Posts Tagged ‘ideas for journal writing’

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

February 13, 2014

Cynthia comments:  I think many of us write about the weather because it is a grounding element.  No matter what else is happening in our lives the weather is always there, and yet it is always changing.  Odd dichotomy: steady, but mutable.  It can usually be described without much angst (notable exceptions here), and it can be peaceful, beautiful.   Nature may not always be idyllic but it can be entertaining and very interesting.

This photo is a sunset on my farm in Colorado, October 2013.

This is how Barry replies to the question “Do you record nature?”

IMG_0563Years ago I read in a literature anthology that New England writers never felt comfortable in writing about the emotional and sexual life, but nature, given by god, was an open field for their enthusiasm and desire. If that is the case then I have a major work of sublimation in my years of writing about the weather.

 

I write about nature as much as possible. It is the one subject I never tire of. I do read the nature writers with profound pleasure and appreciation. Every new day brings another page of wildflowers, clouds and trees. Writing about nature has made me mindful of what I love and brought me closer to it. From my very first diary in 1971 I began to notice trees and rocks and open fields.

 

I don’t do much more than describe nature, over and over again. I can’t explain it. I’m not a scientist nor do I have the bent of mind that wants to know everything we can know about a plant or a landscape. I do learn from such material but as a writer I just like to write about being there in the moment. Many of my pages are descriptions of walks I take along the shore or through local parks and neighborhoods. Many of the pages are even closer to my home looking out the window as I write or sitting under the maple tree and surveying my garden. I can’t even tell you why I do this and why it means so much to me. Perhaps because I am completely free to indulge this sensual pleasure without guilt, morality or judgment. So much of it is connected to childhood delight. I grew up on a quarter acre lot next to a brook in the industrial city of Bridgeport, Ct. The contrast between nature and factory streets fascinated me and dominated my imagination.

 

If you take nature out of my diaries they would probably shrink by half. This is one reason I write in diaries. I can write about nature every day and damn well do as I please without an editor’s permission. It is my love and my reason for writing. The most accessible part of my imagination and my emotional life. This isn’t to say that I don’t write about family, travel, reading etc. but everything starts with a look out my window or a foot on the pavement.

 

 

 

 

 

What I Write: Sturm und Drang

May 14, 2010

What I Write:  Sturm und Drang

I’m stumbling around trying to find something relating to diaries that someone might want to discuss.  I’ve been feeling like I’m “talking to the hand” in this blog on establishing a national diary archive.  Today I’ll switch and make this more personal.

I decided to count my diaries.  I hope I found them all.  I came up with 57 books and notebooks, not counting notebooks full of letters.  I began my journal in 1964 at the age of 16.  I’ve heard 16 mentioned by many diarists as the year they began to record their stories.

There were some years I skipped a lot.  I also remember years where I completed a book every three months.  That’s why I can’t buy those beautiful leather bound blank books…too expensive.  Pens…as long as they write smoothly and are easy for me to hold it doesn’t matter what kind.   My journals are all sizes.  Some are on cheap paper, some on beautiful Italian paper.  I’ve pretty much settled on a paper size of 8.5 x 11.  I’ve tried three ring binders and using high quality paper for either a handwritten entry or one composed on the computer, but find it more satisfying when the pages are already bound in a book.  Then I feel like a “writer,” even though it is essentially a vanity press.

“Mon Dieu!,” you might say. 57 books, whatever does she write about?   The emphasis has changed over the years as I go through different life stages.  I suppose the day approaches when I will write about my doctor visits, medicines, and operations.    Don’t smirk, you know you will be there, too, someday.

