I know a lot of writers who use journaling as a tool to jump start their new projects, work through feelings or crises, and set goals. A writer friend from Colorado, Mike Befeler, used a form of journaling to write his first three or four Paul Jacobsen geezer lit novels. The Morning Pages as proposed by Julia Cameron in the Artist's Way were his method -- handwriting three pages every morning before he went to work and typing with a small edit each day after he came home.
Journaling worked for me during certain stages of my life, but I've not been faithful to the task. It surprises me that I've maintained this blog so religiously since it's a form of journaling. Although I focus mostly on bookish topics, I throw a little of my inner self out here for all to see from time to time.
Over the years, I've used the journaling process when I'm going through some kind of sea change (a marked change or transformation). I keep all those old papers, so I decided to pull out the folders and notebook for this blog post and give you a few quotes from the past.
The folder with the yellowed sheets inside contains continuous feed computer paper. The first entry is dated September 4, 1984. I didn't have a computer then, didn't have access to one for personal use until sometime in 1985, so I must have taken handwritten entries and typed them up later.
Human beings are funny. They tend to react more than they act--and those reactions are often appropriate responses to someone else's expectations. If someone comes to me at work and say, "You're going to be very upset when I tell you what I did," I find myself exhibiting signs of being upset--before I even hear what the problem is.
November 2, 1984
Now have red Camaro smeared all over the front left side of my blue Firebird. The (unkind word deleted) turned right in front of me at Nebo Rd. and State Road 32. Remember thinking--how could he be so careless with such a gorgeous car--then thinking--I know in a second he's going to stop--I know he is--but he didn't.
I wasn't hurt at all, and neither was the teenager driving his stepfather's awesome red Camaro. I ended up feeling more sorry for the kid than I did for myself.
Later on in that folder I found journal entries from 1976 and 1977 before I went back to 1985. I must have had journal notes all over the place -- I apparently called these "Growth Notes."
Dec. 5, 1976. A dream
I was driving in a van to group [a consciousness raising group I had joined in February]--apparently at M's because I'm focused mostly on reaching M. Kept getting lost and making wrong turns. Suddenly I realized I was driving with no lights. Very dark night. I tried several times to turn lights on but they wouldn't work. Began slowing down and stopped van while still trying to get lights on. Lights came on at moment I stopped. Front of van was only inches from a brick wall. Got out of van to see where I was--narrow alley. Cat around my feet bugging me--kicked it. Somewhere the cat became a mother cat with two kittens, all of them around my feet, getting in my way and meowing.
Back in van, backed out of alley to continue to group. Sometime became aware that someone was following me. Became more scared. Finally found M's and started to pull in long drive that goes around to back of building. Still being followed. Did not want to get trapped back there in the dark so stopped in drive to confront person following me.
Kept keys in left hand--something larger in right hand--and started back toward car--convertible. As I demanded to know why--person pulled gun on me--said nothing. Total start terror! I threw whatever was in my right hand at person (man?) and yelled (not scream)--combination rage and fear. Woke me up. Yell was in my sleep--not out loud. I was soaking wet with sweat.
Brick wall: 24 bricks high and 16 bricks wide. 384 bricks to take down.
Anybody into analyzing a dream from 1976?
As I wandered through the old stuff I found extensive entries for the two years I lived in France (1985-1987), plus the letters I wrote to my mother during that period -- probably enough for a memoir. I found a notebook of morning pages from March through May 1996, apparently a period during which I was under a lot of work stress. And a small journal I'd forgotten about until I cleaned out the drawer in my bedside table contains entries from early 2001, before our world changed, plus a few entries from mid-2007.
Here's a fun entry:
Ideas: They plop into my head like fat worms thrown from a shovel-full of dirt, suddenly there, oozing and wriggling, stealing my attention from the real task at hand. Ideas so varied and so huge I could never develop them all into finished works. There aren't enough years left. Maybe smoosh them all into one great tome: The Moose That Got Lost in the Woods after the Afro-haired disco dancer in a silver-sequined dress burned down her mother's house after said mother [rest of idea unacceptable for a PG-13 blog]. Or just get busy and write what I can. . . .
So now that I've inspected all these old things and found some pretty interesting stuff, including a few entries I can't remember writing, does that make you want to look for your own old journals and notes? Or maybe start journaling right now? Wouldn't it be awesome to open these notebooks up 30 or 40 years later and remind yourself what was going on in your life back then? Or not.
I have plenty of room in that notebook I started in 1996. Maybe I'll try Morning Pages one more time.