Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Journals

I find it so important to keep a journal, as a writer, yes, but just... as a person. I fall into cycles, and thoughts I had several years ago come back with more force. And being able to see the way that I pushed through things helps me overcome those feelings.

I was reading my old blog, which has been hidden for years, today. I did this for many reasons, the first of which was to look for poems and other writing that may not exist anywhere else. It's important to me to save that stuff. But as I was reading, I came across this post:

"I've been reading my journals obsessively. I went through, annoyed that a wannabe master of English would make so many spelling and grammatical errors. I made a lot more when I was 8, 10, 11, 12... back in 2001 when I started my yellow journal I thought I was a decent writer. I used too many commas. I spelled things wrong, sometimes because I was going too quickly to care, sometimes because I was crying as I wrote and couldn't even see my own hand, and sometimes because I'd never actually seen the word before--I'd only heard it. Words like "ornery" I consistently spelled as "awnry" because I'd never seen it on paper before. I spelled it the way it sounded in my head. In my earliest journal days I talked about things that were happening like they were in the past tense, saying "I went to sleep and dreamed" instead of "I'm going to bed now. I hope I have pleasant dreams."

My completed journals, beginning my life journey as of 1998.
Certain writing sparked memories to return. I wrote, "Sorry, this is random, but I liked his hair that day." and suddenly I remembered exactly what his hair looked like. Other things surprised me, things I'd completely forgotten. In the last entry of one journal (which took up 18 pages) I had a lot to say about how things were that day, writing every thing that popped into my head. When I lost my train of thought, I'd start on something else. In my last entry, I made a comment about how everything reminded me of Jaron. He was inextricably glued to my thoughts, his puzzle pieces taking their place in random areas of mine.

I also mentioned in that last entry that I was so vague. Jaron didn't want me to read his journal, but I read the last entry anyway, and I remembered how he described everything. He had written what it felt like to kiss me. I never said anything like that in my journal. I was afraid to even admit it to my journal. My journal, which no one was ever supposed to see but me, and I was still too scared to write anything in detail.

I had decided to change that. But I noticed that after that day, I fell into old habits again and didn't say what I wanted to say. I'd only said it once.

I didn't talk to my journal the way I did with Jaron. And he called me vague and mysterious. Shows you how much I included in my diary."

So what did this mean to me? 1. I'm not perfect and never will be, and I can accept that. 2. Feelings that I have now are not isolated. At some point, I experienced them before, and I can draw on that experience to help me deal with and overcome challenges now. 3. Memory returns much better when I include striking details. 4. Things that I didn't write down are often fuzzy or completely gone.

Journals are your journey. To me, it's not only important to keep a journal, but to write in it often, including extremely personal thoughts and feelings. When I realize that there's something missing, that I kept some detail to myself, I mourn the loss of that moment. I guess that's why they say writers should save everything. Every bit of work you've done is worth something. Doesn't matter if it was the crappiest manuscript in the world--it's a part of you, and you are valuable.

Don't sell yourself short. Keep a regular journal.

-Tsira

11 comments:

  1. I love reading through my old journals, too. There's even something different about life while you're writing regularly, like your subconscious knows you'll be writing stuff down, so it pays better attention. It can be really healthy and awesome. I just don't know if I can really sit down and write in a book long-hand for an hour or two these days. I'm hoping that my blog fills in some of that empty space, but I obviously can't write about really personal things. Maybe I'll start a secret blog again, or even just a file.

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    1. "...your subconscious knows you'll be writing stuff down, so it pays better attention."

      Too true. That's why so many people keep dream journals--because dream-memory is so fleeting, and having to write it down forces you to remember what it was you dreamed about.

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  2. I've tried to write in a journal for so long, but I just never could stick with it. Maybe I'm just too undisciplined.

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    1. Some people just don't have that wired in them. I mentioned journaling to a friend who told me she hasn't written a new entry since her wedding day--almost 20 years ago! But if you *can* manage to do it, you'll certainly be grateful you did. :D

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  3. Author Annie Dillard was also big on journaling, although I think hers included writing. She puts down any of her daily thoughts with the snippets of writing. It's a practice I've really wanted to get into. Great blog!

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    1. That's such a good idea. I should probably keep better track of that. I sometimes put things in for a reason and later can't remember why.

      Also, thank you. :)

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  4. I began reading through my diary last week and have since been writing in it regularly. I just have so much in my head that I want to be able to read back on one day.

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    1. Awesome! Knowing what your thoughts and feelings were about things long after they happen really helps you put things in perspective. I need to follow my own advice better and write in mine more often!

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  5. I love keeping a journal. I do a private blog for that now, and it works great too. I've got journals all the way back from when I was 11!

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    1. Wow, that's dedication for you. Mine start when I got my first journal from a teacher I adored. ;) I like how quickly I can process and translate thoughts on the computer, but long-hand is the way to go for me. I can see so much in just the way my letters appear, the way I hold my pen or smear the words or crease the page, let alone study my thoughts.

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  6. I used to write in a journal daily ever since I was little, but I've fallen out of the habit over the years. That form of writing started to make me more depressed instead of less. I tried getting back into journaling this year, but fell out of the habit again when it just seemed to turn into an opportunity for me to do nothing but write about how much I suck. As much as I love the concept of journaling--all the points you brought up definitely applied to me when I was younger--it feels like it's healthier for my state of mind not to keep one anymore, at least at this moment in my life.

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