Each week, I read many blogs on journaling, memoir, and nonfiction writing. I find, as you probably do, that bloggers often recycle the same ideas over and over, so I like to highlight blogs with fresh content. That’s why this week’s Blogtalk features the wonderfully named Bucket List Society’s recent post, 5 Bold Rules for Journaling. Of course, all journaling rules are guidelines, but I thought Erik’s post worth discussion.
First, a digression. Except for one use of the word “his” in reference to the author, I wouldn’t know whether Erik is a woman or a man. Normally, I’d assume the name Erik is used for someone of the male gender, but I hate to make assumptions and I couldn’t tell from the writing voice. Which brings me to a bit of a pet peeve. If you’re gonna blog, please please please put your full name somewhere I can find it, and a little bit about who you are … an About page or a profile page or something! I looked, clicked the links, and couldn’t find anything. This happens surprisingly often, so don’t feel bad. Just change it. After all, how can you make the most of your connections and kudos if no one knows who you are? Okay … stepping down from my soapbox now (at least on this subject) …
Erik’s guideline #1: Don’t write about your day. I agree and disagree with this bit of advice. I say, write about your day and more. Write as fully about it as you can. What happened today? What happened in the news? What happened in your personal life? How do you feel about it? What was the weather like? Do anything unusual? Do anything usual that you love? What did you struggle with? What did you accomplish? And so on.
Erik’s guideline #2: Journal for past, present and future, emphasizes the point I’m making about number 1. I’ve reviewed past journals to find out what was going on in my life during a particular period of time, and you know what I found? A lot of emotional digging, problem-solving, and context-less thinking. I had no idea what job I held, what my children were doing, who I was dating (unless this was part of my emotional processing process), or what so-and-so said to so-and-so. I didn’t record what I saw, heard, smelled, tasted, and touched. While processing is integral to journaling and very important, unless you include concrete, sensory details (i.e. write about your day), you’ll wish you had.
Erik’s guideline #3: Combine and create. I think what he means is to use your journal to jot down ideas and be creative—color, draw circles, doodle, make lists, clusters, and so on. Allow your journal to be something more than words on a page. For those of us who journal using our computers or electronic devices, words tend to take precedence over image. That’s why it’s good to have a pen-and-paper journal as well—for those times when you need more than words to convey and idea or feeling.
Erik’s guideline #4: Journal to live better. Well, amen to that.
Erik’s guideline #5: Radical honesty. It’s difficult to be honest with oneself—I know, because I’ve been working on it for a very long time. And Erik’s absolutely right. Without the courage to express ourselves as honestly as we can, why bother? A journal, by definition, is written for yourself, even if you plan on leaving your journals behind for friends or family (and I hope you do). My advice? Write as if there were no tomorrow.
Thanks to the Bucket List Society, for starting the conversation and to Erik for sharing his grandmother’s poem. And you, dear reader, what do you have to say about all this?