Monday, March 25, 2013

Journaling for Writers & This Colorado Life


Today is the final post for the Colorado Book Month meme, This Colorado Life. We're asked to talk about our favorite (or least favorite) thing about living here.

I'm going to keep this brief, because I think my favorite things are pretty well known. I love the beauty and the outdoors. I grew up in places that were lush and green, and those are two things Colorado isn't. Sometimes I miss that, but the rugged beauty of Colorado is what truly calls to me  now. Maybe it's not the greenest place, but it is beautiful in its own way. It's wild, it's free, it's vibrant. It's the west in its purest form. We have yucca, tumbleweed, cacti, aspens, pine trees, mountain lakes, the mountains. We have wildlife in our front yards. Not just rabbits and birds and squirrels, but deer, elk, coyotes, bears, foxes, mountain lions, bobcats. For a girl who covets the wilderness and the wild, this is the best home I could possibly find.

Now, let's talk about journals for writers!

I've heard repeatedly that authors should keep journals, but I've always seen it explained in the sense that writing in a journal can trigger writing something else or warm up the writing muscle. Recently, I was reminded of another reason for a writer to journal.

Everything in our lives is fodder for our writing, but details get fuzzy after awhile. For instance, I may or may not have mentioned before that my son was conceived via in-vitro fertilization after 5 years of infertility and various medical treatments. I've long regretted that I didn't journal the entire process--the infertility, the surgeries, the hormone treatments, the in-vitro process, and the aftermath. My story is one my doctor tells all of her patients dealing with infertility, because after all of that I was able to conceive my daughter naturally (one scant month before we were due to begin the IVF process again, after a year of trying). Yet I'm not sure I could accurately tell the story anymore. Yes, I was there and I remember it well (it's not an overly pleasant experience, nor were the treatments I was undergoing, and much of it will be stuck in my mind forever), but I don't have the exact time frames, the minor details, the names of each medication or the dosages I had to take. I didn't document the emotional ups and downs. I remember the day I found out I had a zero percent chance of natural conception, our first meeting with the fertility specialist, the hope. I remember the fear, the panic, the depression. I remember the moment I got that phone call telling me I was pregnant, the sound of the doctor's voice, the tears. But how many injections did I have to give myself the first two weeks? The last two weeks? Exactly how long did I have to wait for the results? How often did I have to go in throughout the process (it was A LOT, but exactly how much?)

Not only that, but I imagine journaling would have helped my mental well-being through it all. It's hard to believe your body is failing you, to feel like a failure in something that comes so naturally to others. You feel like less of a woman when you can't get pregnant, like there is something terribly wrong with you. I wish I'd thought to keep a journal. I'd love to be able to read back through it, to experience it again, but this time from a distance.

I'm entering a new battle now, not me personally, but a loved one, and I was reminded during a conversation with another writer that this is something I might want to journal. Just as with writing, and what I learn as I go, I have a desire to share the things I've learned with others who might come after me. I'd like to write about IVF for those about to go through it, because I could hardly find any information on it that wasn't utterly terrifying, and all that I did find was somewhat vague. Given, it's been about a decade now, and there's a lot of information out there about everything, information that wasn't available then. But I'd like to share my story, and hopefully help someone else. The same is true for the current battle, and I'm glad I was reminded of it in time to try to get down the last few months in a journal. Still, that is time that won't be fresh, where important details may be lost, all because I didn't think to journal it in the beginning.

We writers were born to share. To share stories, whether they belong to us or to someone else. To share lives, experiences, lessons. So why not record the things that happen to us so we can do so with accuracy, with the heart of the original situation?

Do you journal? Have you ever? Are there things you regret not having recorded or journaled?

May you find your Muse.

22 comments:

  1. I don't keep a journal. (Does blogging count though?) I have used one when traveling though, to keep track of what I saw each day.

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  2. I do journal - especially when I'm away, and occasionally when I'm home. It can be interesting to look back.

