Friday, August 10, 2012

Rethinking the Daily Journal


Many years ago, I picked up a paperback edition of the Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth at a used book sale.  Dorothy Wordsworth was the sister of the poet William Wordsworth, and she kept a daily journal for several years when she was living with her brother in a cottage in England's Lake District.  Her journals weren't at all what I had thought a journal should be like.  They were straightforward yet lyrical in tone, chronicling Dorothy's walks in nature with her brother, and the ordinary, everyday events of their lives, from toothaches to transplanting plants in her garden.  I fell in love with Dorothy's journals and I decided that reading them wasn't enough - I wanted to start keeping my own journal as well!

So I did.  And I've kept a journal, off and on, ever since then.  Some journals I have attempted to write in every day, while others have been more erratic.  Last summer, I was keeping a daily journal, but it was no longer fun.  I kept forgetting to write everyday, but I was still trying to write an entry for every day.  Writing in my journal had become like punishment for myself - every week or so I would force myself to sit down and rack my memory to find something remotely interesting to write about what had happened last Thursday.  I felt guilty about not writing everyday, but then I hated it when I did sit down and write, so I kept putting it off more and more.  Eventually, I recognized how crazy things had become and I just quit.

I started keeping a daily journal again early this year and, while I didn't have any trouble remembering to write, I still wasn't having fun.  My entries seemed to be full of nothing but complaints and worries and negativity about my life.  I didn't enjoy writing them, and I certainly didn't look forward to the day when I would read over my journal.  Then I remembered Dorothy Wordsworth's journals, my original inspiration for starting to keep a journal.  She didn't do too much complaining.  She stayed focused in the here and now, and found joy in her observations of nature.  Maybe I could do the same?  Maybe I could rethink the way I approached my daily journal?

I returned to my journal.  Again.  I picked a specific time of the day to write so I wouldn't forget.  In each entry, I focused on writing first some simple observations of nature and of the weather.  (Talking about the weather can be an icebreaker in conversation and it can be a great way to started writing a journal entry as well!)    Then, I wrote about the concrete, positive things that I did and thought about during the day.  While I may have mentioned some of the day's challenges and setbacks, I didn't allow myself to dwell on the negative.

It's worked.  I've been writing in my journal nearly every day for the last several months, and, even more importantly, I've been enjoying writing in my journal more than I have in a long time.  Now, I look forward to pulling out my journal every evening.  If I do miss a day now and then, I don't feel guilty about it or try to catch up by writing more the next day, I just move on.

Do you keep a daily journal?  What kinds of things do you write in it?  Do you make sure to write about the positive as well as the negative?  Have you ever had to rethink the way you approach your journal?

8 comments:

  1. I do keep a daily journal, and tend to include thoughts about the future in it, as I'm just about to enter college life. I've kept a journal on and off since I was in 1st grade, but only recently (last 4 years) began to seriously record my thoughts and musings; before, it was just a daily logbook of sorts, of only what I did during the da and nothing of my thoughts about those events. It gives me a chance to use all the pens/pencils I have amassed, and also a time to seriously reflect on what has happened in the past day or couple of days.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lovely post. What are the titles of Dorothy Wordsworth's journal books? I'd love to read these, too. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The edition I have is simply titled Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, and is edited by Mary Moorman. An edition of The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals is published by Oxford World's Classics, and may be easier to find. I've also seen editions that combine extracts from her journals with selections of her brother's poetry. Just search for "Dorothy Wordsworth" on Amazon or wherever and you should be able to find an edition of her journals.

      Delete
  3. Wow. I could never keep up with a daily journal - that is very admirable of you! I do journal though, and after awhile of just mindlessly journaling, I started noticing it was becoming negative. So now I make a conscious effort to read a "positive" article - such as Marc and Angel Hack Life blog - and take notes of some of the points and how they apply to my life or how I could apply them to my life. It's turned the attitude of my journaling around completely!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Azizah! For me, it was working through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way that really turned me around from focusing on the negative in my life to focusing on the positive realistic changes that I could make. It's made me a happier writer, and a happier journal-keeper!

      Delete
  4. Like you, Heather, I have a love of all things pen and paper. A boutique filled with paper crafts or an office supply store can both take away my breath.

    I'm not a daily journal writer. But, I'm a regular journal writer. My entries vary from lists to plans, from dreams to screams and from fun recollections to tales of woe.

    As far as rethinking my journal writing habits and style, the answer is yes. From stilted this-is-what-happened-today type entries to learning ways to make my journal work for me my journals have changed and morphed over the years.

    Your post has made me want to locate a copy of Dorothy Wordsworth's journals. I love reading the journals of both well known and obscure folk. They teach us much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think one reason why I stopped writing in my journal before was because my entries had become "stilted this-is-what-happened-today type entries" and they really became boring to me after a while. My entries today are more reflective, although still focused in the here and now.

      I'm afraid that Dorothy Wordsworth's journals are the only ones that I have read - but I do want to read more journals in the future.

      Delete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...