

Okay. I’m done now.

P.S. Got scrapbook journaling questions or challenges? Let me know in the comments below. I’ll see if I can address them in a future blog post or episode of ScrapHappy, the podcast.

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