What does a journal look like? When I first started writing, I had this grand notion that it should be something literary and lovely. Something my heirs’ heirs would cherish. Or at least make a fistful of money from.
I learned that approaching a journal that way was handing myself a one-way ticket to writer’s block. I mean, it’s a journal for Pete’s sake. It’s supposed to be sloppy, with doodles and crossed out things that you didn’t mean to write. A petrie dish filled with ideas and imagination and left to stew until something develops. Right?
Unless you’re like me. I can keep a journal like that going for awhile. And sometimes I even look forward to doing it. But after the shiny wears off, I have a hard time staying motivated. I’m just writing it for me, after all. Who’s going to care if I stop?
Which is why I am currently keeping a journal with a different purpose. What purpose? I’m documenting my son’s teenage years. It does three things.
1. It gives me a reason to write for myself on a regular basis while keeping me motivated.
2. It’s all practice and no pressure.
3. It feeds the idea machine.
When I go back and reread entries in this journal, I find the same things happen as when I read my organic ones. I find snippets of dialogue begging to be spoken by characters I haven’t invented yet, essays in the making, and situations begging to become short stories. Like this one:
May 31, 2005
This past Friday, I walked in and found you bent over the kitchen counter with the top of your head nearly touching the bottom of the kitchen sink. At first, I thought you were sick or hurt and I responded by asking you “are you okay?”. You made a small murmur of a response that sent my nerves straight to red alert and had all the warning sirens sounding in my head. I mean, most people do not try to stand on their heads in the kitchen sink, and almost never if there is no money involved.
(Seriously, how many questions are you asking right now? Don’t you want to know how that particular story turns out?)
This weekend’s assignment is to begin a journal for someone other than yourself. A brother, a parent, a child, or even a pet. Capture small moments. Add to it daily, even if it’s just a sentence or two. Have fun. Most importantly, keep writing.