Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

2/6/10

Journals: A Personal Resource of Ideas, Experiences, and Emotions


The pile of journals pictured to the left is only part of my archive of ideas and experiences gathered over the years. I began journaling at age fourteen when my parents took me out of school for six weeks to travel around Europe. Because my father was a flight engineer for Pan American Airways, we could fly for free if there were empty seats on the plane. The journal I faithfully wrote in every night of that trip is now a priceless account of my teenage emotions and excitement about that memorable trip through Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, England, Scotland, and Ireland. When I first dug it out of the bottom of a desk drawer years later, I laughed at some of my childish words, but I was also amazed at the details I had included. Memories of that wonderful family trip flooded back. Since then I’ve used bits and pieces from that journal as well as many later journals whenever I find I need specific details about setting, emotions, characters, or images. Some of the same details have been used more than once in my poems and stories. Since they are my own words, I don’t have to worry about plagiarism.

When I keep a journal, I feel a sense of freedom. I don’t have to worry about plot or character or theme. I simply write what comes to mind or strikes my fancy. I use it as therapy when going through a difficult time. I use it to describe places I visit and people I meet and don’t want to forget. I use it for phrases, words, snatches of dialogue I’ve overheard and may want to use in future stories. I often have more than one journal going at once.

For me, a journal is akin to an artist’s sketchbook. It hones my writing skills and acts as a supplement to my imagination. It has a certain random quality—sometimes a place to store things that have caught my attention and started my imagination rolling, sometimes a place to experiment or to try out first lines. Often it is an account of my day-to-day existence and is essentially private. Above all, it is a resource I can return to time and again.

10 comments:

john said...

Edie, great picture of some of your journals and you give us the reasons why they are such an important part of the writing process for so many. What great resources for your first trip to Europe. Pan Am, now that was great name for an airline.

Edie said...

Thank you, John! Pan Am was a great part of my family's life. My father spent his entire career with them.

Stephanie said...

What a great resource:)

Lauren said...

I have some very early journals, but I have actually been afraid to read them. You inspire me to give them another read. You have certainly proved that you are your own great resource!

john said...

Edie, I had an Around the World in 80 days ticket with Pan Am when I was 19. It changed my life and i will always recall Pan Am fondly because of that trip.

Christy said...

I managed to keep journals in adolescence and early adult life, but left off at some point. I admire your discipline and can see how the practice of keeping a journal would develop your observation skills and provide you with great reference materials. I feel a resolution coming on.

David LaRochelle said...

Hi Edie,

For the past 36 years (ever since I was 14) I've been writing in my journal every night before going to sleep. It's as much of my evening ritual as brushing my teeth. Like you, I find some of my early entries embarrassingly funny, but also like you I often find my journal a wonderful friend to talk to when I'm going through difficult emotional times. There are days when I can't wait to let my feelings out on the page. And it also gives me the opportunity to do at least a little writing every day. I don't know what I'd do without it.

Edie said...

David, it's nice to know someone else started journaling at age 14. And, John, wow! An around the world in 80 days ticket with Pan Am. What an adventure at age 19. Thank you all for your comments.

Mark said...

Edie, I can't tell you the number of times I've regretted not keeping a journal in younger days. Your post reinforces the notion (and regret) even more. Great post!!

Edie said...

Mark,
It's never too late to start!