May 3, 2013

journals Vs. blogs

Julia, May 2007, at the Ot & Sien Speeltuin in the Zuiderpark in The Hague 
Blogging might be a modern, quite recent development in history but it's not a very surprising one now is it? Why? Well, humans have been avid journal keepers, recorders of history for, uhm, all of history. I started keeping a journal when I was 8 years old, because I was given a journal on November 25th 1989, the day I was baptized into the Mormon Church. Both my parents and my aunt Sia gifted me a hardcover, square diary, with a lock and clear white pages, ready to be filled with everything that is important in the life of an 8-year-old girl. I mainly wrote about food. 

Since that first diary journal diary - ok which is it?! Quick moment of google research. Wikipedia says the following:
"A diary is a record (originally in handwritten format) with discrete entries arranged by date reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period. A personal diary may include a person's experiences, and/or thoughts or feelings, including comment on current events outside the writer's direct experience. Someone who keeps a diary is known as a diarist. Diaries undertaken for institutional purposes play a role in many aspects of human civilization, including government records (e.g., Hansard), business ledgers and military records.
Generally the term is today employed for personal diaries, normally intended to remain private or to have a limited circulation amongst friends or relatives. The word "journal" may be sometimes used for "diary," but generally a diary has (or intends to have) daily entries, whereas journal-writing can be less frequent." (italics added)

Definitely a journal then! So, since that first journal I have filled an impressive stack of them with mainly unimpressive entries. There have been many ups and downs, plenty of periods where due to laziness/a lack of creativity/poor memory I didn't write for months on end. But I kept finding new motivation to do better at keeping a regular journal. Often this motivation came from church and seeing girls slightly older than me, who I aspired to be like, keeping a journal. One day I visited Anne Frank's hiding place (het achterhuis) in Amsterdam and subsequently read her journal. I promptly christened my journal 'Kitty' and would dutifully start each entrance with 'Dear Kitty,'. Cringe!

Finally my motivation became the therapeutic essence of writing down my thoughts and feelings, and reading my old journals and realizing how valuable they had become to me. To anyone else they are most likely filled to the brim with the worst boring drivel imaginable, but to me they are full of precious moments that would have otherwise been forgotten. I read and can actually picture lively scenes, feel things I felt when I was 13, relearn lessons, and see previously overlooked connections and blessings. There are also entries that have been ripped out since they were written because they were so embarrassing in hindsight that the thought of anybody (especially my children) ever reading them was just too much to handle! I think Liz has an idea what I'm talking about. We had a good night of belly-splitting laughter thanks to one of my journals.

I have employed many methods of journaling over the past. I have kept a gratitude journal, an art journal, a photo journal. I have set myself weekly writing challenges, I have let others set me weekly challenges. I have recorded quotes I like such as "Those who do not keep journals, will be defined by those who do.", and I have made live notes/transcripts of important moments such as baby blessings. I have pasted envelopes into the back of my journals to hold important bits of my history, such as my first concert ticket, my first love note from a boy, and, embarrassingly, receipts of epic meals I enjoyed. Finally my eyes were opened to the wonderful world of Moleskine and I started buying my journals with the pocket envelopes already in them.

You can see how turning to blogging is something of a natural development for me. Sure my entries are less self-indulgent and more geared towards recording family moments for those parts of our families who live far away. It has also become a tool to share creative endeavors and open up conversation with readers on topics that interest me. Conversations that might otherwise have never happened, because I am in essence something of an introvert. Blogging has come to be such a fun and important part of my life and I am so happy to have always had the tools to be able to keep it up. The encouragement I get is also a truly amazing thing. Thank you to everyone who has commented positively in any way! Thank you also for any constructive criticism you have given me over the past years. Without this blog I would have not been as motivated to put more effort into photography. I would not have learned there are surprising friends who share interests and viewpoints with me. I would not have had such a delightful visual history of my children because, let's face it, I'm horrible at making photo albums!

I love journaling. I love blogging too. I also love reading blogs, so please send me yours, or keep posting your entries on Facebook!

Finally, on the off chance this has motivated you to get started with a journal, here are some tips from a girl who has almost tried them all:

1. Hard Bound Journals Only. This is a must! You want your journals to withstand the test of time and paperbacks simply do not deal well with repeatedly being thumbed through, tossed in handbags/backpacks, being forgotten under beds, boxed, spilled on, and chewed by rabbits. 

2. When possible, write in pen. This goes with the previous tip. Ink doesn't fade as easily as pencil does. 

3. Get artistic. Use markers, print photos, use fun washi tape, make drawings. You don't have to be naturally creative to do this. And you don't always have to do this either! Don't make it a job, and thereby a drag. Just have a stash of creative tools on had for when you feel inspired. You'll be surprised at what you come up with!

4. Try different writing styles. I have journal entries in the form of letters to an imaginary friend and in the form of prayers. One day I read about free writing and just put my pen to the paper and did. not. stop. writing for a full 15 minutes any and all things that randomly popped up into my brain. You could do a series of entries where you record only facts. Or only opinions. You could write poetry, or turn your entry into a third person short story. I like writing in bullet form when I feel I have a lot to catch up on.

5. Don't just write down the date, write down the actual day, and time. I can't tell you how many times I have gone back in my journals, started reading an entry, and ended up having to do research as to whether I had written the entry on a Sunday or a Thursday. That might not be interesting to all, but I have found it something I care about. Also, times can help, especially when you have several entries in one day! Anyone who has read Bridget Jones' Diary will understand.

6. Hold on to shopping lists/photos/special receipts/postcards/etc. Either glue them onto the pages, or collect them in a pouch/envelope in the back of your journal. They will become so meaningful as time goes by!

7. Keep in mind your journal will most likely be read one day. One the one hand your journal should be the one place you can rage and rant in a completely unedited way. On the other hand remember that after you are gone your journal is going to be found and read, probably by those very people you have raged and ranted about. Or, if you have lived to be very old, their children. For some this won't mean any difference in how they write, but for me it has meant some slightly more subtle phrasing and, in some cases, omission. So unless you are James Bond and have been provided by Q with a fancy self-destroying journal that will obliterate your darkest secrets the very moment your heart stops beating, you might want to at least give your writing some thought.

8. Have others write entries. Some of pages in my journals that are most dear to me, have been filled by others. I have at times asked friends or people who made an impact in my life to write me a message in my journal. Sometimes these entries have become the only tangible memory I have of someone. I highly recommend it!

9. Daily writing challenges. These are good because they can break the monotony of writing. Usually I would take a challenge for a week, and record my daily experiences. Examples of challenges I like:
- 'Currently' lists. So whatever you are currently wearing, wanting, reading or listening to. Current weather conditions, news headlines, or your current state of mind.
- Daily quote + your own thoughts on said quote.
- Daily question. Think of a question that you must answer every day for a week. 
- Gratitude. Start each entry with a list of all the things you are particularly grateful for that day.

10. Describe things. This has been especially helpful to me as I notice my visual memory is not as good as I'd like it to be. I have in my journals descriptions of childhood bedrooms (to the tiniest details!), parks, hotel rooms, cars, outfits, cities, parks, etc etc. I have self made sketchy blueprints of classrooms and recorded routes I used to walk/bike/drive often and the things that stood out to me along the way. Very helpful to forming that mental image when reading later on in life. It also says so much more than a photograph, because it includes your experience of your surroundings.

I'm excited to see what future developments might mean more exciting possibilities for recording our own histories, and I'm excited to use them if they work for me. Thanks again for reading, whether it's just this post, or if you've been a faithful reader since I started this blog. Thank you!

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