Monday, December 6, 2010

Journaling is Reading Yourself

This is the collage cover I made for a new sketchbook/notebook.
Most of the images came from the pages of Afar, a travel magazine.
I'm a lucky person. I spent a snowy winter afternoon at Parmly Billings Library thinking about journals with Sierra, Logan, Matt, Emily, Chase, and Samantha.  (And Chase and Samantha's dad--and Jennifer the Librarian, too.) 
I had planned to provide the young writers  (grades 5-7ish) with 111 prompts. I wanted to help them past inertia of rest and to protect them against gumption traps. Fortunately, Amy at The Poem Farm pointed out that strategies are more useful than crutches. 
I always learn more than anyone I hope to teach.
These were some messages I thought were essential:

• It's OK to make mistakes, to scribble, to be imperfect. I mentioned that The Journals of Lewis and Clark are full of creative spellings.
• You can include drawings or clippings or whatever. 

• Never throw your journals away. 
They will be really interesting to you, the writer, in ten or twenty years. 
• Date your entries.
• Take time to read what you've written. Mark your best or most interesting idea.
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Preparing for the workshop was an invitation to think about why I keep notebooks--and this blog. For me, the experience of blogging feels a lot like journaling. There is one difference: I imagine an audience when I post here. Sometimes, the audience isn't even imaginary. Real people read what I've written. I still find that amazing. 
But there are many similarities between my notebooks and my blog. I still rarely know what is going to happen when I start an entry in either place, which reminds me of a good reason to practice this sort of writing...

Discovery: The act of writing influences both how and what I think. It's as if being in dialogue with myself prods me have ideas I wouldn't have had otherwise.  

Here are three other reasons I have for journaling/blogging:

Memory: My notebooks are machines for memory. I know mine is rather weak and inexact. My notebooks remind me not only of what I experienced, they also tell me what I thought was important. 
Pondering: I spent almost two years writing about what I called talismania. I never did define it, but these are the subheadings of some talismania entries: right livelihood, shamanism, tools, and language. 
Collection: I often paste stuff into my notebooks—clippings, poems, and short stories—I worry I might have a hard time finding them again otherwise. That shaky memory thing.

If you had been with us, what would you have said about journaling? About blogging?
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An Addendum re: Reading
While we were making our collages on our notebooks, I asked about the books the others had read recently. Here's the list:

The Last Hero
A non-fiction book about sharks
(And one other one, which I forgot. I wouldn't have done that if I'd--you know--made a note in my brand new journal. I'm pretty dumb sometimes, forgive me, Samantha.)

So, it's obviously true that boys don't read, except that they do.  They read books that are funny, adventure-packed, non-fiction —which are, oddly the exact same great books that girls enjoy. Go figure. It's almost like people can read and enjoy books about characters very unlike themselves doing things they have never done.

(When I mentioned that I'd love to know how to write funny, Sierra said, "Use satire, irony, and wit." I'm trying, Sierra.)
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