Archive for the ‘Journaling’ Category

I Answer the Survey Questions for Long-time Diarists

January 13, 2014

I am going to answer all the questions in the survey for long-time diarists, but I will string all of the answers together instead of repeating the questions.

My first diary was in 1959.  I was twelve.  I have no idea what inspired me.  I think there may have been an influx of those tiny lock and key diaries on the market at that time.  I destroyed that diary.  I began once more in 1964 when I was sixteen.  I made no vows to keep one forever, though I am on that track now.   I keep on writing because it provides me with many benefits.  It gives me a chance to meditate and reflect on my life and the people and animals in it, to extract meaning out of life’s circus, and to use my hands in a pleasurable way by handwriting most of the entries.  Many people comment on the beauty of my script.  Bookstore customers shyly admitted they kept copies of the receipts just to admire the handwriting.   To me it is a disappearing art form.

I was an adult before I knew my mother had kept a journal.   I am reading hers from 1942 now. I have a diary from my great-grandmother and my great-great-grandmother.  (See earlier blogs on first donations to the archive.)

My last occupation was/is bookdealer.  I have done so many other things: teaching, owning and managing a group day care home, landscaping, greenhouse work, retail clerk, dairymaid, worked on a ranch, set up a homestead, set up libraries, worked in bookstores, secretary, beekeeper, assistant to the editor of a bee magazine, created advertising, and more.

I write about absolutely everything and anything that strikes my fancy.  Generally the focus is on whatever “job” I have at the time.  In 1964 I was a high school student.  I wrote about school, friends, and horses.  I wrote about Synanon when I lived there.  When I worked on the ranch I described that.  I wrote about my enchantment with bees.  I wrote about working with children. I have written about all the animals I have owned – house pets and farm animals.  I have written a lot about my own daughter, my family,  and my relationships with others.  I frequently include cultural events, movies I’ve seen, books I’ve read. These days my pages are filled with people/people/people and the book business.  I do write about nature, as experienced on a small acreage with constant interaction with wildlife.

I include color and sound, sometimes fragrances.  Rarely ever tastes or tactile sensations.

Yes, I’ve always revealed the intimate details of my relationships, and sex…but hardly every encounter.

Coincidences/synchronicities, “miracles,” mysteries and dreams are the stuff that make journals beguiling.

My diary has no theme unless you might say my constant bewilderment with the behavior of people, and how they knowingly or unwittingly hurt others, my struggle to survive and lack of “success,” and my pervasive lack of faith that the world will ever amount to much.   Ah yes, that dark vision.  One other theme I touch on is the undeniable consciousness of animals.

I don’t use my journal for creative ideas.  Occasionally I will steal something out of it for other purposes.

I use both blank bound books and three-ring binders.  I paste in photos, clippings, copies of articles I like.(Easier to do with a binder.)  Sometimes I sketch.  I usually hand-write my journals. Pencil fades so I use a ballpoint pen. Sometimes I type on the computer and print it for the journal.

I enjoy writing about the astonishing things of life the most.  Those odd little experiences I mentioned earlier.  Next are the “Kodak” moments and interactions with animals.   For me, even the tragedies need to be written.

Many times I wrote nothing on important historical events.  Somebody else is capturing those.

I always tell the truth. I make nothing up.  Maybe someone else saw it a bit differently.

I have torn out one embarrassing page.  I may tear out more.

I’d say the tone of my diaries have changed from mere reporting the day to analyzing the day.  As I mature, it gets deeper, more philosophical and psychological.  My diaries increasingly contain more social and cultural history, more politics and more opinion on that.  I’ve even mentioned the Pope.

My style?  Probably verbose, sometimes flowery, poetic.  Descriptive, for sure.  It changes with the subject matter.

I am not obsessive about writing every day, though I attempt it for the benefits of “centering” and reflection.  I write too much about my cats and the weather and how tired I am.  But I use those as a “warm up the car”  writing stimulus.  I write best in the morning.  The station rarely changes anymore.  At this time it is from an old chair in my living room with a cat on my lap.

There have been years where I barely wrote at all, usually when I was too busy with school, work, or motherhood.

