A Review of Beth Evans’ “I Guess I’ll Write It Down”

“I Guess I’ll Write It Down” Book Cover Art

Diary, every writer struggles with the blank page, whether it be a piece of paper or a white screen in a Microsoft Word document. However, I have a particular struggle in reviewing the new Beth Evans book, I Guess I’ll Write It Down. You see, it is mostly a blank book. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be — a gift book, a journal, or something else entirely altogether. The pages are blank, aside from Evans’ crude illustrations (which are really a form of naïve art) that either take up the odd page or are constrained to the margins. The marginal cartoons sometimes repeat themselves, so the book, perhaps, is not entirely fresh. However, if you’re a fan of Evans work, you may appreciate the 28 never-seen-before cartoons that line the pages.

Beth Evans is a young artist with a popular Instagram following who published a “real” book of text and cartoons last year called I Really Didn’t Think This Through. It was a mostly solid book — but I might be saying that because it was peppered with anecdotes about being a female Rush fan, which is something that is few and far between and we really need more women Rush fans in the world. (And I liked Rush when I was a teenager, so there’s that.) Still, I enjoyed the book and it was a quick and breezy read. This book, however, I’m not so sure of. You see, Evans struggles with anxiety, so a lot of the illustrations here are not really encouraging of filling up these blank pages with words. They may actually stop the writer dead cold. One illustration, called “The Terrors of Writing,” is filled with nothing but illustrations of blank pages and paper. Perhaps Evans is acknowledging that people are wont to procrastinate. But rather than be a cheerleader, Evans is more a pessimist who might remind you of why you’re not filling up these pages with lovely words.

The book itself is nicely put together. It is a hard-cover book, which means you’re going to have to smooth down the pages into a nice crease before you write in it, but it is tornado proof. It doesn’t have a lock, so its utility as a journal or diary may be limited if you don’t want people snooping around in it. However, since it is so relatively beautiful — though the cover art has a brownish tint to it, suggesting a recycled book — you may not want to sully it with your own writing. This is the sort of thing that you might want to give to a high-school graduate as a gift for graduating — though what they’ll actually use it for is anyone’s guess.

The book is subtitled “A Journal for All Kinds of Good and Bad Stuff,” so perhaps this is really meant to be a diary after all — a place where you can celebrate what you did in a given day, and also the bad stuff you normally wouldn’t want to confront. However, since I don’t really journal as much as I should (though I’m thinking that if I’m ever in the need of a prayer journal as a Christian, this book may fit the bill), perhaps this might be a place where you might keep grocery lists and recipes. That’s another way of saying that the nebulous purpose of the tome is both an asset and liability: either you’ll automatically have a use for putting your thoughts or odds and sods in this volume, or you’ll be struggling to make sense of what Evans had in mind in creating this.

I suppose that I Guess I’ll Write It Down is really a place-holder for the next proper Evans book. Not to sound like I’m on a downer, but this book really feels like a cash-in on Evans’ recent successes as a blogger and a published writer. While I appreciate that there’s some original art in this book, 28 cartoons do feel rather skimpy. Unless you must absolutely consume everything Evans puts to paper, you could probably take a pass on this and wait until the next proper book — or, if you’re not that patient, until Evans updates her Instagram account. Still, if you’re willing to spend about 15 dollars on a place to put your thoughts and ideas to paper, this book might be a handy and cute way of getting what’s inside your head out onto a page. (I may add, though, that if you can do without the cute illustrations, as pessimistic some of them can be, you could probably get a snazzy-looking journal from a stationary store that might have a lot more pages or comes in a bigger size and cost a whole lot less.)

In the end, diary, I guess I just can’t make heads or tails of this book. I generally like the execution and the thought of this is a kind of nifty thing that I usually don’t see a lot of, but I think it might have been more helpful if the book didn’t cast such a broad net and Evans’ illustrations were used as writing prompts that were a bit more on the positive side, rather than having the author/cartoonist wringing her hands at procrastination, which is a big theme of this book. However, I like Evans and generally like her art. It’s so simple and brilliant that you have to kick yourself and wonder why didn’t you think of drawing and posting to Instagram crude figures and associate them with inner feelings that speak truth first. So, if you’re a fan and you’re looking for somewhere to put your thoughts, buy the book. Buy the book as well if you might want to introduce Evans to the writer in your life. Otherwise, save the money and get yourself an organizer that will actually have you commit to doing something. But what do I know? I’ve added some blank space of my own to this review for you to write your own thoughts about this book.

What do you think? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

Beth Evans’ I Guess I’ll Write It Down: A Journal for All Kinds of Good and Bad Stuff will be published by Morrow Gift on June 11, 2019.

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Get in touch: zacharyhoule@rogers.com



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Zachary Houle

Zachary Houle

Book critic by night, technical writer by day. Follow me on Twitter @zachary_houle.