Archive for the ‘diary and journal writers gathering’ Category

Answer #4 (Part V) Questionnaire for Long-Time Diarists: Barry

February 23, 2014

We are on to part V of Barry’s answers to the questionnaire.  One more to go for now.  I particularly agree with his statement:  “What I discovered was that I was only truly myself as a writer when I wrote for myself in the journal form.”

I have repeatedly said that journal writing is the only truly free form of writing.  You can break all the rules.  You can say anything you want about anything you want.  (You can’t do that in a newspaper.)  You can change your style.    You can be trivial or profound.

I can appreciate Barry’s answer to this question:

DO YOU TELL THE TRUTH?                If I knew it I would love to tell it.

 

HAVE YOU TAKEN BREAKS IN YOUR WRITING? 

Yes, between the ages of 30 and 50 I kept journals but spent more time trying to write other things for possible publication. I did write a newspaper column in my town paper, just stories about growing up Catholic in the 1950s. This went on for 25 years. When I gave it up at 50, I was glad to be done with it. And from then on I wrote only for myself. I wanted to lift the restrictions that a small town newspaper obviously imposed on a writer. But I wasn’t a professional. I was a school teacher with a typewriter.

 

I also believe that at this time when I no longer kept faithful diaries I was in too much confusion to have the kind of perspective that good journal writers need. I wouldn’t have been able to understand or write down what was happening to me. I was overwhelmed with life itself and I felt an intense drama and lyricism that I lacked the art to put on the page. It would have been a feast for another kind of writer but not for me. I scribbled on a lot of pages that I literally can’t even read today. The confusion in my mind is evident on the scrawled page.

 

What I discovered was that I was only truly myself as a writer when I wrote for myself in the journal form. I tried my hand at a novel, at short stories, at poetry, but it always felt as if I were trying to write like someone else to some prescribed notion of acceptable literature. My stomach churned and I felt outside myself in an unpleasant way. On the contrary when I came back to the journal I found myself around yard and home and neighborhood in a way that I was relaxed and fluent. I had found my sources in this humble form but one I dearly love and respect.

 

So my 4o years of keeping journals were interrupted for long periods and I am sure I lost things I should’ve written down, lost moments I would love to have preserved. Yet there are journals for each decade and I always came to it sooner or later.

 


HAVE YOU EVER TORN OUT PAGES?

Yes.

There are some pages that remain too painful to read. Some things I wish that weren’t. Some days when I gave into despair.

I like to keep an even tone in my journals. It is part of the discipline of writing for me. Part of the nature of seeking some balance in my life. Often enough we are the only ones who can do this work. What is my life? What have I made of it?  I can get too dark and sometimes even belligerent.  I don’t like just blowing off steam. It’s not fun to read or to write. I generally don’t confide secrets and keep an enemies list in my writing, but this does leach into my words on some pages.

 

Whenever I have been harsh with a person I almost always realize it is a momentary reaction and not what I truly feel.   Sometimes my censor reaches across the page and tells me I have revealed too much, gone too far. I usually listen to my censor but in a few cases I have left material in the books that I would rather rip out or burn. Why? Maybe I don’t want to whitewash the record. Maybe I want my life to be more honest than I am comfortable with. The funny thing is the material that offends me might not even raise an eyebrow in another reader. Sometimes the wound still feels fresh and the passage just reopens it. Sometimes I am disgusted with my own weakness. There are a lot of reasons for self-hate but it isn’t best to indulge it. As for candor, I never lie in my journal but I have often suppressed parts of the truth that I am unwilling to face or unsure of how to face. How much honesty can any of us take even in regard to our own private myths and projections of self?

 

In a few cases I have written about family in a way that  is hardly diplomatic or compassionate. Most of my hardest words are aimed at myself. I never had a Dear Diary relationship with my journals. Maybe I should have, but I tended to keep them at arm’s length from my heart until I was sure what I wanted to say. I didn’t trust myself or my journal to know what I was feeling or what I understood. This was all murky to me and uncertain. For weeks I could dance around an admission or troubling entry. When I did write it out plainly it sounded petty or ridiculous. So much of my work is indirection because that is how I experience life. In other words I may be the last one to know about myself. My pages have to wait until I get there. And then I may be entirely wrong about this.