The most shocking thing I learned about myself was how little I’ve changed.  Those disreputable personality traits are still there.  Why is that?  Why do I respond so slowly?  Why can I never see the glass as half full? Is that hard-wired into my genetics or neural pathways? Writing about something does not inevitably bring peace.  Ultimately the resolution needs to be with the individual or situation that caused the problem.

I love re-reading my journals.  It’s like looking through old photo albums.  I have favorite entries that I like because they are well-written or evoke some wonderful  experience of the past.

Absolutely, I wish I had written more.  More about so many things.  Particularly I wish I had been recording my experience in Synanon with the eye of a reporter.  The same, of my four years working in a local greenhouse and starting from the bottom.  The people-politics was intricate.  It would have made a great sociological study.  I advise: write more, give more detail and depth.

At this time there is no one whom I will allow to read my diary.  I may publish some old entries online.  If it can be preserved I will offer it to the public in 40-50 years.

I love reading other people’s diaries, published or not.  I am trying to collect diaries but I have only a few that did not belong to family members.

What the diary has done for me: it allowed me to vent, and reintegrate when shattered; it saved me from loneliness (you always have yourself); it tells me who I was, where I came from, who I am now; it adds meaning to experience and allows me to savor the past and catch a glimpseImage of the sacred in life.

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Questionnaire for Long-Time Diarists

January 12, 2014

                                     Questionnaire for Long-Time Diarists

Quite some time ago I promised to write up a questionnaire/interview form for those diarists who have kept a journal for a long time.  So here are thirty-six questions I would like to ask.

First, I guess we need to define what “a long time” means.  Five years?  Ten?  25 or 50?  Although I am not opposed to ANYONE answering these questions, I would personally suggest ten years.  I am just beginning my 50th year.

When did you begin your diary and why?

Did you know back then that you would be doing this for a long time?

Why do you keep on writing?  Do you think you will ever stop?

Has anyone else in your family kept a diary?

What is your current occupation? Past occupations?

What do you write about and has that changed over the years?

Who do you write about?

Do you record nature? Colors, sound, tastes, tactile sensations?

Do you record intimate details of relationships or sexual experiences?

Do you write about coincidences/synchronicities, “miracles,” mysteries, dreams?

Does your diary have a theme, i.e. your religious or spiritual growth, your development as a dancer or musician?

Was it to record a military experience, parenting, or some other important time in your life?

Do you use your diary creatively to record ideas for future writing or sketches for art projects?

Do you include more than writing, such as photos, sketches, clippings, etc.?

Describe what form your journal is in: bound book (large or small), notebook, on the computer

Is your journal handwritten or typed? Pencil or pen?

What do you enjoy writing about the most?

Have you ever neglected to write about important historical events that happened?

Do you always tell the truth?

Are you embarrassed about anything you wrote about?  Have you torn out pages?

What is the tone of your writing – social, psychological, philosophical, historical?

Has this changed over the years?

Is your style flowery, poetic, elliptical, cut and dried, verbose, descriptive?

Are you obsessive about writing every day or about recording certain details?

Have you had breaks in your writing and, if so, for how long?

What time/place do you like to write?  Does that change?

What is the most surprising thing you learned about yourself?

Has keeping a journal changed you? How?

Do you like to re-read your journal?

Do you have favorite entries?

Was there anything you did not record which you wished you had?

Who would you allow to read it?

Who should not 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?

Do you enjoy reading published diaries of other people?

Do you collect diaries?

Any further comments:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This questionnaire is open to everyone.  I will publish my own answers soon.  You may respond via “comments,” but I think it will work best if you email your answers to me and then tell me if you wish your answers to be private, or if it is all right to publish them with just your first name or with your email address.  If you have questions, email me at: cynthiamanuel22@gmail.com.

What Were You Doing On December 28, 1986?

