Sunday, July 29, 2012

Keeping a Journal

I'd like to say I still have every journal from a lifetime of writing. After all, I poured so many thoughts into those pages, secrets I couldn't even share with myself.

My childhood diaries, however, have gone the way of my baby teeth. Just as well. Some things are better left forgotten.

More recent journals are scattered about my home: stacked on the floor, stuffed into the back of shelves, and hidden in boxes in the closet. I wouldn't be surprised if some are propping up second-hand furniture.

Does this mean I'm indifferent to the contents of those half-remembered tomes? I prefer to see them as buried treasure. How much more poignant the words will seem when unearthed years from now. And perhaps their value will have grown during the passing years.

Consider the following description written during a morning freewrite at an oceanfront cottage:

"The way the foam dances ahead of the wave, it looks like nimble fingers on piano keys."

The line stayed in my head for years and eventually evolved into the following poem:

water washed over
cold crescent shore loosely keyed
pebbled concerto

The basic concept had endured but been expanded to include more concrete imagery. If I hadn't captured the description in the moment, however, the poem never would have come about.

Journaling is a valid aspect of any writer's life. Recording your observations on a daily basis provides practice and discipline. Try it for a week--just one page per day--and see if you're not convinced.

You just might realize that there's more to "keeping" a journal than choosing its storage location.

Betty Dobson is an award-winning writer of short fiction, essays and poetry. She also writes newspaper and magazine articles but is still waiting for those awards to materialize. In the meantime, she continues to run InkSpotter Publishing, which has three new books available and several more in the works for 2012.


Karen Cioffi said...

Betty, I agree that journaling is an excellent way to not only keep life's memories and thoughts, but to also keep track of observations of life and human nature for use in your writing.

And, as you mention, you never know what may eventually find it's way into your writing.

I've also been journaling for years and I'm sure I don't remember where all my books are - probably scattered here and there among my bookcases and draws.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great post Betty. My journalling has found its way in my writing. I've thought of tossing some of my journals. I'm not sure I want someone to unearth some of my musings.

Magdalena Ball said...

Thanks for the prompt Betty. I've started and stopped journalling many times over the year, but your post has inspired me to start again. I love your poem too.

Saumya said...

Journaling has gotten me through so many difficult times. Great post. You never know how valuable those journals may end up being now and in the future!

Kathleen Moulton said...

Betty, your post helped me to see the immeasurable depth available for writers with your observation of the ocean and how later it transpired into a poem. Thanks!


Heidiwriter said...

I wish I was a journaler. I've started so many over the years, but never kept them up. I can certainly see that this would be a valuable asset to writing.

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