Keeping journals

download.jpgWhen I was young diaries were a big deal, especially for girls. My older sister had one that was small with a key so you could lock away your secrets. All I wanted was a diary like hers. I never saw her write in it but I am sure she did. I did try to get into several times, I am sure.

When my birthday came and I was given a diary I was in heaven. So cool to have a little book you could write in and lock. I remember opening and closing the lock over and over. I hid the key in special places so no one would get into my secret book.

But there was a drawback. You are suppose to write in a diary. I was afraid of writing. I struggled with spelling and was corrected often. I was made fun of by my friends, siblings and cousins. The laughing at my silly mistakes is what I remember most.

It was not long before my diary and its key was well hidden so no one knew I was not writing in it. I would open it every so often and stare at the blank pages. I would dream about what people might write in their own little book but for me there were no words. You could call it extreme writers block. The fear of misspelling also stopped the flow of ideas and thoughts.

School did not provide writers workshops in those days nor do I remember really being taught about writing. We did handwriting exercises. We did grammar exercises to find nouns, verb, etc.  We were expected to write reports as we got older but I don’t recall writing instruction – like how to write a story or more. I am sure sometime in high school we were taught how to write a 5 paragraph essay. Some body must of taught us something about writing at some time. I just don’t remember.

Needless to say I did not grow up writing daily or keeping a journal of any kind. It was not until I was teaching that I began to develop my own writing skills. If I was expecting my students to write than I better be writing as well.

Now that I am retired I continue to work on keeping several journals. (I stay away from the word diary for it is still an emotional block for me.)  I use simple composition notebooks. They are cheap and easy to find and use. A traditional black one for my personal journal, a purple one with a plastic cover for my garden notebook (it helps when things are wet outside) and a red plastic cover one for my Nature journal (again the plastic helps when outside and things are dirty or damp. It is nature of coarse! )

I have a journal that is just a list of books. I keep track of all the books I am reading. I don’t actual think of that as part of my journaling activities. It is just a book of lists.

My purple garden journal helps me keep track of the plants, the weather and my reading about nature. It is the journal that I am most faithful of writing in. This one is easy for it is facts and information that can be clearly recorded – growth rates and planting dates, rainfall and what is working or not, what are tasks to be done in the garden. It is straight forward and most times non emotional. (Except when hail damages tomato plants!)

There is the personal journal which I have started on and off for years. This one is still hard for me. I can get writers block quickly so I work hard on starting with writing just one or two sentences about the day. It seems if I can get the pen moving I am ok from there. Although I have to admit I still write mainly about events and things happening. I find it hard to get below the surface to the more emotional topics of my life.

My third journal is a new one that I started this summer. It is dedicated to Mason, my new grandson. It is a Nature Journal. It is about seeing.  Yes – really seeing the world around us. While watching him the first days of his life I have been fascinated with his struggle to keep his eyes open. He is looking deeply trying to make sense of this new world he has found himself in. New borns can not focus more than about 12 to 16 inches from them and even that does not make sense to them. They are looking and building new neural pathways as theyIMG_7566.jpg grow. They will slowly begin to see and to connect to what they are seeing.

This process made me think of how much of the world we don’t see. The tiny details of life around us. So I am taking pictures of details in the garden and out in the woods. I then write a little about why I took the photo or what it is or interesting information I know about this item. I also am drawing what is in the photo. (building my drawing skills as well as writing). In each entry I have added a list of picture books, if I can find any about the topic, as well. My hope is that I will develop my nature journaling skill as Mason grows and that when he is older I can share this with him. I really want to be comfortable with journaling so I can show him how. I want it to be fun, and enjoyable for him, as well as myself. (To be honest I don’t care if he ever looks at the journal I am making – it will be my learning journal.)

I think the best way to teach a child is by modeling. So if Mason sees me exploring, drawing, writing and reading about the natural world he may find it interesting and want to join in. Who can resist a good blank book, colored pencils and the outdoors?

I am much better at keeping journals that have a purpose – tracking the garden or tracking the seasons for Mason than I am with my personal journal but I will keep at it. Who knows maybe by the time I am 80 I will have a daily habit of journaling.

Do you journal? What goes into your journal? Do you use a notebook or work on a computer?

(My writing is still all by hand. I like the feel of the book and pen or pencil in my hand.  Although I have to say that this blog has also turned into a bit of a journal as well. It is a weekly reflection on what I am doing or thinking each week. An interesting thought – I had not considered until now. )

Happy Journaling!

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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4 Responses to Keeping journals

  1. Adrienne says:

    I love the idea of keeping a nature journal dedicated to your grandson. What a treasure trove he will receive when he is old enough for you to share them with him.

  2. Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski says:

    I love the idea of your book of lists! I have never been able to consistently keep a notebook/journal habit when I am on my own. I’ve been able to do it as part of the Writing Project summer institute but find it hard to keep it going on my own. I like blogging because of the audience and community. I want to keep better track of the books I am reading but tend to to that digitally. I am sorry that in your earlier years you were made to be afraid of writing because of spelling. Your new grandson will inspire so much writing and it will be a gift for him to have that from you.

  3. This is so inspiring! I think I will begin a journal of books I’m reading, or maybe have already read as well. Have you read The Artists Way by Julia Cameron? It’s worth checking out. Part of her plan for a creative life is writing each morning in a journal — it doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you write for 10 minutes or so. I am sorry so many people discouraged you from writing, but maybe the Artists Way would help you move past that.

  4. Ramona says:

    I so enjoyed reading about your journals. I keep a book to record what I read, not always the best at keeping track, but I try. I keep composition books (one upstairs and one downstairs) to write random thoughts that come to me, but most of the consistent writing I do is for my blog. And it’s a special kind of record of your thoughts and reflections. So exciting that new grandson Mason is fueling your nature journal. Way to go, Grandma!

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