Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Journaling as an Act of Interpretation

Hello writers!

Here is the question I'd like to pose to you, today: do you journal? Yeah, I mean that "dear diary" thing. An accompanying line of interrogation: If you do journal, why do you do it? Is it a daily ritual, or are your journal entries sporadic? What does journaling accomplish for you, personally? If you're not a diary person, why not?

I've kept a journal for almost fifteen years now. In fact, there's an entire bookshelf dedicated to the many journals I've filled in my bedroom. If I were to answer the questions I posed above, I'd have to say 1.) I journal, first and foremost, because I feel the need to put some events and some emotions into words in order to fully interpret them. Journaling, for me, is an act of interpretation 2.) I don't journal everyday, mostly because putting everything down is tedious. Sometimes, a day in the life of Laura is just a day in the life of Laura. On the other hand, in sometimes neglecting to journal, I wonder if I'm neglecting to look at the world around me in an intentional way. Intentionality in really seeing the small things as significant is important, I believe, to seeing the bigger things in context. This is at least as true as its inverse: that we must understand the "big picture" in order to understand the more so-called incidentals. One other conviction I have about writing as an act of intepretation: such action is essentially social action. Writing to interpret the world around us and our experiences in it, at once establishes (or challenges) shared, cultural, social meaning systems that inform our interactions with others. It is to ourselves that we owe this interpretting, first and foremost, and a private journal accomplishes this for the individual, while allowing a greater degree of intensity, honesty, bias, or what have you, than is otherwise acceptable elsewhere.

That said, I understand when people tell me that journaling is scary. I assume that a journal is not merely a catalogue of things we do, say, think, or feel. I assume this, because I believe humans feel the need, always, to derive meaning from the things they do, say, think, and feel. Meaning is derived from these things, whether we write it down or not, but writing it down makes it somewhat more palpable, sometimes more unweildy, sometimes quite frightening, but very often rewarding.

This is, after all, the writer's deal of cards.

Mark Twain once said, "It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense." If you're a writer, one of the things that I feel can go a long way toward enhancing your craft, is to keep a journal. Try it for a week, a month, a year. Write a single sentence or paragraph, the length matters not. Make it an experiment. Make it creative. Make it fun!


  1. I only journal when I want to really flush out a thought and I put near post-it-note type journalling when I simply want to remember a moment.

  2. I used to journal all the time, but it got too scary after the Israel thing, and I quit. Recently, I bought myself a pretty bright pink journal and started again. I journal for all the reasons you wrote down, and also because so often in my life someone with ulterior motives comes along and tells me I don't really remember what I say I do, and journalling helps keep me grounded. I typically only journal the big stuff, but lately I've wanted to expand.

  3. I started my first journal at age 10, I actually saw someone keeping one in a movie so I told my mother my new notebook was my journal, She looked at me funny and asked "How do YOU know what even a journal is?" Funny, as my ONLY school teacher you would have thought she could have covered that along the way but movies work too:-}
    I write because if I don't I can not sleep with thousands of vivid memories flooding me and needing to get put down and unloaded from my head...It's like one long endless story. If I could start/share at the beginning of my life someone could see how I never missed a thing!
    I love my journal<3



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...