 

Advertisements

Answer #2 Questionnaire for Long-Time Diarists: Anna

January 15, 2014
Cynthia,
Thank you for letting me know about the survey! I am certainly interested in answering the questions.  Here you go, feel free to post all or part of it as you wish:
When did you begin your diary and why?
I started keeping a diary in May 1997 (I think. It may have been ’98…my older diaries are at my parent’s house, so I can’t check!) when I was eight years old.  I’m not sure why I did, I only know that a purchased a small notebook with my allowance at the grocery store and started writing in it that same day.
Did you know back then that you would be doing this for a long time?
I don’t think I had any idea, although I don’t remember my thoughts clearly from the time!
Why do you keep on writing?  Do you think you will ever stop?
I keep writing because it keeps me sane, helps me sort out my thoughts and because I have an inexplicable fear of forgetting all the little moments that make up my life.
Has anyone else in your family kept a diary?
My father has kept one for many years; I’m not sure about anyone else in my family.
What is your current occupation? Past occupations?
I am currently a certified nursing assistant and a nursing student.
What do you write about and has that changed over the years?
I write about my day to day life, thoughts, things I do, books I read, places I go, people I see.  Mostly it’s factual, the weather, my goings on, but I do work in thoughts and even spiritual “quests.”
Who do you write about?
I write about anyone whose paths cross mine.  In my line of work, there are a lot of privacy concerns so I refer to patients of mine vaguely without medical specifics and only by their initials or by pseudonyms, to avoid betraying their privacy.
Do you record nature? Colors, sound, tastes, tactile sensations?
Occasionally, usually with regard to the weather, but not often.
Do you record intimate details of relationships or sexual experiences?
Sexual experiences, no, but relationships, yes.  Call me a prude, but I don’t much like to talk about sex, let alone write about it!
Do you write about coincidences/synchronicities, “miracles,” mysteries, dreams?
Yes, often.  Whenever they seem significant.
Does your diary have a theme, i.e. your religious or spiritual growth, your development as a dancer or musician?
Nope.  Just a record of my life!
Was it to record a military experience, parenting, or some other important time in your life?
Nope! I don’t remember what made me start writing in it!
Do you use your diary creatively to record ideas for future writing or sketches for art projects?
Not usually.  I am a writer but I usually brainstorm elsewhere.
Do you include more than writing, such as photos, sketches, clippings, etc.?
Occasionally I include paper things that I want to save and sometimes I have put photos in, but usually I don’t.
Describe what form your journal is in: bound book (large or small), notebook, on the computer
It’s currently in a bound book, although I’m on volume fifteen so I have used a wide variety of books, mostly ones designed to be journals.
Is your journal handwritten or typed? Pencil or pen?
It’s handwritten, all of it, and most of it is in pen, although there are a few portions in the very first volume that are in pencil.
What do you enjoy writing about the most?
I enjoy writing about almost anything.  I’m not sure there is one thing that I enjoy more than others.
Have you ever neglected to write about important historical events that happened?
I don’t think so.  In fact, on 9/11 I was twelve years old and one of the first things I did was write about it in my journal, which is one of the more interesting entries that I think I have.
Do you always tell the truth?
Yes, but I sometimes omit things that I’m not ready to talk about, although I sometimes come back to those later.  But I’ve never written anything that is not true, I don’t think.
Are you embarrassed about anything you wrote about?  Have you torn out pages?
When I was a younger, I would often write about boys I had crushes on, and then later get embaressed.  There was one page that I wrote a big X through when I was about ten, but it’s still legible.  But I’ve never torn any pages out, and I’m not embaressed about them now!
What is the tone of your writing – social, psychological, philosophical, historical?
I think it’s pretty social, like a conversation, although I keep it organized, with a new paragraph for each topic and proper grammar and punctuation (although my spelling leaves something to be desired!)
Has this changed over the years?
Actually, no.  Obviously the tone when I was a child was more like a child, but the way I’ve written and the things I’ve written about are pretty much the same as they’ve always been.
Is your style flowery, poetic, elliptical, cut and dried, verbose, descriptive?
My style is pretty cut and dry I think, althoug I do tend to use a lot of words to describe events!
Are you obsessive about writing every day or about recording certain details?
I have certainly gone through phases where I was obsessive about writing every day and there have been times when I’ve been stressed out and I couldn’t wait to get home and write in my journal because I knew it would help.
Have you had breaks in your writing and, if so, for how long?
There have been two or three times when I haven’t written for six months or a year, but mostly I don’t miss more than a week or two, and I often write every day
What time/place do you like to write?  Does that change?
I generally write in the mornings and sometimes in the evenings, but it changes often.  I write whenever I get a chance and have something to say!
What is the most surprising thing you learned about yourself?
Hmmm. I went through a sort of “spiritual quest” a couple years back and wrote about it extensively in my journal and I learned a lot about myself through that process, plus it represented a change in the things I wrote about because prior to that I had rarely written about feelings (other than my romantic feelings…my early journals are filled with various boys I liked!).
Has keeping a journal changed you? How?
I do think it’s changed me a little.  I noticed once a while ago that all the best decisions I have made in my life have come from times when I was actively journaling about the decision.  It helps me objectively evaluate how I feel and what the pros and cons are of the decision.
Do you like to re-read your journal?
I do, although I’ve only read them through from start to finish once or twice.  There’s a lot there to read these days!
Do you have favorite entries?
I have a couple of entries where I mentioned things in an off-hand way that would later turn out to be important and I didn’t realize it at the time, so those are sort of fun to read later!
Was there anything you did not record which you wished you had?
There were a few times where I went a couple of months or more without writing and I read back through and wish I had written, because I don’t really remember what was going on during that time and it makes me sad.  Also, when I first started falling in love with my now-husband, I was dating someone else at the time and I felt guilty so I didn’t write about how I felt, which, looking back, I wish I had!
Who would you allow to read it?
I don’t allow anyone to read it now, but if I were dead, I don’t think I’d mind!
Who should not read it?
I don’t think theres anyone who should not read it if I were dead, but for now, I absolutely do not allow anyone to read it!
Would you make it public some day? Would you want it burned when you die, or preserved in an archive, or kept in your family?
I absolutely want it to be preserved when I die, both for my family and for historians or anyone else who might be interested in it!
Do you enjoy reading published diaries of other people?
I love to read published diaries, especially those by “regular” people who wrote about day to day things.
Do you collect diaries?
I don’t currently, but someday when I have more money I might!
Any further comments:

