Sunday, July 31, 2011

Journal Evolution

I've been keeping handwritten journals since 1974, and every now and then I like to take out one from an earlier year and compare it to what I'm writing now. Here are the two I was looking at tonight: July 2011 on the left, and July 2008 on the right.

Obviously I was a much neater journal writer back in 2008, but since completing Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal last year I think I've loosened up quite a bit. All my journals used to be absolutely flat and perfect, now they're filled with all sorts of things I never put in my older journals (fabrics, souvenirs, cards, clippings and what have you.) I also recovered the 2011 journal with paper printed to look like rain on a window because while I loved the pages the cover was beyond ugly.

Some things don't change, however. In July 2008 I started an entry by complaining about laundry, and did the exact same thing in 2011. Laundry seems to be my personal demon no matter what year it is.

My personal journals are filled with art. I added a lot more watercolor paintings in my journals in years past; now I tend to put in more of my photography. I still leave some pages blank, which is not me being mysterious -- I just don't backtrack through my journals, and sometimes skip one by accident.

Art populates all my journals, especially when I'm sad or going through a tough time. Here in 2011 I pasted in some fabric scraps from a crazy quilt project on the day I lost my uncle (and that passage is deliberately blurred for privacy); in 2008 I actually ironed one of my paint rags and pasted that in along with some trimmings from my watercolors after a stressful day dealing with the downside of Publishing.

Of the several hundred journals I've filled I've given away only a few to friends, but those were journals I wrote especially for them. I've also destroyed a pile that I felt didn't need to survive me, and I think that's important. If you don't want it published or passed around after you're gone, you should absolutely destroy it now, because no matter what your wishes are, they will probably be disregarded once you've gone on to the next place. If there are only certain passages you want to remove, I advise tearing out and trashing those pages.

After thirty-seven years of journaling I can't imagine not having one. With everything being electronic these days I'm afraid the handwritten journal will soon go the way of the handwritten letter, so I'm more determined than ever to keep up with mine. I don't think mine are especially interesting to anyone but me or possibly my family members, but it's good writing practice and it helps to clear my head and get me prepped to focus on the work.

Do you guys keep handwritten journals? What do you put in yours that you consider unusual? Let us know in comments.


  1. Hello Lynn! I was wandering around the web world and stumbled on your blog. Love your journals Lynn. I do keep handwritten journals on my bed side and on my writing table. I use them to write scene drafts and take notes for anything related to my writing.


  2. You absolutely have the soul of an artist, even down to your handwriting. :) I've been keeping journals since I was 11, but most of the ancient history ones were lost in various moving mishaps or basement floods. My more recent journals are written in small spiral notebooks, interspersed, not with beautiful art, but todo lists, fragments of poems in progress, ideas.

    Lucky for me, my handwriting is so bad, I don't have to worry about destroying my journals to protect the guilty. LOL. I can barely read them. I work on my morning pages in the journals as well, so I do go back and see what I can mine of that material for my poetry.

    Right now, I'm working with the material I wrote a year ago when I helped my parents move into assisted living. What I wrote was so raw and so honest that I couldn't look at it at the time. Now with a little distance, I hope to be able to process it a little further into a series of poems.

  3. I can't handwrite. Tendons. But every once in a while I long for the old notebook handwritten journal days. Then I remind myself I'm damn lucky to be able to type and cook and move on. I still like being able to admire what other people do with their hands, though. Yours are gorgeous.

  4. I too have trouble with handwriting now. I don't hand quilt much anymore for the same reason.

    I never was much of a journaler though. I write music instead since I'm still able to play piano. I have immature pieces from when I was very young to pieces that show how much I've grown and how complex I've become as I've aged. I imagine your journals aren't much different.

    I think in the grand scheme of things though, it's things like journaling that keeps us grounded. And I think yours are wonderful.

  5. I tried keeping a journal...but fact is, I'm just not disciplined enough for that. Then life is hardly exciting. :p There's not much to journal about.

  6. I do keep a journal, handwritten, but it's mostly a sea journal. In some way I like to keep record of my thoughts, feelings and such, especially for my kids, as they cannot directly share in my Naval adventures. One day they will be able to read them and have a piece of me that they missed because i was away.

