I have attempted to keep a journal half a dozen times, starting with a lock and key Scooby Doo diary I got from my grandmother in fourth grade. I still have it, and the first five pages contain an adorable account of how excited I was to write in it. But the rest of its pages are empty. There were other tries over the years, each one following suit – a hyper focused beginning fizzling out after a few days.
Several years ago, I enjoyed a group study of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. A classic with a steadfast following, it’s filled with invaluable guidance for anyone trying to live the creative life. One of the author’s tasks for the reader is a morning journal. Cameron insists that this activity is critical to clear and open the mind, so I was eager to comply.Reading over what I had written in stream of consciousness, I didn’t find anything but gibberish. Also, I was not comfortable leaving a record of my random thoughts around for anyone to read. According to Cameron, this was because I was thinking too much, or struggling against my unbalanced ego. And not wanting to do it was an indicator that I really needed to do it. So I kept at it, for three months, before throwing in the towel. It just didn’t seem like a worthwhile activity for me, and I didn’t see any shifts occurring.
David Sedaris has kept a daily journal for over thirty years, filling 130 volumes. They contain the material for his brilliant, hilarious short stories. Virginia Woolf and Henry David Thoreau were also heavy journal writers, among many others. There must be something to it, right?
I resolved to give it another try. This time was going to be different. Or so I thought. Once again, I found myself struggling to see the value in this activity, asking myself why I keep trying something that doesn’t seem to suit me. I have now decided to ignore this directive. I won’t be attempting it again. I use the note app on my phone to record ideas, and that seems to suffice. This blog is the closest thing I will get to keeping a journal.
It’s important to have some flexibility with the advice we receive from others who have successfully done what we are attempting to do. Try it on for size, see how it fits. If it doesn’t fit, alter it, or discard it completely. Methods for getting our work done vary as much as the work itself. Someone else’s model may inspire us, but we don’t have to follow their lead all the way down the road.
Carolyn and Leah