Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Dream in Ink

What is the world coming to? First I steal my own posts; now I'm stealing back my comments. But iHanna had an thought-provoking post on journal-keeping, and I wrote a long comment, and I have the pictures to go with it already, and voila! A blog post!


This is a composite photo of the shelf on which I kept my journals before the renovations. Now, unfortunately, I've had to pack them away to make room for art supplies, but someday I hope to bring them out again. They are my life, literally, on paper, and therefore, deserve a little place of honor, I think.

I’ve kept a journal since I was seven -- the first one was a Nancy Drew diary complete with lock and about three one-sentence entries. (One of those entries is about going to see Return of the Jedi with my dad. I was very excited. I wrote two sentences.). You can see that journal on the right, the thick ivory-ish book seventh down in the stack. I never throw my journals away. My biographers might need them. Or the great-grandchildren, anyway.

I've had tiny journals and huge journals (see the one on the far left?), fuzzy journals and leather journals, spiral bound and other-bound. Most of the journals from my teenage years are pink. The fourth (black with white polka dots) and seventh (blue shiny) journals from the left are the two I kept as an exchange student in Germany. That's when I started buying journals with cool designs and interesting textures. That's about when I started calling them journals instead of diaries, too. In college, I bought the funkiest journals I could find. On my road trip in 2002, I stopped in Oxford, Mississippi and bought a plain red journal with a magnetic closure, at Square Books. I think it cost $12. I filled that journal in four weeks. And I liked that journal so much that I detoured through Oxford again on the way back to the East Coast so I could go buy another one. I'm not kidding. In Philadelphia, I started looking for journals I could keep in my purse, journals that could take a lot of abuse. That's how I eventually started using Moleskines (well, okay, so, I read that Neil Gaiman uses them and that prompted me to try one). Moleskines, as journals go, are almost boring, but oh-so-sturdy and practical, and there is also something indefinably magical about them, which may be why they have such loyal fans. They feel like a writer's journal. As opposed to what, I don't know. Because they feel like artist's journals, too.

I am not sure I can even articulate what keeping a journal means to me, or how it's changed me, because it’s been such an integral part of my life. But I can tell you that when I don’t write in a journal regularly (and I’ve occasionally gone up to six months), I start to feel quite fragmented. I try hard to write morning pages, although often, it's only morning in Hawaii by the time I get around to it. I understand my own feelings better if I write them down. In fact, I often don't even know how I feel about things until I write in my journal. Writing is how I process my life, in the way they say dreaming is our mind's way of processing. My journals are dreamlike -- they ramble, they float, they can be surreal, and often, they probably would make no sense to anyone but me. But I don't know. I don't let anyone read my journals. If I did, I wouldn't write the way I do and they wouldn't work anymore.

Journal - Why

See, my minute-to-minute thoughts are very analytical, very curious, very problem-solving, and rarely directed inward. I’m a textbook INTJ, if that helps explain. I'm one of those people who’s constantly asking “Why?” and "How?" and "What?" like a little child… why is the sky blue… why is the bridge built like that... what is electricity (I made my husband explain that one in great detail)... how does the economy work... I usually have three or four tracks of thought going at the same time, most of which have nothing to do with me or my life. (Which explains the vacant stare so often seen on my face. I'm probably thinking about agriculture in Antarctica.)

My journal writing, on the other hand, is almost pure emotion. I do sometimes actually use them to keep track the events that have happened in my life...

Journal - Dad 2

... or in the world around me...

Journal - Charlie Brown

....or just as catch-all scrapbooks, when I didn't have the time or interest in keeping up a big scrapbook...

Journal - Tickets 1

Journal - Mattress

Journal - Cover 2

... or even approximate Latin translations of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." But they are usually, long, rambling explorations of my feelings, sometimes venting, sometimes exulting, sometimes pondering. Because I already know what happened, you see. So my journal is where I get in touch with myself. Sounds so cliched, but it's what I do. In fact, the emotions in the words are often so intense that, ten years later, I can step right back into events I forgot ever happened.

So you see what keeping a journal means to me. My journals are my life.

(Incidentally, I know these photos are all from my college journals, and I have no idea why that's all I shot, but like I said, the rest are in the attic now, so that's all I've got except for these.)


mushroommeadows said...

Oh my goodness, that is so fascinating. I wish was was disciplined enough to keep a journal. Wow.

Mountain Dweller said...

You must be very self-disciplined to have kept so many journals! I have often tried but usually give up after a couple of months.

CaBaCuRl said...

Hi RadioGirl,reading your blogs help makes the idea of journalling clearer. Also read IHanna too...did you gain more confidence as you went on, or were you pretty confident when you started?

carolyn said...

I think this is wonderful and really wish I had the kind of discipline to do something similar.

paintandink said...

NOTE: I'm editing this comment because, well, yeah, I wrote that my writing has become "more stronger." Clearly.