September 28, 2013
There’s been a long hiatus from my writing for the National Diary Archive.  I’ve been struggling to make my used and rare book store a success, and now it seems we’ve been pushed out of our beautiful store by a national pizza franchise.  I am in the process of moving 15,000 plus books into storage…until I sell the books or find a new location.
Here is something that came to my attention recently.  Please consider participating in this project:
“What were you doing on December 28, 1986? Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten wants to hear from you. His next book, “One Day,” will explore an ordinary day in the history of the United States, chosen at random by drawing numbers from a hat. That’s the date he got; it was the Sunday between Christmas and New Years.

Weingarten has collected plenty of items large and small that made national or local news that day, but he would also love to hear what was important in your life at that time. What did you write in your diary? Your scrapbook? What photos have you held onto? He is looking for things that are poignant or revealing or even things seemingly banal or mundane that might later have proved significant to your life, or predictive of things that might follow. If any memories surface that you’d like to share, please pass them along to gene.weingarten@washpost.com. Make the subject line “Dec. 28.” All emails will be treated confidentially, and he will respond to each. By writing to him, you are not offering your experience for publication; anything he uses will be with your permission only.”

This is similar to an idea I had for a journal writing project in Fort Collins, Colorado.  Some cities do a photographic study of “a day in the life of (name of city).”   Imagine if you could get hundreds of people in your city to journal about a particular day…and maybe combine that with a photo-journal of the same day. This idea is free for the taking.  Some day I might suggest it in my city.

Mini Books for Micro Journaling

January 19, 2013

Generally when I write I prefer the broad canvas of an 8 ½ by 11 inch unlined page. You can write, draw, or paste in photos or clippings. But I find the tiny, “mini journals” irresistibly attractive. While my regular journals are inclusive of all aspects of my life, these mini journals each represent a single microcosm.

The notebook with the marbled cover is a gratitude book. As a discipline, I tried to write one thing each day that I was grateful for or admired, one thing that brought joy into my life or that I thought was beautiful.

The red book with the ladybug on the cover has been the start of expressing one “haiku” thought on each page, an attempt to learn to say more with fewer words.

The gorgeous bejeweled book in the center is the book I chose to record the charming things said by my three year old granddaughter. I will do another book for the other granddaughter as she begins to talk.

These mini books are the purest joy to re-read because they filter out the negative. They sit on the table beside my bed. After a difficult day it is uplifting to remind myself of all that is good in my life.

I have started giving mini blank books as presents in the hope that others will be encouraged to use them for similar purposes. I do have other tiny notebooks I use to record things like houseplant and garden notes and the work I do in the bee yard. That notebook is covered in propolis (bee glue) and I must write with a pencil.

When purchasing these mini books, never buy one that has pages that are bound in with glue.   Look for books that are sewn in or all of your pages will fall out over time. That goes for regular journal books, too.

It is interesting that many of the antique diaries I have seen, including my great-grandmother’s and great-great-grandmother’s, were so small that the space for each entry could hardly contain one sentence. Just one sentence can still convey a lot. If you don’t believe me, read haiku poetry.
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Journal as Novel, Part II- Recording and Reflecting on Your Life Story

January 15, 2013

Just read an interesting post from Bob Leckridge on his Word Press blog, “Heroes Not Zombies,”  titled “Plots and Fate” :

Plots and Fate

January 13, 2013 by bobleckridge

“Each of us lives out a story, a dynamic narrative whose only consistency is that we somehow show up in each of the scenes. While the plots line may be unknown to us, there is one.” Creating a Life. James Hollis

“We know ourselves and others through the stories we tell. We create meaning and gain an understanding of the events and experiences of our lives by creating a narrative. And isn’t that quote so true? Doesn’t it sometimes seem as if the only constant in our life story is that we show up in each of the scenes. All of life, the world we live in and experience, is woven into these stories, which always, in some way, contain ourselves.”

I suggest you read the entire blog and see the connections with journaling.  I looked up Creating a Life by James Hollis and that also seems an appropriate reference for those who are recording their life story in diaries.    It appears to have received five star reviews on Goodreads.

