"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Sunday, March 4, 2012

From a Writer's Notebook: Personal Histories

Yesterday my dad brought home this little booklet from the Texas State Historical Association Conference, and it got me thinking. First I thought about my own history- all the big events: trips, awards, deaths, births, and the little things: the way the light streams through our sunroom window every morning, the rich flavor of the Chai Tea lattes at my favorite coffee shop, all the times my stomach hurt from laughing so much. Over the years I've tried to record both kind of events. I have two journals that chronicle my life (sporadically) since the 6th grade. And while my journal writing has decreased significantly, especially once high school started, at least I have something, which more than a lot of people can say. 

A journal is a good thing for a writer to have. Our first assignment in our Creative Writing class this year was to write a personal essay. Our teacher said it was because we had to know how to tell a story from our own life before we could tell someone else's. I think this holds especially true in today's world, where everyone expects instant gratification, and some new writers think they can jump into a character's fictional world before taking a long look at their own. Journaling allows us to go back to our best and worst moments, and makes us wonder how we could have been so worried about something that was really pretty small in the grand scheme of things. All of this puts our earlier thoughts and actions into perspective, and allows us to pull better ideas from our own lives.

Despite popular belief, I think that blogging is not the same as journaling. A blog is sort of like a journal, but unless it's extremely personal (in which case maybe you should reconsider posting it on the internet), it doesn't quite compare to holding a journal in your hands and seeing pages filled with your handwriting. Maybe that's just me being old fashioned. As much as I love blogging, I also long for the feel paper under my pen. So I write journal entries and letters to pen pals and occasionally type on typewriters. There is something wonderfully tactile about it that a blank screen just can't compete with. 

So, I encourage you to go out and find a journal (Yay! Notebook shopping!) and take a few minutes to write something about your day. It could be what you had for breakfast this morning. It could be a description of your best friend. It could be the nagging thing at the back of your mind thats been worrying you for weeks. Whatever it is, write it down. It may seem trivial now, even boring. But years from now, when you are reading over your old entries, it will feel like a life well lived.

ps. I'm not sure if this really fits into the "From a Writer's Notebook" category, but it seems to me as good a place to start as any. More from this series to come!

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