Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Changing Directions: On Writing/Journaling

You can also see this on The Whole Mom

(Preface: I know this is a long one, but please, take the time to read it)

I write regularly in my journal. I take that back-I used to write regularly in my journal. This past year, I have gone from being a faithful, detailed, everyday journal keeper to writing a sporadic, intermittent mix of half coherent fragments from the day. When I wrote on a regular basis, I could easily fill a two hundred page hard-bound journal within a month or less. These days, it takes me a disappointing four months to finish a book with the same amount of pages. In the new journal I recently started, I write half sentences, ideas that go nowhere, fragments of events that I wanted to record, all left hanging in mid-sentences.

These days, I find I put most of my journaling energy into the Mama Says blog. That, in a sense, has become my journal. However, I am not completely satisfied with this. I don’t want it to become my journal. A journal, to me, is something that is personal, a place where I can let it all out, stuff that I would never share with other mothers, let alone the world; a place where I can work through my crap ( definitely much cheaper than a psychiatrist!).

In this age of computer laptop journals, live journals and the blogosphere, I still prefer to draft things out with paper and pen. My handwriting is still decipherable, not yet reduced to chicken scratch. Besides that, I just love the feel of pen in hand. I don’t know why, but it seems I can put things together more efficiently that way. Plus, I’m a doodler. I like to scribble all over the page, cross out words and whole sentences, make squiggly arrows directing this sentence or paragraph to go all the way to the top (or bottom). After what seems to be sufficient doodling, I can go to the computer and make the final draft. I’ve always done that with poetry as well.
For me, journaling is a ritualistic process, I write out the drafts over and over, replacing this word here and that word there. There is a certain meditation in actual writing with pen and paper that cannot be found in banging out words on the computer. The blue-glow of the computer monitor can surely trance me out, but it’s just not the same.

I could say that most of my energy for journaling has been sapped by my two-year old running around the house. But it’s just not true. In fact, it’s just the opposite: she is my daily inspiration in many things, including writing. I turn out posts on a near-daily basis for the blog; some consisting of entire pages that could be turned into a possible articles. I just don’t have the interest for journaling right now. Never in my life did I think that would be an issue. Not me, the one with 40-plus full hard-bound journals and countless notebooks; the one who could never bear to skip a day, letting it go by unrecorded; the one who had to fill the page to capacity. Surely, I could never lose interest? I can’t even believe that’s what it’s come down to, but there it is.

These are the years of my daughter’s childhood. I feel I should be recording every little thing she does: new developments, what she’s feeling, how she reacted to the bug that dropped from the tree onto her sleeve. Will I look back on this time in my life and wish I had written more? Will I feel a certain sort of regret at what I didn’t record?
When I look back now on the journals from when I was pregnant with my daughter, I find myself wishing I had written a more detailed account of that experience; and I do feel something akin to regret at not writing more about it.

Perhaps I just need to accept the fact that it’s alright to not be interested in journaling at times. Right now there are plenty of other things in my life that require my attention. It’s not as if I won’t ever journal again. Perhaps it is the style of journaling familiar to me that is changing. Perhaps I am changing. Perhaps I just need to accept that as well. After all, life changes just as the wind changes directions.


Sam said...

Hey, I know what you mean. Why aren't I recording everything I can about this time with my child? It's why I don't take pictures: if I were buried behind a camera trying to focus on getting the right shot, i would miss the moment, wouldn't I? But with writing, I found I could record the moment without missing it, but, in a way, something else is lost. Something of me, my self, my son, his needs, and what should come first? Writing down the days, or feeding ourselves with food and outings to the library?

MapleMama said...

A great post. Even if you've lost some interest in journaling, you certainly haven't lost your writing skills! Lovely, introspective work.

I never kept a journal. I do sometimes write a little essay/minijournal when something profound happens in my life (late-term miscarriage, etc.) and I kept a running list of my son's milestones for a while, but I wish I had written more along the way. There are so many memories that are fragmented in my mind, and a written record of the events, the emotions, even the weather, would go a long way to lifting the fog from those precious moments.