 

The Journal as Novel

January 12, 2013

Is a diarist a “writer”?  Can we say we have written many “books”?  (Don’t they look like books?) If life is story, then are you a novelist?  Possibly a novelist of tedious prose, with far too many details, a novelist in need of an editor?    When you have written about your life for nearly fifty years, as I have, it becomes a sort of opus perpetualis, a never-ending novel, although it will, of course, come to an end some day, and that’s called the denouement.

 

I enjoy reflecting on the similarities and differences between diaries and novels.  The truth in a diary might be stranger than the fiction in a novel.  The protagonist of the diary lives in the ongoing present moment yet possesses the ability to transgress time – relive the past and imagine the future.  A future reader might know the last chapter of the story, even as the diary writer can look back in time and know the outcome of all the choices of his/her past.

 

Although a diary certainly lacks the cohesiveness of a novel, I agree with Patricia and Robert Malcolmson, editors of Nella Last in the 1950s, that “The unifying force in a diary is usually the mind of the diarist …”

 

All the elements of a novel are present in a diary:

The protagonist – complete with flaws (some tragic)

The main characters – family, friends, pets, allies or enemies

Minor characters – side-kicks, cameo appearances, angels and helpers, imaginary friends, antagonists and villains

Plots and subplots – challenges, entanglements, misunderstandings, conflicts, spicy sexual liaisons or tepid dalliances, insights and changes, and possibly the evolving of the protagonist

Settings – what an amazing variety in an average life!

Action and adventure

 

Depending on the unique tapestry of your writing you will either be a fascinating read in one hundred years or mundane and boring.  Who knows?  Who cares?  I write my journal for myself and seldom think about how shallow it might be.  I suppose I should care but I wish neither to entertain or enlighten anyone but myself.

 

My continuous novel looks like this:

Protagonist:  me

Strengths: perseverance, mellow personality, even–tempered, honesty, reliability, courage, knowledge in     certain areas, relative lack of prejudices

Flaws: indecisiveness, slowness to anger or take action, inability to play social politics, tendency to be too diplomatic, lack of energy

Weapons: the pen, determination

Stumbling blocks: often misjudged, seen as a threat, wrongly accused

 

Main characters:  family, friends, pets, boyfriends, husbands, acquaintances, bookstore customers

Various settings:  five states, cities and rural towns, a ranch, a farm, a cottage, bookstores, travels

Antagonists: sometimes those I love – family, friends, boyfriends; renters, technology, machines, weather, predators, Fate, Time, lack of money, cancer

Theme – good question

 

Plot – the protagonist attempts to:

1.  make enough money to live on in a variety of jobs (day care, landscaping, pet sitting, bookdealer)

2. create a wonderful, community-oriented, thriving bookstore

3.  love and support family

4.  grow organic vegetables and beautiful gardens

5.  maintain prosperous honeybees

6.  live a totally conscious life with awareness of and respect for nature and the environment

7.  participate in activities that will encourage community

8.  create a National Diary Archive

 

That’s the outline of my never-ending novel, a best seller for sure.   Comments?  You may email me at bluemoon47@qwestoffice.net

Anais Nin: A Legend of Journal Writing

September 6, 2011

Passionate, intense, emotional, deep, lyrical, magical,  intuitive, highly perceptive of the subtleties of human behavior, deceptive, sensuous, exotic, erotic…these are all adjectives I would use to describe the writings of Anais Nin, queen of the diary.  There are so many complexities to her life that Anais Nin will remain forever a tantalizing mystery to her biographers, as I suspect she was during her life to her friends and lovers.  One of her favorite words was “labyrinth.”  Nin was a labyrinth! I have read that no one is lukewarm about Nin or her writings.  You either love her or hate her.  Put me on the side of love.

In 1971, in a dusty used bookstore in Point Reyes Station, California, I reached for a slim volume of prose: Under a Glass Bell.  In that moment I connected with the woman who was to become a major influence in the way I thought about women writers and the diary.   At the time, I scarcely knew there were women writers, and I had been keeping my own diary only eight years.

Under A Glass Bell (published in 1944) was an astonishing discovery for me.  Even in 1971, women writers were rarely acknowledged and their work and their way of seeing the world was dismissed as frivolous, rarely admitted as serious literature.  I know because I was an English lit major and we read only male writers.  In a college course in 1968, my textbook of 100 poets had only one woman poet, and that was, of course, Emily Dickinson.