Not much, except that I think a National Diary Archieve is a great idea and is something that needs to be done! One of my greatest fears is that something will happen to my journals and they will be lost forever, so something like this is great!

Answer #1: Questionnaire for Long-Time Diarists: Cindy

January 15, 2014
I
When did you begin your diary and why?  I had begun many times in my youth as I loved the fact that my Grandmother had kept a gazillion travel journals.  It did not cement in me until college 28 years ago, so I’ve been officially journaling for 28 years.  From 1986 to the present.
Did you know back then that you would be doing this for a long time?  I don’t know what I expected. I wanted to keep a record for my children.  As I had none they will go to my nephew and niece if they want them.
Why do you keep on writing?  Do you think you will ever stop? As it is an addiction, I’ll write forever.
Has anyone else in your family kept a diary? Mom kept pregnancy diaries; my grandparents kept travel journals.  In a way, my grandfather did concerning his brief time in the Navy during WWI. He wrote many letters home. My father, at present, types up all of his fabulous trips. My younger brother gave it a shot after his first child was born.
What do you write about and has that changed over the years? I journal about the same things, happy times, sad times, obsessions, world events, movies and books..etc. etc.
Who do you write about?  Family, best friends, loves, and people I meet.
Do you record nature? Colors, sound, tastes, tactile sensations?  Most of my journaling life, I’ve written of the above. Especially when I go hiking or I sit outside or I stare out the window.  My journal goes with me everywhere.
Do you record intimate details of relationships or sexual experiences? I do, or I elude to it. I’m thought of as pretty pristine….however, there are secrets in my journal that show  I’m not always the angel I’m thought to be.
Do you write about coincidences/synchronicities, “miracles,” mysteries, dreams? I write about everything.  There is not limit.
Do you use your diary creatively to record ideas for future writing or sketches for art projects? I used to write stories and yes, I’d  tell it all my brainstorming ideas.
Do you include more than writing, such as photos, sketches, clippings, etc.? Photos, sketches, but took out newspaper articles as I read they could cause problems to the pages in the future.
 Describe what form your journal is in: bound book (large or small), notebook, on the computer I like best hardcover spiral journals and if possible, unlined. Never small books. I write too much.
Is your journal handwritten or typed? Pencil or pen? I’ve always prefered pen, tho my grandparents wrote in pencil back in the 40’s and it still looks good.
What do you enjoy writing about the most? Experiences and emotions I’ve shared with my friends, my nephew and niece. My personal spirit; and opinions and intersets.
Have you ever neglected to write about important historical events that happened? I’m sure I have. The days may have been too busy to get the chance to pen it down.
Do you always tell the truth? I do occasional keep out particular details which sometimes makes me feel as if I’m white lying.
Are you embarrassed about anything you wrote about?  Have you torn out pages?  I at present have 124 journals written.  I began to recognize that that’s far too many for anyone to want to read, so slowly I’ve begun going thru them and slicing out the boring stuff or not so pleasant comments I made concerning people I know.  I’m not doing too well so I’ll go thru them repeatedly in the future to keep wittling the pages down.
What is the tone of your writing – social, psychological, philosophical, historical? The only limit to my writing – is the dimension of time.
Has this changed over the years? For a few years in there I couldn’t bare to go a single day without writing which is why I’ve got too many journals.  I’m no longer inclined to write everyday.
Is your style flowery, poetic, elliptical, cut and dried, verbose, descriptive? Gosh, Thoreau, Emily Dickinson and poetry were huge influences on my writing style.  I wrote beautifully for a decade or more.  No longer.  I just write plainly because I think in a plain way now.
Have you had breaks in your writing and, if so, for how long? Most of my breaks are a few days apart, however in my college years and earlier 20’s there were many months between entries.
What time/place do you like to write?  Does that change? All through out the day and anywhere that my journal tags along.
What is the most surprising thing you learned about yourself?  How marvelously creative I used to be.  And the spiritual wisdom I’ve had since my 20’s.