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  3. Alex beat me to it. I don't need to keep a journal. That's why I blog. I share what's going on in my life, I write almost daily, and it definitely warms up those "writing muscles." I could blog, or I could journal, but I don't think I could do both. Not while attempting to simultaneously write novels, anyhow.

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  4. I used to journal when I was younger and regret a little not keeping up with it. My travel journals are pretty extensive, though. It's the day-to-day life that's missing.

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  5. Journaling is a powerful tool, Shannon--one I used with clients in my counseling days all the time. There's definitely something that is 'let go of' when you have to go through the process of articulating your emotions and thoughts. (Partially what draws me to writing fiction, I think.)

    And writing is writing, just like reading is reading. It's exercise for our brains and helps build our craft. So even if your journaling isn't about fiction (and that's what you want to write), I think it's still great practice. :)

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  6. So true! I do treasure every word my son wrote to me and in the journals he kept off and on, something I taught him to do. Now, when I want to feel him next to me again, I read a page or two and relive precious memories.

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  7. I'm a journal keeper. I've kept them through meeting husband, divorce, health worries of kids, etc. In tough times, I write it down, a survival tactic I had to use when no family or close friends were around to confide in.

    Travel journals are a must (for me) as I always plan to write about the places afterwards. They are great for reference and to jog the memory.

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  8. That's funny becasue I've always seen Colorado as a green place (compared to Utah anyway) maybe not in a lush way, but there are more trees than a lot of western states (excluding the coast) Anyway I love Colorado, maybe I'll live there someday, but not today!

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  9. I have journaled, but it's been a long time. College, actually. It's one of those things that, theoretically, I would like to do, but I have enough to do that I'm never caught up, as it is; I can't add journaling to that.

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  10. Sometimes I wish I'd written about my best days :)

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  11. I journaled for about 3 or 4 years. It was an interesting experience - helped me get to know nyself a little better. And to get back to writing. :)

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  12. I used to keep a journal, but I eventually stopped. I'm not even sure where it is now. I write a lot on my blog, about personal things and my emotions, but I also leave so much out that I'm not really willing to share with the world. I think that I should start journaling again.

    Also, I've never been to Colorado but I have a layover there in a few weeks. Too bad I won't be able to leave the airport to explore.

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  13. Like others have mentioned, I've only kept a journal (or diary as we say in the UK) when travelling. Did it as a kid on holiday and an adult going round the world. I guess I always thought my home life wasn't interesting enough! I used to think I would be a travel journalist. But with certain situations, like those you mentioned, I can see it would be something quite cathartic and a resource to benefit others. Hope things are OK.

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  14. And through your words resonates your life experiences, your passion, the inspiration you find from your love of the great outdoors.

    Neither my human or I keep a journal as such. We both scribble down notes and go from there.

    And share is what writers do. I write directly to the person or animal who reads my stories. I never write to an audience. I believe in the intimacy of such a writing style.

    Be well, Shannon.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny :)

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  15. And through your words resonates your life experiences, your passion, the inspiration you find from your love of the great outdoors.

    Neither my human or I keep a journal as such. We both scribble down notes and go from there.

    And share is what writers do. I write directly to the person or animal who reads my stories. I never write to an audience. I believe in the intimacy of such a writing style.

    Be well, Shannon.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny :)

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  16. Love the Colorado post! I sometimes wish for a greener area. And now there are going to be water restrictions where we can only water the yard twice a week. Most people are happy about that. But I find peace and joy in my yard. I love to garden and be outside. Sigh!

    Angie

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  17. I regularly journaled for almost 20 years, and stupidly stopped because I was putting my crazy, dysfunctional relationship before everything. I'm trying to get back into the habit now. I even named my journals. The first one was unnamed, then there was Helena, and then the rest all took their names from songs—Cecilia, Rita, Prudence, Rael, Athena, Emily, Zelda, Eloise. I never got around to naming the journal in progress that still has a lot of empty pages. I was thinking maybe Mary or Magnolia.

