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Writing Real Life

November 16, 2010

A few days ago I think I completed a major accomplishment.  A bizarre, vague, and rather unimpressive accomplishment, but I’m proud of it nonetheless.

I finished my journal.  Or rather the notebook that has been housing my journal.  And yes, it may come as a shock to some people, but I do in fact keep a journal.  NOT a diary.  Because “Journal” sounds much more dignified than “Diary.”  Although why I should care about the difference is beyond me, since I will generally claim to have lost most of my dignity, as well as my mind.  College does that to you sometimes.

There’s a history to this journal.  It was given to me by a friend on November 14, 2005.  She knew that I love writing, and I think she expected me to be using it to write a story, which is normally what I do when someone hands me a notebook.  I pull out a pencil or a pen, and if it’s possible to write voraciously (rather than eat or read voraciously), then that’s exactly what I do.  However, my friend made a mistake when she chose this notebook, at least if her intention really was for me to write a story.

It’s too pretty.

All of my story notebooks are plain, battered, stuffed with notes, have scribbles and sketches lining the sides and backs of pages, and occasionally even have phone numbers that needed to be written down but I had no other place to do it.  But this notebook…  I mean, there’s a flower on the front, every page has the same picture (just with less color), and the back is blue and fuzzy!  That’s just far too pretty for any of my stories.

I have to admit, I’ve always been terrible at keeping my journal.  The first… well, 4 years or so are covered in –count ’em– 37 pages.  And they’re filled with nothing but drama.  I don’t really dare go back to read them because I’m afraid that I’ll find that I really was nothing more than a hormonal teenager.

But then within this last year I started to write regularly.  Like, every night, if I could.   Of course there are nights that I missed, usually because I was staying at someone else’s house and I’d forgotten my journal, but for the most part, nearly a years worth of days are filling the rest of those pages.  I don’t know if my life is really eventful or worth writing down, and a lot of days I think contain a phrase like, “I’m tired and I need to go to bed.”  But there are some places where I turn back and I see that I wrote a little more than what I ate for dinner or that I had a cold.  And I find something that I learned about myself, or about the gospel, or about someone else that let’s me see them in a new way.  And of course, it makes it easy to remember some things exactly because I can go back and look them up.  For example, the day I was invited to join The Rockpool– Wednesday, February 3, 2010.  Give or take 24 hours, probably.  I’m not absolutely precise with everything.

Sometimes journal writing is nothing more than a chore that I keep forcing on myself, but then I also find that it gives me an outlet for my emotions and my thoughts.  Previous to my learning to write in a journal my emotions, ideas, and experiences always managed to find their way into whatever story I was writing at the time.  Which means I can’t really even stand to go back and read them because as soon as I do I start to cringe and say, “Well, I know what I was thinking THAT day.”  In a way, a journal keeps my mind organized.  It allows me to tell stories without smooshing all of my useless baggage into it.  My characters have more than enough problems without adding mine to the mix, trust me.  But then a journal also allows me to tell MY story, and mine alone.  It requires more patience because it goes through day by day, but what makes it cool is that it’s REAL LIFE.  Take that for whatever it’s worth.

So now I have to move onto a new notebook.  Or in this case, an old notebook that I’ve never dared to use, which means that last night when I started to write in it I had to take a deep breath before I wrote the date on the first page.  And long before I ever put pen to notebook, this particular notebook had a history.

Once upon a time one of my sisters was in art class at the high school, and she learned how to make her own notebooks.  Some of which she actually auctioned off to help raise money for Girls Camp or something.  Of course, I saw her sewing pages of paper together, and I was fascinated.  I mean, it was cool.  And so I decided that I wanted to make one because it looked so cool.  And there’s always the thing where I’ve always tried to compete with this sister.  I’ve never succeeded, by the way.  But my sister was kind enough to see the mess I was making with piles of computer paper all over the living room, shake her head, and then proceed to help me make a book. 

In this case, “help” really means that she pretty much did it all and I watched.  One thing that I remember about the whole process is that when she was making the color for the covers that she added a little bit of flavoring or scent or something, and so for the longest time that notebook smelled like pears.  It’s pretty much faded by now, but if I try very hard, I can still smell it a little bit.  Maybe it’s just the powers of association coming into play.

I don’t know if there’s a moral to this story.  I’m not even sure if this is a story to have a moral.  But I think I can safely say that I’m grateful, which would be good because it’s nearly Thanksgiving time.  I’m grateful for the memories and for the experiences, even the bad ones that I would like to forget.

