The Girls go a-journaling…

October 29, 2010 § 7 Comments

The Monday night pattern goes kinda like this: leave office, check bag for journal and green pen en route to car in parking lot, toss bag into back seat, climb in and head to Mom’s, stopping on way to pick up pizza or soup or giant salads. 

Mom and I carve out Monday evenings to eat, relax and then go to our journaling class. 
It’s a very unstructured gathering. No assigned seats, no desks, no blackboard.
 There are huge tables for us to sit and spread out our stuff. There are more than a dozen affable class members, and the facilitator is adept at drawing people out, getting them to tell stories even if they didn’t write in their journals that week. She has no hardcore plan yet she has great anecdotes, good ideas and some hidden clock that has her wind up each time after about an hour.

Why does anyone go to such a class?
To find out what the heck journaling is or might be 
For affirmation
To hear about journaling techniques
To share their own stories
To hear and/or see what other people are doing in terms of journaling
For support
For opening doors
Out of curiosity
To measure how they’re doing, in the grand scheme of things and possibly, in the writing world
And, the class is free. 

This week while we were eating dinner, Mom opened her journal at the table and passed it to me.
“Go ahead, read what I wrote for class tonight,” she said.
What? “Really? I can read this, Mom?”
She hesitated. “Of course it’s difficult to read my handwriting,” she said.
“That’s ok, I’ll figure it out.” (This from the daughter who  once tried forging her mom’s loopy signature for an excuse in high school – it was nearly impossible.)

I read quietly and coming to the end of her entry on its third page (she wrote a lot!), I laughed, delighted.
“What do you think?” she said.
What to tell her? Same thing I’ve always told her – the truth. “I like it. You had fun. This just well. You need to read it out loud at class.”
“I couldn’t do that,” she said.
“You can. You should.”
She laughed, rose from the table and took the dishes to the kitchen.
She wasn’t going to discuss it further. That window had opened and closed.

I saw it, though, before she turned away. I saw that glimmer that comes when people start writing, people who might have always wanted to write but hadn’t done so before, and now they were.

We arrived at class, our fourth class in the session already, in time to sit with several of Mom’s friends. Four of them had signed up for the class as well. They couldn’t quite figure what I was doing there, but accepted that it was a mother-daughter thing. Because people were at least nod-hello friendly, the group was opening up and several were ready and eager to tell what they’d written about, if not actually read aloud.

“J-, let’s begin with you this evening. Did you try one of the writing exercises and would you like to read it aloud?” the facilitator asked Mom.
Mom was surprised and pleased to be asked. Tinkled pink. She opened her journal, then looked up at everyone to make her disclaimer. (I have found that most people, when asked to read, will disclaim in some way, explaining the story or telling what they didn’t accomplish that they had hoped to. Or, they may go in the other direction, exclaiming at how pleased they are with the piece, hoping to infect everyone with their joy.)

Mom explained that she had chosen a particular exercise but did not follow its format.

Then she began to read. Her voice was immediately part of the story. We fell into what she was describing, curious the whole while to see how or what she would do with the piece.
And suddenly, she came to a grand little ending, and the whole thing was well recieved. She beamed.

Oh yes, she was getting it now. The writing bug. The power of the pen to tell a story.
Others volunteered to read following her.

The class facilitator gave us several journal-y exercises before we left class. Though I’m not sure, I suspect Mom will jump on one or two of them this weekend.

We have both, however, agreed to take the same line to write about, a piece about one of our beloved family members and our adventures on his farm years ago.
We may each read next week, same line – but  different stories, I’ll bet.
The line is:  “Uncle Oscar went out to the barn to hitch up the horses.”

Actually, I started on it six pages ago in my journal and still writing. One of the true beauties of a journal? No editing required.

1) Record the date and where you are as you write each journal entry. I’ve been writing in journals for years and for some reason, had completely overlooked timestamping and “placing”  each entry. Not only is it part of the fun, but I also realize that during the work week, I get to Starbucks often enough to sit and write. (yeah, ok, and have a coffee.)

2) How to better listen to the many many stories in a room; how some stories  “match” the teller and others seem so distant from what they’re relating. 

3) The importance of “owning” the journal. It’s not just a flat notebook.  It speaks in many ways, from the texture of the paper to the design on the cover. I have only recently realized that I can customize any journal in which I’m writing rather than sticking to all the trumped up pretty journals.

4) Ink-ing along on the page on a “non-writerly” day is better than forsaking  the writing  altogether that day.

5) Writers love (writing) exercises.