As for keeping a diary, such writing was considered of little merit, particularly if you were a woman, were not a famous artist or writer, and were not involved in a historic event.  Until the early seventies, and the dawn of the Women’s Movement and the promotion of women’s writing, I don’t believe diaries were  even considered a “genre” of writing.

It is still a struggle to find acceptance for this style of writing.  Keeping a diary is frequently believed to be more of a self-indulgence than a serious attempt to deepen life and expand the boundaries of experience.    Just try saying, if you are among a group of writers and are asked what you write,   “I am a diarist,” without being met with a dismissive indifference or superiority.

Anais Nin liberated my thinking.  I soon found her diaries and began devouring them.  I was in my early twenties and I wanted to be Nin. (My own diaries began changing – deeper, more explicit. )  I was most impressed with her analysis of people and relationships and the way she described the nuances of interaction and the layers of meaning in experiences.    Next I read her continuous novel: Cities of the Interior.  In my 40s I returned to Nin and read her pornography, and then Henry and June, the unexpurgated version, (made into a very erotic movie  with look-alike Maria de Medeiros.) Last of all, I read her thought-provoking essays and lectures (she was a popular speaker on college campuses).

I deeply regret that I was never able to meet her.  (I do have an inscribed copy of Cities of the Interior.)  Recently I listened to a tape of an interview she did in 1971 with Studs Terkel.  What a beautiful voice.  There are many interviews available on the internet.

For those already familiar with Nin, I have found A Cafe in Space: The Anais Nin Literary Journal, online.  I think most of her books are available as ebooks as well as real books.

There are websites devoted to Anais Nin quotes.  As a collector of quotes over many years, here are some favorites:

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.”

“…Beware…love never dies of a natural death.  It dies because we do not know how to replenish its source, it dies of blindness and errors and betrayals.  It dies of illness and wounds, it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings, but never a natural death.  Every lover could be brought to trial as the murderer of his own love.”

“War is the great pleasure of people whose love is atrophied, who need war to feel alive, who find in violence and clash a semblance of relationship.  Relationship by hatred.”

So, here is my second favorite published diarist, and if you have never experienced her writings before then you are missing a truly unique writer who can transport you to the “cities of the interior.”

Progress on National Diary Archive

April 2, 2011

No blogs for some time and not even a single entry in my private journal!  Life has grabbed me by the throat and not let go since my last post.  But there is progress to report:

After my first rejection by the Fort Collins Public Library, I decided to try again.  I was attempting to reserve a room at the library for a free in-depth journal workshop followed by a presentation on the National Diary Archive.  I was told that only non-profit organizations or programs supporting the general purpose of the library could use the rooms.  It seemed to me that journal writing and a diary archive fit that description.  (The archive has not yet become a legal non-profit, although that is the intention.)

On my second try I gently complained that the last two lectures I attended at the library appeared to be by private citizens making a profit on their event.   One was a talk by a local author.  A local bookstore was clearly making money selling her books at a table in the back.  The second lecture was about blogging.  The blogger would not answer my question, instead she handed me her business card and said she was available for consulting for a fee.

I walked a fine line in presenting my case.    I could feel that I was close to stepping on toes but the initial resistance at the front desk gave way and I made it to the next level, and from there, on to the top administrator, who actually was interested, even excited, by the idea of an archive.

So, on April 10th I will be giving my first presentation in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Although my city is proud of being consistently named one of the top ten cities in America, I remember the days when it would not suffer a coffee shop to live. The attitude was that a coffee house was a place akin to an opium den.  We’ve come a long way, baby, as now there’s a coffee house or petit drive-through dispensary on every corner…and for other things as well.

Since 1983, Fort Collins has killed 14 used or new bookstores, including mine. And although the main newspaper has no interest in a story about the archive, nor the higher quality “local news” paper which specializes in human interest stories, I still have a modicum of hope that this idea might someday thrive here.   Perfect climate, low threat of natural disaster, easy access, and situated in the heart of the country.

