The Diary

My first practice in writing was the diary. Sometimes it wasn’t an actual diary but a journal I turned into one. It was a special thing for me because prior I had been writing in notebooks but notebooks didn’t provide the kind of privacy that diaries did. With the privacy of the diary, I could be more open which meant that I could be more real in my writing. I could express how I was feeling authentically because I knew that no one else would read my words. I could be angry, happy, sad, and excited. Unknown to me at the time, this was helping me to learn to express myself, to experiment with language and to organize my emotions.

My first diary was something I found somewhere. It had a lock on it that didn’t work and was pink and some other colors I don’t remember. But even though the lock didn’t work the cool thing about the diary is that as soon as it was understood this was a diary, people knew not to read it. To do so was an invasion so strong that you would fight someone over it. If someone read your diary it was like they had read your soul. It was deep because of how deeply you confided in it. I still remember what I felt when the events of 9/11 happened. I remember because I wrote it down.

First, our teacher turned the radio up. Something about New York and terrorists. Then, the school let us go home. When I got home, I stared at the television in the living room and watched as the twin towers crumbled to the ground. It was the first time I had seen something like that happen without it being a movie. I took to my diary to voice my opinion.

“Today is Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I am fourteen-years old. We are at war. God bless America.”

I was so corny and what I wrote was lame but because of writing it down I remember the exact day of the events and my age when it happened. I was fourteen so I didn’t understand all the politics surrounding the event at the time and of course I believed whatever the news told me. I also didn’t realize how writing this down was helping me  with my memory.

I got my next diary/journal when I was fifteen-years-old. It was pink and fluffy with a blue sparkly butterfly on the front. I got it in Cincinnati Ohio during my 8th-grade trip. I got more personal in this one. I was fifteen and the boys had gotten cuter. I wrote more about life in general in this diary. I wrote about when my favorite cousin had gotten jumped so badly that when he came over to our house his face was terribly plump. I wrote about my excitement and sadness over graduating from eighth grade. I was graduating with honors but my twin had to go to summer school. It made me sad we couldn’t graduate together. I wrote about how this boy at school had a crush on me and how I liked him but I didn’t want to “go with him” because he went to my school. I didn’t “go with” people who went to my school. I had standards.

In my next journal, I would dedicate it completely to poetry. It was a gift given to me by my cousin. I was sixteen (I got a new diary or journal almost every year) and my cousin and I thought we were poets. We would have poetry contests (and till this day he wants me to let everyone know that he taught me how to write…lies) to see who could write the better poem. I don’t remember who judged us. I think we judged ourselves. (insert eye-roll)

But I had also begun to express myself in a different way by now. This journal was green, not pink so that the color and the content of the book reflected my maturity compared to the other journals. I didn’t write about my life, I wrote poems about life instead. I started to look around me and write about the things I saw reflected in the world and not just what was reflected in me. I would look up the definitions of words and write whole poems based on those words. Most of the time it made no sense but it did help me to expand my vocabulary. I also wrote poems about sex because I was sixteen and that’s pretty much all we thought about.

At every stage of my life I always had some kind of diary or journal with me to help to organize my thoughts and feelings and I didn’t know then how it would help me with my writing later on in life. (It also helps me to be patient by writing thoughts down on paper before publishing it to the internet. Letting them sit in ink for awhile and waiting to see if  the words are even worthy of being shared with the world. Most times they aren’t.)

Before the internet, before social media, before Facebook posts and blogs, there was the diary. The one place where we knew that we could be ourselves without judgment. I still keep a journal with me today and even though it’s filled with business ideas and inspirational quotes, it still helps me to write down my feelings and to organize my thoughts. It still serves as a powerful tool in helping me to be a better writer.

Butterfly, My First Writing Love

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Where do I trace the birth of this longing? I have not photographic memory as many do, nor do I remember the exact moment I said, “I want to be a writer”. And as I ponder this history of mine, the thunder growls and the winds roar. The skies darken this very moment and hover around this building; leaning its body against my windowsill and making my living room look like evening time. I like it like this really. To hear the thunder roar in the midst of the quiet and the skies darken. It has a calming effect on me. The appearance of lightening is a chance to see pure light, and the sound of horns is a reminder of great power. But I digress. Really I just think they must be excited, just as anxious to discover this mystery. A collection of horns and quarter notes gather from beyond the clouds and deep inside the galaxy, shouting melodiously. The floor beneath me pulsates and sends shivers up my spine. Meanwhile, raindrops tap dance against the roof. Perhaps the scream of heaven is prompting me to remember. I do remember the first time I had the material to organize my writing. I do remember my first journal. I do remember my first writing love.

I was just about to turn fifteen, and though by then I’ve been writing for some time, I had not the care of keeping things organized. I wrote at will and on whatever pieces of paper I could find. But the close of eighth grade presented me an opportunity to confide in that pretty pink booklet with the blue sparkling butterfly on the front. I purchased it in Cincinnati Ohio during our eighth grade school trip. I spotted it at Claire’s, a store at the mall, over in the corner and it was a unique version of many of the journals I had seen in Chicago or anywhere. Somehow I didn’t think I would find it anywhere else in the world. As my peers busied themselves in appropriate teenage endeavors, my pupils danced in delight. Immediately upon seeing it I had to take it home. And I must say it dressed up well for our first date. The pink was fluffy and soft; my fingers found comfort when they slept on top the cotton. The butterfly on top shone bright like the dye was squeezed from fresh blueberries, and to top it off there were little diamonds imbedded in its wings. It wasn’t a diary so there was no lock and key. Nor did I use it as such, but it holds some of my early poems. In fact, I pretty much just used it for poetry, and maybe a journal entry or two here and there. When it opened, the euphoria of opportunity greeted me with the smell of fresh ink, and elegantly curved lines. It wouldn’t be long after this that I would begin my collection of journals and notebooks, but none of them would compare to the first. Butterfly was that first real writing love. The rest were merely copies. And as you can see, I still have it, though it is obviously not as beautiful as it once was. I think I’ll give it to my daughter one day. Maybe. OK well, let me just flip through it first.