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  18. Hmm? I've never given keeping a journal much thought, but now that you mention it, it does sound like something I should have been doing all along. I was there for every step of the way for my children's upbringing but many of those details seem to have grown fuzzy on me now that they are 18 and 15. When I wanted to write about a young child recently, I found I had to actually do that research. *slaps head*

    -Jimmy

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  19. I completely agree with your favorites about living in CO. I LOVE that we have all kinds of wildlife, and all the seasons! Thanks for participating in CO Book Month!

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  20. I journalled all through my twenties, and could just about repear what Carrie-Anne said in her comment but each of my volumes has a boys name :) Going through facebook status updates just isn't the same is picking up a hand writted journal. I've just started blogging, and trust it's a step in the right direction, and just this morning I was thinking about pulling out the perfect sized journal that I started a decade or so ago. I see your post as confirmation and a reminder, to let my intution guide me. Thanks

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  21. My blog is the closest thing to a journal for me. I wish I had during the period first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I still plan to write about it, and luckily some technical/medical info should be on file for me to access.

    As for what I was feeling specifically at the time? It won't be quite the same if channeling it now after so many years.

    I've always felt writing holds very therapeutic potential for a wide variety of experiences. I think more, including myself, should explore it more!

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  22. Alex, I'm willing to bet blogging fits just fine.

    Marcy, I don't know why I'm so bad about journaling when I love to go back and read it later on.

    Bryan, true. I'm terrible about journaling, but I feel like I need to get my blog posts out on time, so that helps. I work better with a deadline.

    Dawn, I've got journals from a period of time in high school. I love going back to read those. I get such an insight into my younger self.

    E.J., I agree. I'm wondering what kind of counseling you used to do? I know that I was encouraged to journal while dealing with post-partum depression.

    Rosaria, it warms my heart that you have those journals to go through.

    D.G., wow, you have quite a few experiences to relive through journaling. I need to take up journaling on trips. I'd like to do some travel writing, and journaling the trip would help with that.

    J.A., you'll have to let me know if you still feel the same when you come out. I've been to Utah, and I guess I would agree that it is greener here. I know when I rode a bus home from Oregon I went through drier areas before arriving home.

    Andrew, I so know how you feel. In this instance I need to make an exception, YET I have yet to start that darned journal!

    Ice Girl, that's a powerful statement. And a good reminder. I'd like to be able to read about the good along with the bad.

    Adriana, why did you stop?

    Rachel, aw, that IS too bad! It really is lovely here. Like you, I share myself, but leave plenty secret, as far as my blog.

    Nick, did you ever end up doing any travel writing? And thank you.

    Penny and Gary, you always have such a way with words.

    Angie, we are thinking of rigging up a water collection dealy and having a drip hose in the garden. I have two raised bed gardens, and I love my fresh veggies! I'm sad that things are bound to get drier and browner, but I remember this happening in...2004ish? I know that it's cyclical and we'll come back out, or I hope anyway. I'm just afraid of the increased fire risk with less watering. Did they consider that??

    Carrie-Anne, I named one of my journals way back when, too. I don't remember what her name was, but I started every entry like a letter.

    Jimmy, definitely! I know that there are already things I've forgotten about my kids' upbringing, or things that are already fuzzy, yet they are only 5 and 8. The rigors of life cloud things over sometimes.

    Jen, a friend of mine visited from out of state and was shocked at the deer in the yard, and just the sheer amount of wildlife around. People are used to that in the boonies, but we have it in the 'burbs.

    Ida, how wonderful! I hope you pulled out your journal and began again.

    Jak, I'm glad (yet not glad, due to the situation) that you understand what I'm saying. I almost feel like a poser trying to write about IVF now, because I'm afraid I'll remember something wrong and be called on it.

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