Sunday, August 15, 2010

journal keeping


One of the books I am currently reading is The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux.  It contains excerpts from her personal journals over a period of a few years in this decade.  Some of the reflections are about her joys, fears and challenges with the writing process itself, and some are about the personal details of her life.  Here are a few excerpts I read and enjoyed this morning:

"It is important to set down on paper--so one can really look at them--what one's deepest desires in life are.  I continue to return to the desire for a large and loving heart.  I would like that most of all.  Then I desire to be more disciplined and fruitful."  The Journal Keeper, p. 138

"A new thought--that writing is not only a reflection of what one thinks and feels but a rope one weaves with words that can lower you below or hoist you above the surface of your life, enabling you to go deeper or higher than you would otherwise go.  What excites me about this metaphor is that it makes writing much more of a lifesaving venture."  The Journal Keeper, p. 144

"I am beginning to look upon those who irritate me--the egoists, the overly emphatic, the nonstop talkers who press me against the wall--with more compassion.  It is still a temptation to strike out and say something mean but true that will rip away their facades.  But increasingly I am more inclined to look upon them as pilgrims who have gotten lost or forgotten where they are going, if they ever knew."  The Journal Keeper, p. 150

Over the years, in fits and starts (and stops) I have tried to keep a journal.  When I am not keeping a journal, I feel like I should.  When I do take time to keep a journal I think I am wasting time and could be doing something more fulfilling or productive.  I guess having a blog is a nice compromise.  What about you?  Are you a journal keeper?
P.S.  Many of our commenters have expressed how valuable they consider the act of journaling to be.  It is something that has proven psychological and physical benefits.  James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D., in his book Opening Up - The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, says there is a price our body pays when we inhibit self-expression.  He has a couple of chapters on writing and well-being.  So if you need concrete proof of the value of journaling you can check out his book, or just read the comments to this post!






27 comments:

  1. I was a journal keeper for years, even kept garden and nature journals also, but photography and my blog seems to have taken their place.

    ReplyDelete
  2. i am...i have kept several over the last 8 years...every once in a while i will pull an old one out to gleen the memories...

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have been a 'diary' keeper for many years, probably on and off for most of my literate life.
    My diary is nowhere near as perfect or literary as the excerpts you have quoted and I don't believe that anybody's first draft could be so. A commonplace book, filled with thoughts and 'findings', now that's a different thing altogether.

    If I ever I wanted to publish anything out of my diaries, I would have to do a serious job of editing, because for long stretches it is not only badly written but also desperately boring.

    Blogs I see differently, I couldn't bear to write the "...and then I did, and then I went . ... .." variety. One has to think a bit about what could possibly be of interest to others in a blog.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Wanda: Yes, I'm not sure I would have the time for both a blog and a journal. I have a thing for lovely journalling books and have many ready and waiting ... one day ...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Brian: Yes, it must be a great source of material for your stories and poems - and no copyright issues either!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Friko: Yes, in fact, she talks a bit about the editing she did of these journal entries. Plus, she only provides snippets, not the entire entries.

    I do exactly what you describe. I am always taking notes of things I have learned, things that deserve some thought on my part, creative ideas, inspiring quotes, notes on books I am reading, etc. But I am not currently keeping a journal of my comings and goings, current concerns, etc. I use my 'notebooks' and 'findings' as a source for a good part of the material on my blog.

    ReplyDelete
  7. One of the greatest gifts Jill left behind for Katie is her journals - Jill started keeping journals when she was 10 years old, and she was still writing in them up until a few months before she died. Her whole life is documented in those journals - all her hopes and dreams and fears and deepest thoughts are written in them. I have a whole big box of them upstairs in the closet waiting for the right time to pass them on to Katie - when she's old enough to understand the things she might read about in them, of course. Maybe when she's 30...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Jeff: Yes, in Katie's circumstance, a deceased parent's journals will be a treasure. Although as you suggest, it does take a good level of maturity to read about the intimate details of a parent's needs, fears, longings, regrets, etc.

    So knowing how important Jill's journals will be to Katie, do you keep a journal for your 3 girls?

    ReplyDelete
  9. HI BONNIE-

    Oh yes, I did for many years. I have my writings and they are so telling. Now I blog ......and I observe.

    Love to you
    Gail
    peace and hope.....

