Monday, March 09, 2015

How I Journal, Part 1: Record and Rant

This is, in part, an answer to a question on a recent blog entry: "So do you go back and revisit them [journals] or do you leave that to your eventual biographers and grad students trying to deconstruct your writings?"

Biographers--ha. Right.

Currently, I actually keep a few different notebooks I guess you could call journals. One (generally a smaller one, and the one recently up for replacement as another was filled) I use for recording mostly facts and events. For example, yesterday's entry would look something like this: "Daylight Saving Time--ugh. 'Slept in' until about seven. Cold when I got up--30-ish. Spent the morning continuing to obsess about guitar. Working on an arrangement of "Star of the County Down," hopefully ready to record next weekend--making videos may help me w/ performance anxiety, so I'm going to start doing that regularly. Went to 11:30AM Mass, then to Jay's Farmstand for a boatload of vegetables. Watching that old video of myself yesterday reminded me how out of shape I've gotten, especially in the last six months, and it's time to work on that. M called and talked for awhile, mostly about..." Etc.

The other notebook, I use for morning pages, exploring ideas, and whining. For example, yesterday's entry in there could look something like this: "Daylight Saving Time, Daylight Saving Time, Daylight Saving Time. I hate it. It's so stoooopid. From what I understand, it was originally done for farmers--as if yanking an hour from the beginning of the day and stapling it to the end actually makes the day longer, and as if they wouldn't just work with the light without caring about the time. The critters were happy to be fed an hour earlier, but man..." Etc.

The first type of notebooks get filed away for reference--it's kind of fun to check what I did a year ago today, for example, or read over notes from a trip. My other notebook often yields blogging ideas or story seeds, but once those are separated out, the rest is really so much chaff. I've taken to just recycling them.

It hasn't always been this way. I used to combine everything in one journal: events, dreams, rants and whines and wonderings. I do refer back to those at times, but having to comb through a zillion pages of what-worried-me-most-just-then in order to find one small note about my brother officially announcing they were expecting their second gets old.

And frankly, those older journals make me a little nervous, just because they get awfully soul-baring at times, and I'm not sure I want anyone poking through them, now or later. I've thought about just junking them...but it *is* nice to have a record of when things happened, and at least some of my thoughts at the time. I toy with the idea of going back through and parsing out facts where I can, writing those down in another notebook, but I haven't yet made a project of it.

I'm not sure my current method will be the one for the ages, but it's working for the time being. Bonus: excuses to have more notebooks going at once!

Part 2 will discuss how I deal with keeping a journal when I'm too busy to keep a journal, and why this means I'm allowed to have yet another notebook.


notagain said...

Thanks for the expanded response, it's very interesting, especially as I struggle with remembering events accurately. Do you have a set time for leafing through them and do you ever refer to an old entry in a new one? I mean, as in "my notebook from two years ago reminds me that thus and so..."
I have enough trouble finding time to read for pleasure - my own writing would be far below that.

Little Flower Petals said...

Not really a set time to review, no. More like I have moments when I think, "Was it the summer before last when I went to Ocean Shores? When was that?" and go hunting for it. Once in awhile I'll read through whole journals...but that's usually when I'm procrastinating 'cause I'm supposed to be cleaning the house...

I do number the pages as I go along, and sometimes back reference entries that way, but not very often.

And once in awhile I've had a journal where I made an index in the back of the notebook listing particularly important dates/entries, but I'm usually just not that ambitious.

Bill M said...

Quite a detailed voyage into your journaling.

Pamela Gerard said...

All I can say is I'm with you when it comes to Daylight savings time -- yuk! Let Nature alone.

notagain said...

Do you draw in them too or just write text?

Little Flower Petals said...

Pretty much just text. Used to doodle in the margins, but I haven't for a long while. That said, I spent a lot of time at Wintergrass with someone who adds all sorts of interesting sketches to her journals, and came away with a certain amount of journal envy. My drawing skills are pretty sub-par, though. Then again, who's to know?

MTCoalhopper said...

Archival journals are all kinds of useful. I recently had to look up a mailing address that I had written down, years ago. And jotted-down story ideas, don't get me started. It's interesting, too, to look back and see where, or if, my feelings have changed on various subjects.

Indexing my journals would be implausible, so I've taken to adding iconic marks in the upper, outside corners to denote story ideas and which pages need to be ripped out and burned.

How do we feel about editing or redacting our own journals?

Little Flower Petals said...

For the most part, no matter how embarrassing I find them later, I never ever ever alter an entry. It just feels wrong, like...I don't know, changing medical records.

I do kind of wish I could put a password or disclaimer on some, though.

And I do put arrows in the margins sometimes to point out story ideas or other things I'd like to expand upon later. I like your top corner idea--hadn't occurred to me to normalize my notifications that way.

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