Sunday, August 14, 2011

Keeping a Journal

I’d like to say I still have every journal from a lifetime of writing. After all, I poured so many thoughts into those pages, secrets I couldn’t even share with myself.

My childhood diaries, however, have gone the way of my baby teeth. Just as well. Some things are better left forgotten.

More recent journals are scattered about my home: stacked on the floor, stuffed into the back of shelves, and hidden in boxes in the closet. I wouldn’t be surprised if some are propping up second‐hand furniture.

Does this mean I’m indifferent to the contents of those half‐remembered tomes? I prefer to see them as buried treasure. How much more poignant the words will seem when unearthed years from now. And perhaps their value will have grown during the passing years.

Consider the following description written during a morning free write at an oceanfront cottage:

     The way the foam dances ahead of the wave,
     it looks like nimble fingers on piano keys.

The line stayed in my head for years and eventually evolved into the following poem:

     water washed over
     cold crescent shore loosely keyed
     pebbled concerto

The basic concept is still there but expanded to include more concrete imagery. If I hadn’t captured the description in the moment, however, the poem never would have come about.

Journaling is a valid aspect of any writer’s life. Recording your observations on a daily basis provides practice and discipline. Try it for a week—just one page per day—and see if you’re not convinced.

You just might realize that there’s more to “keeping” a journal than choosing its storage location.

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