copyright 2011/all rights reserved
a guide to writing
A journal is not a diary. Well, it can be, but at its best, it is not. It is not about recording your deepest, darkest fears; the ones you don’t want anyone (especially that one you love) to read. It is not about judgment in the sense of “am I a good writer?” or “what does it say about me if I can’t put a few scribbles on a blasted sheet of paper?” kind of judgment. It is, in part, killing the editor in your head. You know, the one who says, “who cares what you think? You know you’re never going to write anything worth reading anyway, why bother?”
Kill the editor. The editor is only your insecurities with carte blanche and the power to stop you in your tracks before you uncap your pen. This is what you do: write. Write for fifteen minutes every day, no matter what. Even if you just write “I have nothing to say today.” Even if you just fill the page with gibberish. Write knowing that our journal is not about you. Do you get that?
Your journal isn’t about you, sweetheart.
No offense, and as important as you are, your journal is not an extension of you. Rather, it is like a Polaroid camera that you aim at everything around you and with which you snap a photo. This café. That conversation. That wide, beautiful coastline with clouds hovering over the water like cottoncandy and the smell of the surf pushing spring toward the desert on a mission from God.
It is a recording. It is a gift from the universe. How is it a gift? It is a gift because no one, not one soul who has ever been or will be, has the power of observation from your perspective, with your history, with your love of crossword puzzles or majong or Thai noodles with peanut sauce. You are a dazzling flower on the furthest branch of the tree of life and what you see around you is a devotion in the truest sense.
So write about the hamburger you ate for lunch. Write about the girl who brought it to you, whose shoes seemed unnaturally worn maybe because she’s working her way through art school and she deserves a little extra tip so maybe she can sleep in tomorrow and dream of a watercolor that will turn the world on its collective ear. Your journal is not about you. It is a gift to the world.
My ex-husband’s grandmother kept a journal every day of her married life. When Grandma died at 96, my father-in-law gave a journal of the year they were born to each of the grand kids. You could say that there was nothing extraordinary about it, but there was something precious in the grocery lists she made in her spidery hand. There was a door into the life of a woman who made a family so big that galaxies were created just to contain the love she had for them.
The laundry lists, the shoes to be taken to the repair man, the small concerns, were a door into a world we none of us had seen before. This was a picture of a woman not as we knew her, but a woman who when she wrote the journal, was younger than we who were reading it, and it was astonishing.
So write your journal, and don’t worry about being brilliant. Just write. Just do it, knowing whatever you say is sacred, in a context you can’t even imagine. Or not.
Hallelujah, amen, and wahoo!
to be continued. . .