    I do love your journals, even down to the writing, which looks beautiful. I find I still do all my initial plotting and brainstorming by hand on paper, whether it's a story, an RPG adventure, or a home project. Graph paper, as a proper engineer :-), but because I find the freedom of the blank page helps me figure things out. Then I start typing.

  7. Shizuka6:48 PM

    I journaled a ton as a teenager and have a copy of The New Diary from the eighties. The teenager diaries are invaluable in my writing.
    I'm more scattered now -- I write bits and pieces in margins and on my novel journal. I'm intrigued by Wreck This Journal and will probably pick up a copy this week.

  8. I kept handwritten journals from the age of approx. 15 to my mid 20s. Afterwards, I stopped having the time to journal regularly. Blogging has taken over some of the function that journalling once had for me, though blogging is a lot less spontaneous and more conscious of an audience. And of course, I have to stick to one language at a time.

    I like looking at my old journals from time to time, because they give me an insight into the sort of person I used to be fifteen or twenty years ago. Journals provide an ultra-subjective viewpoint, such as teenaged me who devoted several pages to dissecting a new TV show and then added almost as a throwaway line: "Berlin wall is now open BTW. Really cool, though this sucks for Uncle K and Aunt M, now that they finally got the permit to visit West Germany."

    I still carry a notebook around with me to write down snippets of fiction or poetry as they occur to me, write down what I had at restaurants, record purchases made while on holiday, collect interesting names, jot down book titles to check out, phone numbers, dates, etc... These messy notebooks now replace the journal of old. I keep thinking of buying a blank notebook for sketching and drawing, though the fact that I can't draw for crap keeps holding me back.

  9. I journal--not every night, but many nights--but it's all pretty much junk. I just don't have the interesting life that so many people do.

    I love the idea of putting art into it, though. That might make journaling more worth it to me (and would make it a lot prettier, too).

  10. I had a friend who talked me into handwritten journals in college. I think I'll always keep up the habit now. I take notes in mine on Sundays listening to sermons. It's a really important part of the record for me.

  11. I just started Wreck This Journal in June (I bought it in Jan). I also have a money journal, two quote journals, an idea journal and a personal journal; plus 2 or 3 empty journals that I have no idea, yet, of what I will use them for.

    I've been journaling, on and off, ever since my college English teacher had us journal as part of the course. I've done journaling exercises, as well as free writing and occasional bits of art (I'm not an artist). I tape movie stubs, concert tickets and interesting fortunes into my books.

    I don't plan on destroying any of my journals even though there are non-flattering bits in them. I'm a bit of a historian/biographer and I hate it when journals get edited. Life is life, messy (emotions etc) is what life tends to be.

  12. I've been keeping a journal for a very long time (I'm 36 and I've been writing since I got my first diary at age 8), although now I hand author the ideas and scenes for books more than journal my day or thoughts. Sometimes I switch back and forth and do a little of both, when I'm not in the mood to just read everything I can get my hands on.

    As far as the thoughts about destroying journals, I've toyed with the idea, especially since some of my early writing is full of youngster and teenage drama and emotional outbursts. However, I feel its very much me and shows my journey from my roller coaster early years to my more steady and thought-filled adult years.

  13. Thanks fir letting us have a look at your journals, Lynn.

    I have been keeping travel journals for nearly 30 years but all my attempts to journal my daily life have failed, unless you count my commonplace books in which I sketch and write down recipes and funny grammar, spelling and translation errors and short description of funny or interesting things that have happened. I recently read one of my travel journals for the first time and I think it would be worthwhile to take a look at them side by side to see how I have changed and also how my journalling style has developed.

  14. Anonymous4:21 PM

    I've kept journals since ... um .. sporadically in junior high and then more regularly in college and onwards. So that would be more than 2 decades.


    I've seldom gone back, but there's one from mid-college that I happened to look in a few years ago and pulled it out to read excerpts to friends.

    My, my, we laughed until we cried. I'm not sure I want to try to remember what sorts of stuff I was reading back then, but my-oh-my was I overly dramatic and imaginative.

    I should look at that again sometime.


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