Truly, I haven’t tapped but the surface of the possibilities here.  The support may need to be on the national level but the team for the non-profit needs to be local.  Already I have found someone who has taught journal writing for many years.  I am searching for others wishing to get involved.

Emotionless

February 21, 2011

I made the comment recently that antique diaries express very little emotion.   I am curious if this has been other people’s experience and what theories they have on “emotionless” writing.

“Saw man struck by car ahead of us.” …  ” Took Don to his house.  Saw man run over.” …  “Dead cat episode.”…  “Hitler declared war on Poland.  Extra!” …  “Grandma just stopped breathing at 2:45.  Funeral Tuesday.”

These are stray sentences tucked into page-long entries in my mother’s 1939 diary.  That’s all you get, the suspended animation of what could be deeply emotional experiences.   You want to scream “Then what happened?” or “How did you feel about that?”  but there is nothing more.

The 1873, 1880, 1897, and 1934 diaries I have in my collection are similar.  “Flora died today.”  Who was Flora, what was their relationship to her, what significance was the loss?  The style of writing of that era was predominantly to record the event and nothing more.  I don’t know if either a housewife or a farmer would have been able to justify much time on such a self-focused task.   I think letter writing was far more acceptable and necessary.

Reading this first of my mother’s diaries has been an exercise in frustration.  She mentions many “episodes” or “incidents.”   There does not appear to be any intended audience for her writing except possibly her future self.  That could justify the mere mention of an “episode,”  because she obviously felt she would remember it later.  (And would she, after 71 years had passed?)  I regret that I did not read these before she died.  There are so many things I would like to ask her.

Are journals with full-bodied emotions rare because most people do not live “emotional” lives?   Or…is everyone full of feelings but think they should be kept private?    What would be the purpose of keeping a journal without using it to express some of what is unacceptable in normal social situations?

I am looking for feedback on this aspect of self-recording.    Those of you who keep a diary today – do you reveal your feelings and opinions or do you record events only?  If so, why?

Introspection

January 22, 2011

INTROSPECTION

 

 

“An unexamined life is not worth living,” shouted Socrates.  While I cannot agree with that totally, throughout my life I have felt that a dash of introspection would help others to see, to understand, and ultimately to get along better with the other gorillas.

 

Most everyone likes that first cup of tea or coffee.   Just that ritual, of fifteen minutes a day spent in silent contemplation of the universe and our role in it, in a quiet corner, in a special chair, with no interruptions, would do wonders for our social interactions.

 

I began the habit over 20 years ago when my daughter was a holy handful.  I had to get up earlier than anyone else in the household in order to have the peace I needed and the time before work.  Usually I had a cat on my lap and a journal by my side.  After the coffee and meditation I would write in my journal.  I had to get up at 5 a.m. to do this, but as a morning person that was ok.  It was worth it.

 

Over the years the ritual has changed.  The location, time and duration alters.  My daughter grew up.  I am single.  The cats have changed.

 

For a few years I sat in the cold of an outbuilding on the farm and wrote in my journal while looking out a large window and being hugged by my cat.  Day by day I could see the changes in the natural world.  It was a Thoreauvian thing to do.  While the people-world moved ever faster, the natural world moved at a snail’s pace.  Thinking and feeling with the flow of nature achieved a balanced centering.  I had time to collect myself and my thoughts.

 

This kind of daily contemplation is quite similar to the serendipity of journal writing.   Not only do we contain multitudes, as Walt Whitman says, but the modern world has demanded that we assume so many different roles that it is difficult to separate who is “us” and who is “them,” or what we believe and what we are expected to believe.  Journal writing allows us to collect our scattered selves.

 

Although there has been some ridiculous psychology lately that claims introspection is bad for you I would take the opposite point of view.  Obsessive and shallow texting/ twittering/tweeting does nothing to establish deep connection with ourselves or others.   It is only by stepping back from the crowded room and the saturated airwaves that we may find out who we truly are and decide if our behavior is what we want it to be.  Only by mindful contemplation will we be able to discover the meaning in the events of our lives and come to understand the people in it.


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