Lately I’ve been reviewing old journals written at various times in my life. I’m quilting together a new novel and finding amazing little pieces that are just what I need to tickle my memory. What a treasure trove. And to think I was considering just tossing them.
There’s the one from my first writing group. That phrase calls up a critique group, but this one was a journal writing group. We were fledgling poets, fiction writers, and academics meeting in a yellow house in Seattle. We each picked a prompt, wrote about it during the week, then read to each other. I have a hyper-active critic, so I made a rule during this period in my life that I couldn’t cross things out. Because, really, my drafts looked like a redacted CIA document more than anything. That one thing helped my writing more than anything. Words flowed. Some good, some indifferent, some downright terrible. But words flowed. I learned how to just keep going.
In this journal I found the first draft of my first published short story, a list of what was in all the drawers in my childhood house (which people loved for some unknown reason), and a tribute to Beatle John Lennon who’d just been shot. I’d studied with the same meditation teacher as the Beatles, and the piece took me there and to that first record Maharishi made (yes, vinyl) that talked about Transcendental Meditation. I listened to it very seriously at 16.
Another journal was from Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal Program which I attended twice. Progoff divides up lives into several categories—daily pages, dialogues with the self, dreams to name a few. This process helped me dig into myself in interesting ways. It honed my writing as I dug.
Then there were notes and writing exercises from two summers at Women’s Voices in Santa Cruz where I studied with the likes of Valerie Miner, Gloria Anzaldúa, Judy Grahn, Andre Lorde, even Adrienne Rich. A poem I wrote there was published in Rich’s journal Sinister Wisdom. I love that title. Did I realize I was in heaven, that this glorious time would pass? No, I thought this was how life would always be.
Do you still keep a journal or has it gone by the wayside as deadlines loom?