You know that one song from Fiddler on the Roof?  The one where they’re dancing around getting drunk and yelling “Lechaim, To Life!”?   Well, why not?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Ellen permalink
    November 18, 2010 2:38 am

    I like how you said, “In a way, a journal keeps my mind organized. It allows me to tell stories without smooshing all of my useless baggage into it. My characters have more than enough problems without adding mine to the mix, trust me. But then a journal also allows me to tell MY story, and mine alone. It requires more patience because it goes through day by day, but what makes it cool is that it’s REAL LIFE. Take that for whatever it’s worth.” I used to keep a journal regularly, and it’s all those things and more. I miss being able to look things up, such as dates of events. And even though it may seem mundane at times, it’s pretty cool how each day adds to the pattern of my life. But I haven’t written for a long time. You’ve inspired me to start up again. I’ll start by finding a pretty book . . .

    • November 21, 2010 11:57 pm

      🙂 I felt exactly the same way and have been out twice this weekend looking for as nice a journal/diary as picture here…no luck so far but I’m going hunting again tomorrow…!

      Incognito x

  2. November 18, 2010 6:50 am

    This post is just amazing…and so are you 🙂 I’ve always struggled with keeping a journal (and by struggled I mean never successfully finished a single journal), but it’s something that I’m trying to be more conscientious about now that I have time and I’m not super stressed all the time. I love writing and I’m so used to typing that it’s hard to get back into the habit of putting pen to paper. You’re inspiring 🙂

  3. November 18, 2010 3:03 pm

    i can so relate to this post, riv. i always had agonies over what a journal looked like, whether it was too pretty or fancy to write my woes in. every journal i’ve ever kept i’ve destroyed at some point. it was too easy to fall back into the time, place, and emotions of the moment i’d written about, even years later. i needed to destroy the evidence, so to speak, and let my mind forget what it wanted to forget, you know? but that’s me, and i think saving memories is beautiful and valuable, especially as a record of things you’ve learned and done. my mom kept a journal about me when i was little and i learned some really important things about myself from it! even though i was only one, i was still who i am now in a lot of ways. i struggle to find time to write in my kids’ journals, but i do it often enough they’ll get to read about who they were, and maybe see their grown up selves in the stories i’m keeping now. thanks for posting this 🙂

  4. November 19, 2010 4:37 am

    So inspiring! it is true that i have never regretted the history that i have taken the time to record, but i have such a hard time with being consistent in my writing. Sometimes i wind up with months or even years between entries, and, since the time spans are so daunting, I have a hard time beginning again. But, your example is very inspiring and i believe that i will definitely add journaling to my goals. Thanks!

  5. Rivenheart permalink
    November 22, 2010 1:44 am

    Wow.

    Can I say that these are some amazing comments?

    When I actually started keeping a journal in earnest it really didn’t start out as a task that I was forcing myself to turn into a habit (like learning to put on deodorant. Can’t live without it now, obviously, but I hated it when I was just starting to have to use it. Too much information, right?). Actually how it started out was that I was so completely stressed and horrified that I just had to write it down, and I had to keep going, like it was a way to combat everything else. Now, you might say that it’s an addiction, but probably one of the better addictions that I could possibly have (seriously, out of the huge variety out there…? Mine is definitely good).

    You know, a journal really doesn’t have to be pretty. Maryam, I think I’ve done the same thing and if I haven’t destroyed some of my old journals, I have lost them. Which in my case, amounts to about the same thing. 😉 Either way, they’re probably gone forever. I guess thing that I like about pretty journals is that it makes me feel like maybe it makes my words a little more… beautiful or worthwhile, I guess. And it really didn’t used to be that way. Once upon a time I think that I was writing in a journal like how I would make a report for school. Now, I think I’ve loosened up a lot, and it’s a handy place to pour out all of my emotions and thoughts and experiences. I have no set rules or regulations for how to write, no rules about how long it has to be, no rules about what to put in it.

    One of the biggest barriers to writing in a journal (I think) is that you wonder whether someone else will read it. Once upon a time I found a plain sort of notebook in a pile of stuff which turned out to be my sister’s journal. Once I realized what it was, I dropped it. Very few people (at least of the halfway mature or respectful variety) will ever read someone else’s journal. And if they do, call me so that I can come and smack them.

    So here’s my only piece of advice (for anyone who might be interested): A journal is yours and ONLY yours. It’s YOUR notebook, YOUR pen, YOUR thoughts, and especially YOUR LIFE!!! Own it, make it what you want it to be, and NEVER REGRET IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Incognito, good luck in your search for a worthy notebook. 😀

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