Has keeping a journal changed you? How? The addiction gets crazy at times, obssessive. However, believe it or not – I do see 2 down sides to my journaling.  Once a memory is written – I don’t recall it in the future.  And the other is with my complaining entries – it only makes the situation on the outside worse because I’ve reinforced it by writing it down.
Do you like to re-read your journal? Yup. 
Do you have favorite entries? I sure do.  My flowery, poetic writing years. My music groupie years. My times with those I love. Falling in love. My fantasy worlds…
Was there anything you did not record which you wished you had? Hmm.  I guess I wish in my high school and college years I’d written more.  One day for whatever reason, I felt compelled to bring my journal into work with me.  When as an escort on a bus to pick up diabled kids, a parent told us planes crashed into the twin towers – as soon as I got back to the school, with my most shaking penmanship nearly illegible, I wrote  the blow by blow of announcements even before the towers fell, until the administrator said “Turn all radios off.” I didn’t write again until the schools closed early.  I’m from New Jersey.
Who would you allow to read it? I read excerpts which are funny to friends.  I share some with people I’ve come to…fall in love with.
Who should not read it? Well, to be honest, once I’m gone from life – everything I wrote, tho skewed by my personality, IS who I was.  However I mainly prefer the future children of my family to read it rather than any immediate family members. My best friend has asked that someday I share with his son, the entries I wrote of who his father was.(my friend’s health is precarious) umm…there are a lot I just can’t share with the son as they are too critical towards father, mother and at times especially the son.
Would you make it public some day? Would you want it burned when you die, or preserved in an archive, or kept in your family? If my nephew and niece do not want them (I’ve actually put it into my Will that all of my writings – stories, poetry, journals be given to them) – then I hope they will donate the bins by the hoards to a local historical society.
Do you enjoy reading published diaries of other people? I love it!!  Tho I tend to love it more when they are compilations of entries from various people.  Or books written about journal writing and the author gives examples of their own writing.
Any further comments: I’m very very glad to have journaling as a part of my life.  When anyone thinks of me, books and journals instantly pop into their minds. I can never be separate from my journal as it is …the all of me.
Cindy

 

A Gathering for Journal Writers

March 12, 2012

On January 15, at my bookstore’s new retail location, I held a gathering for journal writers.   To my dismay only two people showed up, although it was advertised through the local paper, flyers, at the store itself,  and on Craig’s list.   I am not sure what this tells me.  There are so many ways to look at this.  The bookstore is still unknown and perhaps I need to establish more social-political ties through networking.

All three of us at the gathering were long-time journal writers: two older women and a man in his thirties.  He had some concerns stemming from criticism that he writes too much.  He works as a teacher.   We talked about balance.  I often observe that non-writers— especially people who do not keep journals— feel there is something harmful about recording your thoughts, feelings and experiences in a book, something loner-ish, as though you are a social misfit.   Au contraire, I think this is a path toward mental health and a form of meditation that deepens your life…particularly when continued over a long time.

Another issue we discussed was whether a diary archive should insist that all donations of diaries, journals and letters should be immediately open to the public or whether a donor could choose to keep them closed for a certain period of time to protect the people written about.   My position is they should be allowed to be closed for whatever amount of time the donor wishes.  There was some disagreement over this issue.

I hope to try another gathering for journal writers this coming year.  The question is whether there are many journal writers anymore and if these are individuals who enjoy socializing or those who prefer keeping their thoughts private.   I personally love groups and conversation.  More on “loners” in a future blog…

Look for future gatherings and check out my bookstore: The Eclectic Reader on Facebook.  Email at nationaldiaryarchive@qwestoffice.net

 

 


%d bloggers like this: