Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why we journal

Those of you who know me might be surprised by the title of this post. Journaling, to me at least, connotes writing in the journal every day, logging your thoughts and daily life. I cannot bring myself to do that. I've tried and it just feels too self-absorbed, even for me. Not to mention boring. Life just isn't always exciting and I can't bring myself to record all the small doings of every day, even in the interest of future social historians.

Having said that, I am rarely without a notebook in my bag.  Somewhere on me at nearly all times are writing tools and a blank book, even when I'm carrying my laptop.  This is where I jot down everything from street addresses, to story ideas, to new recipes, to poems. I take notes at conferences in my journal and doodle in it. The journal becomes an archive not of my whole life, but of moments that merited being written down.

Yesterday, as I dug in the back of an upper cupboard looking for a glue gun, I found one of these previous journals. In a sentimental moment, I flipped through it. Perched on the top of a step ladder I found a poem, not too bad. Notes on Aemilia Lanyer, taken 2 years ago at the CCL. Advice on moving a plot forward from Faith Hunter. (Kill someone. Works every time.)

And the first draft of my grandfather's eulogy, written on the plane to his funeral. "He did so much of his grandfathering in the background that I have a thousand images of him, but no stories. Grampa coming up from the cellar with sawdust coating his green work pants. Grampa patting my shoulder with a hand like seasoned oak. Grampa carrying frozen rhubarb and homemade bread because he never, never came to our house empty handed.  Grampa working for hours with Dad on one ancient, beat up van after another. Grampa putting six heaping teaspoons of sugar in his tea.  Grampa telling me to clean my plate. Grampa devouring the sight of his grandchildren opening their Chrismas presents.  Grampa, was like the Vermont rock.  Permanent, immovable, solid. A fact. There was no arguing with, around, or through him. There was no changing him. There is no replacement for him."

The eulogy is sandwiched in between a scene from a YA novel I haven't decided to finish yet and a grocery list. And that's why I keep a stack of old journals tucked in the back of a cupboard, never to be thrown away. Others have picture albums. I have my journals.

What's in your journal? What makes you smile or shake your head or shed a tear as you flip through those old notebooks?

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