Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A page from the journal of...

August 4, 2010
I’m supposed to be posting today about writers and their journals.
What exactly do I want to say - or even show - after thinking about this topic for the past seven days?
Probably that

(1) I personally journal to figure out Stuff. MY Stuff.
 Sometimes, I have a question that needs answering or a quandary that needs clarifying (and I don’t
 even know it).
Other times an issue begs for daylight.
I probe my heart, mind, soul and gut, spilling words onto the page as I write in the moment.

(2) My journal entries are for my eyes only.
For my ears too, actually, because I’m speaking non-stop.
(I love how my journal lets me hear my own voice.)

(3) My journal ISN’T my Writer’s Notebook, in which I live as a writer, growing and crafting and  
polishing a story.

(4) My prompts vary,
from an astrological forecast for the coming month (“Your Moment has finally arrived…”)
to a passage from a newspaper book review,
(“When something is broken, it can be pieced back  together. It might look and feel a lot  
  different than it did in its original incarnation, but there’s strength in moving forward.”)
from a painful situation, an intentional hurt,
to a Random Act of Kindness or one of Misfortune.
An email from a friend. (“Remember me? Long time no see...")
A card from my son. (“Thanks for remembering…”)
A bit of gossip overheard.
A long-standing “To Do” list.
Maybe something or someone made me feel proud,
or angry,
or determined,
or hopeful,
and I want to know why.
Sometimes I simply type the lyrics to a song I can’t stop singing. ("I just haven't met you yet!")
Often I simply write a Gratitude List.
A friend gifted me with a book – “Write It Down! Make It Happen!”
Those two simple directives continue to prompt journal entries galore.
I love to journal conversations I’ve had,
or words I wish I’d spoken,
I’m Sorry’s.
Lost promises.

(5) My journal writing times vary too.
I might go weeks in between entries, or even once or twice, months.
Morning time.
Lunch time.
In the middle of the night.
I follow no set schedule or time of day.

(6) Since 1996, my computer has been my vessel, my vehicle, my leather-bound journal, so to speak.
Forget those gorgeous hand-made volumes I use for Writer’s Workshops and Conferences.
When it comes to recording my very own story,
I click on New Document.
I date the entry.
I type my prompt.
Then I writewritewrite ‘til my fingers stop. (“So there!” I usually say.)
Finally, I save the document in a yellow computer file named JOURNAL.

(7) I love re-reading my earlier journal entries!
How else can I know how far I’ve come (or not) if I don’t know from whence I started?
I celebrate each New Year by reading previous posts written around the same time of year.
I mark Key Anniversaries by doing the same.

(8) I also love reading other people’s journals, especially those of writers.
A recent favorite?
Phyllis Theroux’ The Journal Keeper, A Memoir (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010)
A long-ago favorite?
Paula Graham's Speaking of Journals (Boyds Mills Press, 1999)
(Interviews with children's book authors Bruce Coville, Marian Dane Bauer, Jack Gantos and
  20-some other notable authors, with excerpts from their Journals)
A little-known journal I discovered via research and use with Young Writers?
Louisa May Alcott: Her Life, Letters and Journals (Roberts Brothers, 1889)

(9) I’ve been known to create journals for my characters. I choose an interesting font, adjust the type  
size, give the entry a meaningful prompt that usually addresses motivation or plot, and just like that, a
character lives and breathes, speaking on the page, opening his or her heart the way I open mine.

(10) Dare I share my current work-in-progress utilizes a journal for its format and structure? :)

That should do it, along with my Good Wishes.

I’ll likely end with,
      “Happy Journal Writing – whenever, wherever, however, whatever!”

So there!

       Esther Hershenhorn

Don't forget to remind readers about TeachingAuthors’ latest book giveaway for Karen Romano Young’s intriguing graphic novel about a girl who keeps a doodles-and-writing journal, Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles. The entry deadline is TODAY - 11 pm (CST) Wednesday, August 4, 2010!

Maybe mention that Phyllis Theroux's journal website offers a video with journal-keeping advice - "If you want to keep a journal... "


Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for sharing the link to Phyllis Theroux's website, Esther. I hadn't heard of her book.

Brenda Ferber said...

Esther, thanks for the tip about organizing your journal on your computer. I've been keeping my journal on my computer for the last couple years, but it's one big file that I have to scroll down to start writing. How much smarter and more convenient to have each date be its own file!

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Glad my post helped, Brenda!
And, Marti: you would love Phyllis Theroux' journal/memoir.
She speaks to the writer in all of us, as well as to the woman - and - the human being.