    ReplyDelete
  10. My blog is my only successful attempt at any kind of a journal. Usually my feeble attempts peter out after a few days.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I believe journal writing can be very therapeutic especially for young people. I have kept journals off and on throughout my life. Now is an off time.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I,too, was a journal keeper until I started blogging. There is now an opportunity to find people who may be receptive to your thinking. I appreciate the quotations from your current read, "I continue to return to the desire for a large and loving heart. I would like that most of all. Then I desire to be more disciplined and fruitful." And about those egotists....

    ReplyDelete
  13. hi bonnie - my blogs are the outer edge of my written and illustrated journals. there's so much "working out" and "working in" that takes place there that would be of so little value or consequence to others that i feel it's unkind and unfair to post it for general consumption!!! perhaps in that way i avoid the terrible fate described by ms. theroux above: "pilgrims who have gotten lost or forgotten where they are going, if they ever knew." ouch ms. theroux!! steven

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yes, I've been keeping a journal since I was 11 and saved them. They really help with my writing for teens now. Since starting a blog, I update my journal less frequently, but I still like to record my private thoughts. I have a similar journal to yours. It was also nice to hear more about the book you recommended. It was interesting, but not surprising, to see that so many bloggers kept journals too. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Journaling has been so comforting to me. When I am confused, angry, lost and/or overwhelmed the journal always brings me inner peace and clarity. How I write is to ask God questions and hear answers. Not sure how that will sound to you but journaling has literally been a 'God send'. More these days I will just have a conversation with God in my head. I remember the first time I heard this voice: my husband and I were camping and we were having a conversation and one us had a question and I heard this answer in my head that was not coming from me. It was so wise and calming. Well that was the start of it and journaling has facilitated more of it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi Gail: There does seem to be an ebb and flow to our need to do this. It is interesting that those who have journalled from a young age really seem to value and even use their journalling.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Ellen: Over the years I have tried to encourage all my clients to journal, especially while engaged in the therapy process. Some do enthusiastically and others cannot be convinced. I am thus persuaded that whether we journal or not has a lot to do with our learning style (the way we process information) - visual, creative types are probably less inclined to process information with words. So you are very consistent with the norm of many visual artists!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Missy: How true - a wonderful outlet and way to make sense of the world for a young person.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi Sarah: Yes, although those who don't journal are probably less likely to make a comment about not doing it - or so I have noted.

    What a wonderful resource you have for your writing now - pure gold!

    ReplyDelete
  20. maggie: Journalling does often prompt our inner knowing - some would call that God, others intuition. Whatever we feel is the source, it truly seems like a 'god-send' when it happens. Really a wonderful, always available, cost-free resource - this journalling option!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi Paul: Thank you, I have found much of value in Theroux's book.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hi steven: Yes, I think posting all our working out/working in journalling would be a bit much - although, I have seen a few blogs that seem to do it. I get enough of that in my work, so I don't continue to frequent those blogs.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I've tried keeping a journal, but it only lasts a few days each time. Blogging is somewhat like a journal for me, as I write about our traveling.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I have kept both journals and commonplace books from time to time in my life, but not with any regularity. At the time of this post, I am keeping what might be described as a journal of creativity. It's a place to collect ideas, identify interesting subjects and material, record new perspectives, ask new questions, challenge old assumptions -- so on and so forth. Among other things, it allows me to go back and retrace the orbit of my spinning mind, from which much is often lost is not recorded.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I'm glad to read that I'm not the only wannabe journal keeper who has failed at this task repeatedly [read my very first blog post] and turned to blogging as a substitute. Yet it's doesn't assuage completely the self-disappointment I feel for somehow not being disciplined or committed or whatever enough to put actual ink to actual paper for any appreciable length of time…nor does it suppress the nagging guilt that I've somehow allowed (caused?) my journal-as-blog to become something other than what I initially intended.

    That said, Theroux's book sounds like a good read.

    ReplyDelete
  26. George: I have a book devoted to 'ideas' just as you describe. They are such fleeting things, and if I don't record them I lose them.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Grizz: I think people who have a contemplative nature have an natural impulse to journal - but in a busy life it is not always easy. I have often wondered if it is harder or easier to journal if you write for a living. Perhpas words trip more easily off the tongue, or conversely perhaps after writing for work one is less inclined to want to write for self. Thanks for dropping by!

    ReplyDelete

Comments are always read and appreciated.

(I am grateful for all awards received. However, I ask that this be an "award-free zone" and meme-free zone. Thanks for understanding!)