You are all so kind... I wish I could claim credit for being self-disciplined, but I'm really not.

I was an only child until I was 13, when my brother was born, and my family moved around a LOT. Add to that the fact that I was a very, very shy kid, and super nerdy. I didn't have a lot of friends to talk to, and the friends I did have were more go-climb-trees-or-go-roller-skating types of friends, not talky friends. I didn't confide in them, even to tell them which boys I liked :)

So my journals have long been where I've gone to vent. My journals let me whine all I want, and then I move on. And sometimes, when I'm so so excited, that I can't sit still, I let that out on paper, too, and it makes me calmer.

So no self-discipline; it's more of a necessary habit for me, I suppose. Like brushing my teeth or reading.


Thank you, mushroommeadows!

Mountain Dweller, I wish I could tell you my secret but I don't really have one. Maybe it's because I don't keep real scrapbooks, and I want to prove to myself that I have actually done something with my life, so I write things down. There's a guy somewhere who writes something in his journal every FIVE minutes. That's crazy to me! Where does he find the time to live?

Caba, I can't say I have confidence, really, because I don't let anyone read them, and when I do post a spread from my journals, it almost never has my own writing on it! But my writing has become more stronger over the years. I am sure that any writing skill I have can be linked directly back to those journals.

6/24/2007 4:17 PM


Thank you, Carolyn. That's how I feel about your garden!

Merisi said...

Thank you for your kind comment on my blog!
It took me years, til I finally started using Moleskines, to get my thoughts into journals instead of paper napkins, receipt, etc., which got lost easily. I have never written a day to day journal, but every now and then I feel the need to jot down some great thought that crosses my mind (*yep*), or turn of phrase I heard or read somewhere or little scenes I observe. I may never get back to read it, but the moment I put these phrases to paper, it calms me and I feel better afterwards.
My Vienna blog has become a regular journal, though. Somehow I manage to keep it up. ;-)
See you again soon,
I am looking forward to come back to visit your blog,
I've lived more than two decades in the Washington,DC area, and I love the Chesapeake Bay.

paintandink said...

Thank you for stopping by, Merisi. I love your blog - such beautiful photographs. It's part of my daily trip around the world :)

I jot little things down all over, too. I've started carrying a baby Moleskine around (steno pad style) to write them down. They never quite make it into the journals though...

The Chesapeake Bay is marvelous, is it not? It's what I truly like about this area; even though I don't actually physically see it often, knowing that the bay and the ocean are nearby is comforting.

Catharina said...

Hi RadioGirl! My mom (aka Merisi) sent me a link to this post because it reminded her of me. I have kept journals very similar to yours for years, eventhough I do not have quite as many and I had phases when I wrote more (I think my entire three-year relationship with my first boyfriend is somewhere on those pages) and times when I write less. At the moment I have not been writing much, but I know it would do me good, because there is so much going through my mind lately and, like you, I mainly write down emotions, I need to write to process. During school I also kept very detailed calendars/scrapbooks with more mundane daily stuff that I did that anyone could look at. They always ended up being double or tripple their size by the end of the year. And one of my journals actually has that picture of a drop of water that is in your last picture on its cover :)Alright, I'll stop hogging your comment space now. Great post, you've inspired me to open up my dusty journal again.

Catharina said...

Oh, and when I moved to Austria, I took all of my journals with me in my carry-on luggage. No way was I risking them being lost in suitcases or, even worse, sinking with the ship that transported our container...

paintandink said...

Catharina, I am so glad you stopped by.

I read somewhere that people who keep journals get to live twice as much -- first when something happens and again when they write it down -- and maybe a third time when they re-read it.

I understand exactly about carrying your journals with you. And that's so cool that we have the same picture.

Hanna said...

a bit more developed thouhgs here than in your comment at my site, I'm glad I finally took the time to stop by - and got some collage/journaling pics to look at too! I'm still thining about jurnaling and writing a lot these days, I will have to write about it again in my blog soon.

take care!

violette said...

wonderful post on journaling! IT makes me want to write more....morning pages are wonderful aren't they?

love violette

tongue in cheek said...

What a great adventure you have been on, how wonderful to have created such journals all these years. Since you were seven!!!

paintandink said...

Thank you Corey, Violette and Hanna! I think they're my favorite souvenirs of my life.

Corey, you have such a way of making my look at my life with a more interested eye.

Merisi said...

*family reunion* smile
I had never heard the expression "baby Moleskine", it's so fitting, though, I shall save it in my "Words" baby Moleskine. :-)
So true, what you are writing about living life in a more intense way being able to return so lived moments that one has written down. Even though I have never been a regular journal writer, certain moments that I jotted down I probably would not remembered long after living them, yet having them put on paper, keeps them vivid in my mind. And for that I am grateful, seeing how fast life passes by otherwise.

Merisi said...

Please accept my apologies for forgetting to edit my comments before sending them off. Fast typing has its drawbacks, makes me push the send button way too fast too.