Notebook Craze

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A sample of the notebook craze

I appreciate technology really; I’m just as addicted as you are. But when I say notebook craze, I’m not talking about the computer, I’m talking about actual notebooks. You know, those pieces of paper held together by glue and metal rings, yea, those. I want to take the time to thank the founders of Dollar Tree, Dollar General, and Family Dollar for all the hard work you put into stocking your shelves with these babies. The $1 store itself has become a treasure of fresh inspiration for me, a living blueprint for whatever it is my mind feels like building up. Every new notebook is an opportunity to create something new. If I can spare it (which I somehow always can), I have to purchase a new notebook. Maybe it’s a small journal of a thing. Maybe it’s a 180 page 5 subject wide rule or 100 page composition book who knows. Perhaps I’ll get the same one as last time in a different color. I am after all looking to brighten things up a bit around here. How many? Two? Three? Four? “No, that’s obsessive, one step at a time EC. Just pick one you really like.”  One? “Yes, one. And don’t forget the dish washing liquid you actually came to get but somehow got distracted by the school supply aisle.” Oh yea, that.

Spiral Notebooks

But this is really only the beginning. I still have to take the notebook home, and that’s when the fun really starts! I still have to decide what kind of notebook this is. What will I carve on the front cover to illustrate this new beauty to the world? What kind of purpose will this new storage place hold for my thoughts? Maybe I’ll fill it with random fragments of sentences, little immature and underdeveloped thoughts. A preliminary of something great but that looks right now like a foreign language. Maybe I’ll jot down a scripture or two, or elaborate on full sentences and transform them into a poem or two, a short story or an entire manuscript. Or this could just be the “just in case” notebook. You know, the little notebook you carry around in your purse (or suitcase/backpack for the men) just in case something good happens.(Please tell me you have a just in case notebook). But then I have to get into the notebook, and let’s not even talk about the intoxicating aroma of fresh paper; the undiluted blank state of blue and red lines. So pure and inviting, let me just write my name real quick. There, now that’s art.

These are the kinds of thoughts that run through my head all because of notebooks. A simple mission turned writer’s paradise. Is it an addiction? You can call it what you want. I mean, technically I don’t really need another notebook, BUT it will soon be a question of how I ever lived without it. So I guess I need another one because I will eventually need it. Makes sense? No? Good. I still got it. 🙂

Writing Therapy

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Do you write for therapy? Also known as Journal Therapy, Writing Therapy is the act of writing down thoughts and feelings to either come to a deeper understanding of self, or of the world, or just to provide a kind of healing to the stresses of abuse, insecurities, or everyday situations. It is a form of therapy that I am not sure that everyone who participates is even conscious of. Do writers who write recognize a form of healing from the process? Perhaps that is something we may explore in great depth at a later time. “What drives you to write? What makes you write? What kind of stain does having written a piece leave on you?” These are questions you may feel free to respond to at your own leisure; it will be interesting to see what our answers are to these questions.

In the meantime, below is an excerpt from a piece on Journal Therapy that may be of assistance in the exploration of this topic. This article first appeared in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mind-Body Medicine, The Rosen Group, accessed from http://www.journaltherapy.com. ©1999 Kathleen Adams. I hope it is of help to you in your writing endeavors. Enjoy 🙂

The Philosophy of Journal Therapy

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In the 1980s many public school systems began formally using journals in English classes and across the curricula as well. These journals, often called “dialogue” or “response” journals, offered a way for students to develop independent thinking skills and gave teachers a method for responding directly to students with individual feedback. Although the intention for classroom journals was educational rather than therapeutic, teachers noticed that a simple assignment to reflect on an academic question or problem often revealed important information about the student’s emotional life. Students often reported feeling a relief of pressure and tension when they could write down troubling events or confusing thoughts or feelings.

Journal Therapy in Practice

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Although there are many psychotherapists who incorporate journal therapy into their sessions by assigning written “homework,” there are relatively few who specialize in journal therapy. Therapists who utilize journal writing in a session often begin by asking the client to write a short “check-in” paragraph or two on “what’s going on” — how the client is feeling, what s/he wants to work on in the session, and what’s happening in her/his life that impacts the therapeutic work at hand. This writing is usually shared with the therapist, and an “agenda” for the session is set. The therapist then guides the client through a writing exercise designed to address the therapeutic issues or tasks that the client has brought forward in the check-in or warm-up write. This writing usually takes about 10 minutes, and the remainder of the session is spent with the client and therapist exploring the information revealed in the longer write. The session generally concludes with the therapist offering several suggestions for journal “homework” to be completed between sessions. Journal therapy is also very effective in groups, and it is common for group members to establish a sense of deep community as writings representing authentic expressions of self are shared.

Benefits of Journal Therapy

It is believed that by recording and describing the salient issues in one’s life, one can better understand these issues and eventually diagnose problems that stem from them. Journal therapy has been used effectively for grief and loss; coping with life-threatening or chronic illness; recovery from addictions, eating disorders and trauma; repairing troubled marriages and family relationships; increasing communication skills; developing healthier self-esteem; getting a better perspective on life; and clarifying life goals.