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§ 7 Responses to The Girls go a-journaling…

  • shoreacres says:

    There’s so much here to love – the mother/daughter time, the freedom, the exploration, the appreciation of strangers who slowly are becoming less strange to one another.

    Yet there’s mystery here for me, too. Clearly, many love keeping a journal, responding to prompts, doing writing exercises – and I just can’t bring myself even to think of doing that. I suspect it may be a time issue more than anything else – because it’s a simple fact that something would have to go for any journaling to be done. Since I can’t ditch Mom or my work, I suppose it would have to be the blog. (Don’t suggest dusting and laundry. I already ignore those!)

    I love reading about your journey, though – and one of these days I may take a little detour down the journaling road. Right now, I’m just trying to finish a book for a reading challenge. Puffing and panting I am!

    What I loved most here: your observation about how some stories “match” the teller. I suspect you’re talking about something I strive for, more or less successfully – to have my words be true, in the sense of a plumb-line. To have integrity, as in “wholeness”.
    Maybe it’s just another way to circle back around to “voice”. We need to speak with our own, and not with one we’ve adopted from someone else!

  • oh says:

    Linda! I feel I’ve been away for ages, it was such a work week. (You must soon describe to me your day outdoors with boats and salt air. I’m mad to get outdoors, flee the glass walls. Seriously.)

    Anyway, thanks for this response to such a poorly spelled entry. I know we’re not supposed to go back and change our blogs BUT I did have to return this morning and fix the misspellings and misspacings. You are patient to have slogged throuhg it.

    I hear you about the time for journaling. I think I’m faithful to it because I can carry it around. All the time. Unlike the laptop and the need for electricity.

    Yet I am torn between journaling and blogging. They are, for me, very nearly the same. OK, maybe not. But they both take time and the time to sink or reach into that place where writing can occur.

    If I had to choose which you did, very selfishly I’d seriously request (or demand) that you blog. Above all, blog. WE are keen to read you and “see” what you’re seeing and share or learn or all of the above.
    Your public needs you! (but not to feel burdened by that!)

    the journal for me is “practice” writing. It is unearthing things to use in my stories.
    Journaling could be considered amateur or hobbyish but neither of those things is bad, either. And I see journaling rising in its perception and essence, playing shadow to the memoir. What better place to plumb for working on a memoir, should one do so.

    I think I’ll do another post on journaling. My reason for doing it is different from each person in that journaling class.

    Yes, your stories match the Teller, but then how can I say that? I know your stories and only then, through your stoires,know you. But yes, yours are true. We can just tell, that’s all. Which is why readers return to The Task At Hand. And while you’re writing to your “plumb-line” (a great metaphor, btw), you still make each piece different.
    There’s the rub.
    To write true, without formula, and shine.
    So just don’t bother with the journal thing now. Blog on!

  • Seachanges says:

    You are so right, of course. Keeping the journal is the basic ‘must’ if only to keep the habit going, the writing habit I mean. You are admirably disciplined and it clearly pushes you on, forging the words, sentences and stories… I think I’m going to print this and hang it on my wall, so that I see it everyday as a reminder of how I should go about my writing. I have journals a-plenty, none organised and yes, you are so right about the dates, the importance of the dates and the routine. Just keep pushing us! Thanks for this reminder and I shall stick to just one journal from now on and not a variety for different things (my novel, my stories, my biographical stuff, my… etc. etc.) – waste of time because you never have the right journal with you and so it all ends up in a mess.

    One journal and dates.

    Thank you!
    And by the way, how great to be doing this with your mom!

  • I am so happy for the many years that I kept a daily journal. I love looking back over the little things I wrote down that I have completely forgotten.

    I stopped keeping a daily journal when my sons were teens. Too painful, I think. Wish I’d kept it up. Might have helped.

  • Ruth says:

    This was intriguing. I did wonder at the outset Why a journaling class? But when I read your words I can totally get it. It’s just writing after all! I love to journal and do so mainly now in response to books while I’m reading. I may never go back to what I’ve written, or I may go back often. So I can’t discount the practice of writing down my reflections.

  • IdeaJump! says:

    Thanks for the reminder to get my journal back out. I think my NaNoWriMo (unofficial participant) will be to just journal everyday. I do like that NO-edting-required benefit!

  • jeanie says:

    First of all, I simply love this entry. It is rich, full, warm. It explodes with love and family. learning and joy. I’m so glad you can have this experience with your mom.

    The tips/lessons at the end are good ones. I used to journal regularly — pretty pathetic, too. I don’t so much anymore, though the Gypsy does partially serve that purpose. But when I hear of this, the structure, well, it makes me think that maybe it’s not a bad thing to consider returning to.

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