Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Inspired by National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Sweet Francesca of Open Diary has spearheaded November Journaling Month: NoJoMo. Click on the icon above to reach her entry. I've joined in, and will be posting parallel entries between my diary on OD and here....

I teach creative writing and tell my students to keep a journal. In fact I mention OD in my handout, but I also recommend that folks carry something in which they can write anywhere. Write, not type. Notebook computers and electronic diaries can run out of battery juice, and writing longhand provides visceral processing that typing on a screen does not.

That said, some folks have physical difficulty writing, in which case word processing is a lifesaver. But all else being equal, I strongly recommend toting something that's easily portable.

Excerpt from my handout:

A journal is, quite simply, a place to write with no holds barred. It will serve you well in a variety of uses:

1. Practice. No matter what you write, you are writing.

2. Raw data. All the details, insights, minutiae, rants, and anything else you write down is potential material for more crafted writing, be it in stories, poems, articles, or other forms of expression, like art or music.

3. Self-help. Talking to yourself on paper or using your journal as a confidante can help you solve problems and make burdens easier to bear. I have found sometimes that what I’ve written can serve as valuable advice to myself years later.

4. Legacy. As journals across the eons have shown, even minutiae have value for future generations. (See, for example, Lillian Schlissel’s collection Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey, New York: Schocken Books, 1982.)

What to write in

Above all, choose what you are comfortable with. When I was a teenager I used a small 3-ring binder that I filled with lined paper. (The “diaries” sold in stationery stores never had enough room for me.) The first diary I kept, at age 6, was in an old New York City Board of Education booklet that my mother brought home from her teaching job and my father covered with gold and white striped wallpaper, artfully printing my name on the cover. It had wide-ruled paper on which I printed my entries in pencil.

Today my journal is in an artist’s sketch book with unlined, acid-free paper. Sometimes I will sketch in addition to writing: my cats, a coffee cup, a crude outline of objects from a dream.

Some people are more comfortable with spiral-bound notebooks, or with loose sheets of paper. Some may use a leather-bound blank book, others large index cards or napkins. Some use pencil or black pen; others use colorful gel pens in every shade, fountain pens, magic markers. Some tape or paste pictures onto the page, or newspaper articles that catch their eye.

Use what is comfortable for you. Experiment. Make sure your journal is transportable so that you can carry it with you. I have written journal entries on planes, trains, automobiles, boats. I have written them on hiking trails, in doctor’s offices, in restaurants, by candlelight during power outages, in hotel lobbies, in hospital waiting rooms.

What to write

Anything goes. The only rule in keeping a journal is to write, period. My journal includes, but is not limited to: assumptions; brainstorms; complaints; conversations; descriptions of nature; descriptions of people; divination (e.g., I-ching, Tarot, Runes); dreams (including REM-sleep dreams, wishes, fantasies); events; insecurities; letters sent and unsent; lists of things done; memories; observations; medical details; poetry; puns; prayers; quotations from books, songs, etc.; rants; reactions to news stories; story and other ideas; to-do lists; whining; worries; writing exercises.

Obviously I'm preaching to the choir here in the blogosphere. But I am indebted to my high school teacher Mrs. G, whose creative writing class required us to keep a diary. I'd kept one before then, on and off, but her directive really sparked it.

A while back I also signed up at 1001 Journals. The invitational e-mail came out of the blue, and I usually delete anything that looks unfamiliar, but this time I took a look. I'm in line for a traveling journal, one that gets snail-mailed from place to place. Right now it looks like the one I've signed up for is in St. Louis, MO. It'll be a while before it gets to me, if it does. But I enjoy that kind of collaboration.

More shots from this past weekend....

Hyatt view 33, 29 October 2006

I took this from our room at around 9 AM. It wasn't until after I'd downloaded and viewed the shots that I got a kick out of the different ways buildings can appear depending on time of day. The shot below is of the same building and taken from the same place, though at a slightly closer zoom.

Hyatt view 6, 30 October 2006

Likewise another building, seen from our room, provided two perspectives:

Hyatt view 20, 29 October 2006

I took this at around 6:30 PM, when the low sun gave a decidedly red tint to the rear building. That color was gone the following morning, when shortly before noon I photographed a flock of turkey vultures -- birds with an approximate 6-foot wingspan -- congregating in the same place.

Tampa Turkey Vultures

To give an idea of what these birds look like up close, below is a photo I took of one of our local birds (camped on a neighbor's driveway and feasting on a dead squirrel) back in April:

Turkey Vulture 20

I also took a video of the urban vultures in Tampa, which I'll embed after I've uploaded it, likely from our DSL-enabled library, unless I set my dial-up computer to spend the night transferring the file.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My notebooks of late have devolved to scrawl in a compostion notebook. If I don't process the scribble within a few days, it's lost forever as unreadable.

I'll write on my hand in a pinch. Don't trust my memory.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Brenda Clews said...

I was an incessant journal keeper, until one year, late 90s, I spent 3 days reading all my journals from age 20 or so. Repetitive, going over and over the same emotional ground, it was an eye-opener. I stopped keeping journals. But it was part of an inner pact to 'write seriously,' which I've done, though not to the point of polished, finished. Probably about 6 books in varying stages of completion in as many years. I still find that writing in pencil in a notebook is the best place for me to compose. And rather than endless analysis of my life, I express it through prose poetry, and in images, and it's all much more satisfying and somehow whole.

Of course, some of the itinerary of daily life does make it into my blog... :)

It's a mad writing month, definitely, and, while I joined NaNo this year, the kind of writing I'm doing is not linear, and can't pour out in the same way a story can, so I probably won't make the word count, but the camaraderie is what it's about. All 70,000 of us!

You just finished the rough draft of a book, didn't you? I think editing should count as NaNoWriMo too. Or are you leaving that for now and beginning another in the series? Or something entirely different?

The race is on. Good luck...!

9:05 AM  
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