Keeping a Jotting's Journal

Every year, when I was a child, my mother gave me a diary. Perhaps she thought if I spent some time writing about my daily life, I would experience some sort of epiphany and change into a better person.

I always loved my new diary. I would stroke its cover and lift it to my nose, inhaling the smell of new leather. Mmm. I'd close my eyes and think of all the wonderful, exciting things I would do during the coming year, and how I would record them in my diary. And of course the knowledge that no one else would read it made it even more exciting.

Every year, my diary started out with, "It's Christmas! Today I got . . . " and a list of all my Christmas presents. Sometimes I made it to New Year's day, or even a few days beyond. Usually my diary ended on about the 27th of December.

I think one of the reasons for my repeated failure in the World of The Diary, was the thought that diaries had to be a record, a very full record, of my entire day. And of course, that was impossible. I spent far too much time climbing trees, rushing to finish my homework (that was in the days when I still did homework) so that I could go and play, avoiding my parents wrath over the latest misdemeanor, and going for long walks with my dog in the monkey-infested bush near our home.

Childhood was great, full of adventures, mainly of the made-up kind. There wasn't time to write in a diary. That felt too much like homework.

I grew up and stopped getting diaries. Mom had given up, and I knew I wouldn't write in them anyway. There wasn't enough time in the day. Then I hit a mid-life crisis of a different kind. I got cancer. I had so many things I needed to remember, I got myself another diary. Only this was bigger, and had the times listed down the side.

In an attempt to get away from the picture of long hours of filling in my day's events which I knew I would soon give up on, I decided to call it my journal.

 I started jotting down thoughts, events, and how I felt, next to the appropriate time. It was incredibly self-centered. Folk that have been through aggressive treatment for cancer know how your entire life concentrates on survival. And that's what my journal was. A survival manual.

Two years after I completed a year's aggressive treatment, I became a published writer. I initially wrote devotions and short articles, and where did I get a good deal of my ideas? My journal.

I hadn't written well. I didn't even write in sentences. When I came to use the journal in my writing, I found a year's worth of quick notes, occasional Scripture verses, a few scrawled prayers, and even some long vents, where I poured out my reaction to my latest crisis.

A few years later, Revell Publishers produced my book, Strength Renewed, based on the devotional notes I had written, some of which were already published, and other jottings from my journal. 

Today, I still jot in a journal when I have something to say. It doesn't need to be every day, nor does it have to be good writing. No one else will ever see the contents of this book, and if they did, they would probably not understand it. Odd thoughts, sentences, writing ideas, and sometimes the bones of an entire devotional message fill the pages, and at the back I keep a prayer list. As a writer, I can turn to my journal whenever I need inspiration.

My adventures in the World of the Diary have finally found a purpose. Thank you Mom! And I didn't have to write my life story after all. 

OVER TO YOU: Do you keep a journal? Do you follow the traditional Dear Diary format? Does it work for you? Or do you give up because it is too time-consuming? Maybe you need to try a Jottings Journal. Please share your experiences in the World of the Diary in a comment below.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer, which evolved from her Jottings Journal has brought encouragement and inspiration to a multitude of friends and contacts across the world.

Please visit Shirley through where she encourages writers, or at where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or Facebook.

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Judith Robl said...

I've never been able to keep a journal. I lose them - as well as car keys, my purse, my task glasses...

I keep half-size legal pads in my purse for jottings when I think of things. I wish i were better at it, but I'm just not. Gotta get organized before I go home... :-)

Shirley Corder said...

Judith, I have several journals for that same reason. But I have one next to my bed for the early morning thoughts and the prayer list. So if I mislay one of the others, I can always find that one! Thanks for sharing.

Romance Book Haven said...

Yes, keeping a journal and writing in it is as they say...doesn't make you go to a therapist!

Shirley Corder said...

So true "Romance,"
Letting all those feelings and emotions "hang out" helps us to deal with so many issues. Thanks for the comment.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Even worse was the gift of a five year diary, Shirley. lol. I maybe filled five pages in all and suspect it may still be languishing in my books-from-home box in an attic somewhere. Your posts are, as always, inspirational. I journal irregularly in a large bright-covered A4 notebook now. Too bright to lose but no way of finding things in it quickly...nice to meet another disorganized writer, Judith :-)

Shirley Corder said...

I like the idea of your large bright notebook, Annie. :-) My problem would be finding a space for it on my bedside table. There is always so much clutter there. Maybe I need to start a decluttering journal . . . I have a number of books on the topic but I forget I have them so never read them for long. Oh dear, maybe this is all part of the Writers' Syndrome!

Karen Cioffi said...

Shirl, I too have always had trouble maintaining a journal or diary. I'd be diligent for a shore while then . . .
I think you're right that it can seem like a chore, but I have noticed that during trying times I tend to go back to it.
And, like your book Strength Renewed you never know where those notes may take you.

Linda Wilson said...

You know what? I didn't have trouble recording my life in diaries. As a child I kept diaries from about 7-12 or 13. Not only did I write in them every night, I kept snippets of my hair, playing cards that I loved, favorite sayings, lots of things. I don't have those diaries anymore because I didn't think I'd want them anymore when I was in my 20's. I've been sorry ever since. They could have been a wealth of info for my children's stories. After my daughters were born I started keeping journals again. I have a whole box of them with records of my life and theirs. I look at them occasionally for ideas. I also created Creative Memories photo albums of their growing-up years and have made two albums of mine as well, chock full of photos. These are most helpful when I get "stuck," especially when I want to remember what it was life to be a child. I particularly found jotting the small things from the top of my head to get to the deeper thoughts and feelings while working through Julia Cameron's "Artist's Way."

Shirley Corder said...

Thank you Karen. You would be amazed if you could see the mess in that journal which led to Strength Renewed! It literally comprises jottings, comments, prayers, Scriptures, not to mention some longer vents! But because they were written at the time of crisis, when I look at the note, it all comes tumbling back and I remember far more than I wrote at the time.

Shirley Corder said...

Oh Linda, what a treasure! And how very sad you got rid of the earlier diaries. I really wish I had taken my mother's gifts seriously and persevered. Thank you so much for sharing--and keep it up! Your children will indeed rise up and call you blessed!

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