I began writing a journal twenty-six years ago, in December 1985. Yesterday, I went to the garage to retrieve the boxes in which seven three-ring binders of my journals are stored. I halued the boxes into the house, unpacked the binders, and arranged them chronologically on the kitchen counter.
For a number of years, I journaled in 8-1/2 by 11-inch spiral notebooks. When I filled a notebook, I removed the spiral binding and put the pages into a loose leaf binder. After a year or two of dismantling spiral bound notebooks, I discovered it was easier to write on loose leaf binder paper and put the pages into a binder. What a concept! In 1992, I found a Blueline A9 composition book that I have used since. In addition to the binders and composition books, I have four years of “Morning Pages,” a daily writing technique I learned from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way.
Journal writing led to an interest in other types of writing. In 1988, I came across Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones, that introduced me to writing as a way to “penetrate [my] life and become sane.” Natalie gave me permission to write the “worst junk in the world” and to feel okay about it; she introduced me to “writing practice.” The basic unit of writing practice is a timed exercise, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, an hour, whatever works. The rules of writing practice are simple:
- Keep your hand moving.
- Don’t cross out.
- Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar.
- Lose control.
- Don’t think. Don’t get logical.
- Go for the jugular.
I keep a list of ideas for writing. Some writing describes memories and events I may want to add to my memoir. Other writing captures particular ideas or feelings I may or may not use in one of three novels I have begun or in the non-fiction book about a gay man and the extraordinary relationship he shares with his ex-wife and his family.
Though keeping a journal is a habit, there are days when I skip making an entry.
Why do I write? I found an answer to that question in the form of a poem in a journal entry from July 17, 1988:
Writing makes visible my
Peels away the layers of armor that separate me
Allows me to be seen
as I am
Reveals me to myself
to those around me
Writing is salvation