I have journaled for most of my life. Not in the sense of a diary, which would have created a chronological history, rather I have simply recorded my thoughts with no specific goal in mind. My journals are handwritten. Some are written on blank sheets; others on pages of “empty books.” The handwriting might be indecipherable to anyone who has not been a public-school teacher, especially on the pages written in the middle of a sleepless night. Despite the visual deficiency, the act of journaling has served me well. I have journaled to help myself figure out what I am doing, thinking about, or struggling with in my life. I have journaled to work through decisions, solve relational issues, or manage my emotions. I have detailed my thoughts to sustain myself through multiple life transitions. I journaled to calm myself the night my daughter was giving birth. While she and her husband were at the hospital, I was in bed with a terrible flu and bronchitis. I recorded my frustration with not being there, not being able to help or hold the new baby. I felt quarantined. My grandson was born at 5:55 AM. I wasn’t well enough to visit him until he was three weeks old.
Since my teenage years, I have recorded significant dreams. Some are incredibly kinesthetic, for example, a recurring dream that I am flying low (like Wonder Woman) over the French countryside. Others pulse with technicolor realism, such as my dream of a brown baby elephant running toward me in the opposite lane of a boulevard bordered with plane trees. One nightmare in my 30’s, about someone committing a murder, scared me out of my wits. Other dreams, which resemble the theatre of the absurd, could morph into publishable Becket-style literary works.
On my nightstand, I keep several dream dictionaries. When I have a dream that makes my hair stand on end or one that makes me laugh, I awake asking myself the question, “What on earth was that about?” I look up the main images of the dream in my reference books to see if I can figure out their meaning. This practice has taught me much about symbols’ origin in powerful emotions. This dream-related personal research has furthered my understanding of human consciousness writ large. It has also refined my ability to analyze connections between my own reality and potential topics for fiction.
Journaling for Self-Knowledge
In an earlier blog, I stated that I want to make my known known. In my efforts to understand life, the logs have served as probes to reach into the depths of myself. They have unveiled my deepest desires. Writing to figure out what I am struggling with has made me more honest with myself. Recording the extremes of my emotions has forced me to face my own limits. Articulating my transitions on paper has helped me to see how my experiences relate to the lives of characters in stories I have read. Now as I work on my fictional works, I attempt to apply my insights to the creation of my imaginary worlds. Journaling has given me problem-solving skills for both life and writing.
Update on my goal setting:
- Since February 7th, I have continued to make progress on a novel. I have persisted in my research. The most personally satisfying research article I read this month said that accomplishing one’s goals increases one’s endorphins. This explains why checking accomplishments off my list delights me.
- Since my last blog, I have written at least one page per day. This daily practice is helping me to develop my characters’ personality traits through their dialog. My knowledge of symbols and history is proving to be valuable as I set the stage for a particular scene. My total page count currently stands at 63, while my goal for today was 59 pages.
- Talking to my writing colleagues at our monthly meetings has given me the courage to list this blog with the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. It has also encouraged me to invite my group to join the RMFW and to turn in a proposal for the RMFW Gold Conference 2018.