Using Journals for Memoir Writing and More

A few of my many “pretty” journals

Do you use journals to record your thoughts, ideas, emotions, poems and stories?

When I first started journaling, I followed Julia Cameron’s ideas in The Artist’s Way.  I wrote 3 pages of long-hand on any cheap notebook or paper that I could find.  In some ways, I’ve come full circle and have been returning to that idea, and even moving to online forms of writing.

However, in the interim between then and now, I spent years writing in beautiful, whimsical, artistic and “professional-looking” journals.  Unfortunately, much of what went into those lovely books was drivel.

Yet, interspersed between the mundane and the trivial were some interesting observations about my life and times that make memoir and creative writing easier.  If I want to know how to write about life in Chicago in the 1990’s, I already have some starting material.

Even more fascinating to me is how  journal entries sometimes foreshadow the story that I am now writing in my novel.  Like this little admonishment to myself on March 2, 2001:

As long as you “control” your ship you cannot swim in the ocean and dive as the mystical whales do.

I read that now and get a shiver up my spine, because there are mystical whales in my novel now.  I had a vague idea of the novels I wanted to create then, but no idea of writing about whales (consciously).

Nicholas’ drawing of a Fumaron when he was 8 years old in 2010

Today, I was even more delighted to find the journal with drawings from my son Nicholas 2 years ago when he was only 8 years old.

One of my projects this summer  is to transfer the gems from my journals over the last twenty years into Evernote notebooks so that they can be searched more easily.

Too often we spend hours writing and don’t go back to look for the good stuff.

This weekend how about taking some time to look at your early writing, journals, art, premonitions or anything else that you might still be able to access?

If you don’t have any records of your life and times on earth, there’s no time like the present to start creating some!

Do You Create Secret Journals or Videos for Your Children?

the next four journals
the next four journals (Photo credit: paperbackwriter)

I decided this week’s theme is about how do we leave a legacy with our writing, our art and our life.

Today, I want to start with a simple writing idea.

Before my first son was born, I got the idea to write a secret journal that I would give to him sometime in his teenage years.  The journal would contain quotes from me and his father and his grandparents.  Then over the years, it would contain the wisdom that I have acquired for living a good life as well as expressions of how proud I have been of him throughout his childhood.

It’s been a while since July of 1998 when I started the first journal when I was pregnant with my first son. Now about 14 years later, I have two journals — one for each of my sons.  I’ve been sporadic about adding material to them.  Life gets in the way.  I was reminded of this journal today as I shot a video of our house and garden as a reminder of their early life for my boys to add a video component to my “secret writings”.

It’s easy to forget how short life is.  We think it will go on and on forever.  We worry about the daily challenges of life — making a living, getting a promotion, buying a new car, getting our kids into the “right” schools, saving for retirement and so many other transitory concerns.  We get annoyed with our kids for stupid things they do, or ourselves for being less than the person we wanted to be.

My inspiration for writing journals for my children is my mother.  She has always been a great letter writer.  I have a chest full of letters and keepsakes from her.  My mom also taught me how to ask deep questions about life from the time I was little.

Unfortunately, I have very little from my father in the way of written expressions of love or wisdom shared, and I can only remember vaguely the things he shared with me.   I have photos but they aren’t as powerful as written words when it comes to sharing wisdom.  He wasn’t a talkative man either, so I sometimes wonder what mattered to him in life.  I still miss his presence in my life, four years after his passing.  It made me cry to see what he had written in my son’s journal back in 1998.  I am so glad that I asked him to write something when he still could.

There’s no guarantee my kids will appreciate their wisdom journals from me.  I just hope they will know that I cared enough to think often about their future happiness as well as my own.  I want them to know that I will always be wishing them the best for them from wherever my spirit takes me.

If you have kids, it doesn’t matter how old they are, or even if they’ve moved out of the house.  Think about sharing your love and wisdom with them in a journal or video. For there will be a time when you won’t be around to show how much you care.

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