My journals contain:

Reflections and self-examination

People

Family, friends, strangers, co-workers

Relationships – love, sex, hate, frustrations

Parenting

Craziness and absurd behavior  (in others)

My women’s group

The detestable masses

Birth and death

Emotions

Joys and sorrows – struggling with my dysthymic Eeyore nature

Complaints and rants

Angst

Embarrassments

Jobs

Events

Personal stories both common and astonishing

History/sometimes politics

Events in the lives of others around me

Comments on things in the news

Theatre, music, art, museums, shows

My 8 years in a drug rehabilitation organization/commune – turned utopian community – turned cult – were all recorded

Animals

Cats, cats, and more cats

Pet antics

Farm stories

Wild animal experiences

Natural phenomenon

Weather (we have a lot of that here)

My beekeeping experiences (39 years)

My gardens

Bookselling

Remembering the past

“Here and now” descriptions of where I am and what is going on around me at that very moment  – all the sounds, smells and happenings

Health problems (oh-oh)

Choices I am trying to make

Ideas (inventions I come up with)

Dreams (used to be in a separate book from the main journal)

Metaphysical events

Synchronicities/coincidences

Close calls – “near death” experiences

Very strange occurrences  (the UFO in 1967)

Book reviews/movie reviews – occasional entries

Quotes (I used to have a separate book for quotes, now I incorporate them in the   journal)

Clippings, drawings, photos

So, what do I write about?  The answer is: just about everything…if it interests me.

As Muriel Barberry put it: “the tumult and boredom of everyday life.”

And you?

Creative Ideas for Journal Writing

May 4, 2010

Some years ago I read a chapter in a book on – shall we call them “unique” individuals – about a man who recorded what he did every minute of his life.   By most standards, that is a bit obsessive, a word he used to describe himself.  I believe this man may have been Robert Shields, who suffered from “hypergraphia,” an overwhelming urge to write.  He kept this diary from 1972 until he had a stroke in 1997.  He died in 2007.  His is said to be the world’s longest diary.  He left nothing out.  His diary is now in the archives of Washington State University.

What about a diary that records what you are doing at the same time every day?  I recall the 1995, independent American film:  “Smoke,”  which the late film critic Roger Ebert called “a beguiling film about words, secrets, and tobacco.”   The main character took a photo on the same street corner of New York at the same time every day of the year and put them all in a scrapbook.    Although not usually so meticulous in time or place, that is what we do when we keep a journal.

In another blog, I  mentioned a diarist who kept a journal of “to do” lists.  Can’t see doing this for a very long time, but it is definitely a creative solution to writer’s block.  I have actually uncovered a few “to do” lists from my past during ephemera archaeology.    Mildly fascinating, indeed.  This is a reminder that mundane minutiae  can become marvelously captivating as time passes.

Making lists is a fun exercise, especially if you are bored with your writing.  Once I wrote “these are a few of my favorite things,” in the back of one of my journals.   I keep adding to that list.  It works well as a self portrait.   Someday I will write a list of my dislikes (i.e. skunk perfume absolutely slays me).  The possibilities for lists are endless:  things you love or hate, hopes, fears, friends, foes, food you like or hate, things you think are erotic, things that repulse you, pets you have had, the many things you have experienced or witnessed in your life (birth, death, nature, accidents, pain, thrills, etc.)

You can write a lot on your memories.  The journal is a time-machine that has already been invented.   Go anywhere in your past that you’d like to go and stay as long as you like.  No need to worry about bringing back a butterfly in the cuff of your pants…or is there?

I am not sure how many creative journaling ideas are completely original because I see the same suggestions over and over again.  There are unsent letters, sketches, doodles, charts and graphs and maps, blessings, affirmations, and character descriptions.  Write a complete portrait of one of your friends or a family member.  I don’t do that very often because the people in my life are mentioned so frequently that their actions become  “character development,”  as in a novel.  I suppose I should attempt a physical description, though for some reason that is harder.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been at a loss for something to say, but an enjoyable exercise for me, and one that I suspect might be interesting for a future reader, is to write a “be here now.”  In that, I attempt to completely describe exactly where I am and what I see, hear, and smell.  I want the future reader to be in the room with me.   I don’t think I’ve ever run across this in anyone else’s diary.

A useful idea I have borrowed from someone else is to think of each day as a basket.  At the end of the day…what is the gift in your basket?  There is so much in a day, even an hour.  The true dilemma is to select.   I love the way we can choose telescope or microscope, cosmic themes or minutiae.

The primary focus of a diary is, of course, You.  And then all things as they relate to you.  The value of a diary archive is in being able to step into someone’s shoes and see life as they see it, to walk a mile in their moccasins.

For more ideas on what to write about see my blog “What I Write: Sturm und Drang” from May 14, 2010.

 

 


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