Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Writer's Journal

Alice C. Linsley

The journal is a writer's constant companion. With pen and paper at hand, the writer is able to save scraps, poetic pieces, and tidbits of thoughts that might otherwise be forgotten.

The writer's journal reveals recurring personal themes. Looking back at entries over many years, I find my mind has often been preoccupied by images and questions concerning authority.  A person in a uniform intrigues me: a policeman, a firefighter, a medical professional in a white gown. What is it about a uniform? Looking back through my journals I find many characters who wear uniforms - soldiers, doctors, clergy, etc.

I have sketches of plots involving conflict between corrupt people in power and those who have true spiritual authority. To this day, my mind is captivated by the struggle between worldly power and God's sovereignty.

If you write, you should keep a journal. Reading it later can speak to you about things in your consciousness that should be explored. This is potentially fertile ground.

Here are some thoughts that writers have offered about journal writing:

The American writer Jessamyn West wrote, "People who keep journals live life twice. Having written something down gives you the opportunity to go back to it over and over, to remember and relive the experience."

Gail Godwin wrote, "I often reread old journals and make notes to my former selves in the margin."

The French writer, George Sand wrote, "Writing a journal implies that one has ceased to think of the future and has decided to live wholly in the present... Writing a journal means that facing your ocean you are afraid to swim across it, so you attempt to drink it drop by drop."

"Journal writing is a voyage to the interior," wrote Christina Baldwin.

Mark Rudman has written, "We are drawn toward journals out of a craving for the authentic, for the uncensored word and thought."

Lyn Lifshin, an American poet, wrote, "...diaries should be like a ripped or stained sloppy bathrobe you put on when you're alone, that you can be yourself in. Some are more like fancy bathrobes waiting for company... Nothing I'd wear for just me and the cat."


poetreader said...

There's more than one way to do that. I don't actually journal, but I am always writing poetry in reaction to what is going on in my life. My poems, with brief introductions are bound into chapbooks (now 45 of them) in chronological order and thus give a good account of my life and thining. Every now and again I dip into the old ones and reread. It's a good exercise.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Yes, chapbooks in chronolocial order with dates are another way to journal.

Gustave Flaubert kept a journal over 30 years. He called it "a landscape" that he revisited often. It helped him to remember his youth "as lovely, smiling, the leaves all greeen."