Hi! I’m back from the most magical little trip. I’m at the end of my second day home and my apartment is still in post-vacation-disaster mode despite my fervent and continuous efforts to set it right again. I’ve decided to give up for the night, change into my sweats, and spend the rest of the night in bed writing and reading. (I got really happy typing that just now!) I have much to post, but while my words sort themselves out, I have a guest post to share with you! Lauren is a fellow notebook-keeper and seems to understand and share my love for it. She blogs over here and is fantastically entertaining, thought-provoking, witty and well-written. Somehow I roped her into writing this for me and I love how it turned out! Also, she introduced me to the word logophile which I will forever be grateful for (and which I can’t believe I didn’t already know because hello–lover of words here). You should read the whole thing, because it’s awesome. Without further ado, I give you her thoughts on the topic: how the very process of writing and recording helps you see and understand things differently.
I find one of the most interesting things about keeping a notebook or journal (I use the terms interchangeably) dedicated to, in some way, recording your life is the answer to the question; how does one do it in a way that is both personally satisfying and honest?
Personal satisfaction can be tricky if you are not a fan of writing or recording, have fallen out of the habit, or find it difficult to put pen on paper in any way. It means you have to work to find a type of writing (doodling, listing, recording) that makes your heart sing and the time intrinsically ‘worth it.’
Honesty can be (is) hard because being honest with yourself has no aspect of 3rd party feedback, suffers from 100% bias, and is often shaped by a depressing pile of “shoulds” (“should be,” “should feel,” “should do,” …).
In my past writings I have discovered that this can cause me to want to either write about myself and/or my experiences in a rosier glow than maybe my heart tells me is entirely accurate, or in a darker matte of criticism — focused on myself, events, or others — that is typically also inaccurate while also failing at being productive, or healthy. However, with the experiences writing in both ways behind me I do feel I have accomplished some semblance of middle ground.
I do not fear writing about my hard days. I have started more than ten entries (I just wanted a number there besides one) with the very unoriginal line “Today was hard …” followed by a lament on what made it so. I do make a concentrated effort, however, to not just be as honest as possible, but to also try and be productive. I do not write only about how I feel, I write about what I think the event was that caused the emotion, or the chain of events that has left me feeling rotten. In doing so I find that a couple of things tend to happen. The first is that I am forced to look at my day again. It is easy for me to slap a label on my day at the end of it and conclude that everything about it must have fit under that label because that’s how I feel at the moment. But in recording my day I come to find that the way I feel in the final hours of it, when I am most likely to file that day away, is often not actually how I have felt for the majority of it.
I have also come to appreciate that my emotions are more nuanced than I give them credit for. Journal writing has given rise to an entirely new emotional vocabulary I use to express myself, and more accurately label my days. I rarely ever use word like angry, sad, or happy anymore, because I have discovered they do my life events a disservice. I have found that in actuality I value feeling peace far more than I value feeling ‘happy.’ Or, on the other end, I am far more often irked or feeling snarky or irritated than blandly ‘angry.’ And while it may sound simply like I am hopeless logophile (which, in all honesty, I may be), it is more than that. It means that as I write I am more accurately assessing and caring more deeply that what I record matches what I feel. This is important to me because it results in records that teach me about myself. What triggers my weaknesses? What fills up my heart? How would this situation affect me through the lens of yesterday, last year, or the last time I felt the way I do now? It also gives me better communication skills, a more careful grip on my knee jerk reactions, and a healthier relationship with the parts of me over which I have no initial control … my feelings.
I love my journals (notebooks 🙂 ) because they represent me. They track my progression (or regression depending on the year you pick up from the stack) as an individual, and at the same time deepen my appreciation for the patterns, experiences, trials, and triumphs of my life. Writing has allowed me to see how beautiful life is because it requires that I take time to care about it, to do it purposefully. It gives me room to take ownership of my experiences, while also helping me appreciate that those experiences are a gift and more often than not they build on each other in ways that I sometimes can only feel overwhelmed with wonder over.
And to quell the risk that I have vaunted the glorious act of personal records to a sphere too great to seem attainable I will also note that I have been at this for a good while, and it means a great deal to me. But for every in the moment personally earth shattering entry I have written I would estimate a good 20 that at the time they were written I found to be utterly benign. I would stress that the power of a notebook is in its ability to be a reflection and a retelling. You just never know what you will need to hear from yourself somewhere down the line. And if you will allow me some shameless promotion of Dana’s crazy skills; it always helps to have your records down in something that brings you joy to look upon. Thus amidst the fervor to write I know my words have naturally inspired in you I would nudge you to go consider investing in a notebook from the Scribble and Jot shop ;).