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 post, “5 Bold Rules for Journaling.” Of course, all journaling rules are guidelines, but I thought the article worth discussion. (Note: the article is no longer available online, but the ideas are still worth discussion.)
Bucket List’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.
Bucket List’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.
Bucket List’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.
Bucket List’s guideline #4: Journal to live better. Well, amen to that.
Bucket List’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 you, dear reader, what do you have to say about all this?