Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New Journaling

Fuck You and Your Blog Journal

Thisillustrator/designer Ray Fenwick's darling journalmy daughter brought to my attention while perusing vintage cards and local artwork at an East Side gift shop. Oh. My! I said, and quickly stole the book from her purple-painted fingertips. The book is nothing more than near blank peachy pages, which is precisely the sort of instrument in which I used to journal (though my daily entries were not punctuated by profanitythe Catholic lexicon wouldn't permit, the backside of the wooden spoon deterred), back in another time when longhand was not a lost art. Back when I eagerly opened my fabric bound diary and looked squarely at the Date line, recording the time of arrival, and quickly, with little regard or fear, dusting the soot-swathed nooks of my psychic pipes.

This was where the deconstruction of each day began and ended. It's where I dismantled the events, the words, the thoughts and attempted to reassemble the scattered collection with lambent reflection. At some point during my college years, the journal was abandoned, the pipes left accumulating wending years of daily-minutiae-dust with little thought to the passing days. They came. They went. They happened. Without so much as a scratch of hand-forged verbosity.

I had stopped paying attention. I had stopped taking notes.

For a good while.

But desires, emotions and observations stockpile over time. And begin to restrict flow. Words smoldered for yearsyearsan incomplete combustion, neither enough heat nor light to stoke the fire, muck-lined tin smothering invention. The pipes needed to be swept. Cleaned. Scraped.

I don't remember when that primal urge to scratch black manganese stories on a slab returned to me, but thank goodness several years ago it did. It came rushing back, wafting at me like a great big smoke signal. Convert thoughts to printed words, it puffed, restore those pipes to good working order...

Muscle memory doesn't serve well for longhand journaling—I can barely read my own scrawl. So this blog, my techno-journal, is where it happens now. Not all of it. But some of it. And you can tell me to go Fuck Off, but I'm most likely going to hang in here, scraping away, pulling things apart and reconnecting a while longer. 

Deconstruct and reassemble
—now that really lights my fire.

Old Typewriter - Photo by Todd McLellan,
from his Disassemby series

I do like Fenwick's witty little journal, though. Maybe I'll get it for bedside epiphanies. 


  1. i used to keep notebooks of random thoughts, drawings, and stories, which i always seemed to enjoy. though, much like with you it kind of died off during the 20s and into the 30s. the blogging is a good way to get some of that back i think. i'm liking it anyway i think. and you seem to be doing a beautiful job with it! i agree about the longhand writing, it hurts my hand when i have to do it too long.
    (love the journal cover, btw)

  2. Glad you chose to stick around. I find notebooks of all shapes and sizes indispensable, but I'm also a paper addict. Balance between old and new technology turned out to work best for me.

    Like his disassembly series.

  3. ah the days of journals. Never worked for me. Great thought provoking post, Jayne.

  4. Nice write up. I too had an on again off again affair with my journal. Years of repressing words bubbling up your finger tips are good for no one, I lived and learned that one. Good news is they stop bubbling once I tried to sit down and write a serious piece. Go figure! :)

  5. I think journaling is therapeutic. It is useful to be able to work out conflicts in a safe way and to later evaluate your progress in life by reading through the old entries.

  6. Ah. Yes. The hand-written journal. I've got one. I used to buy one for each of the kids and put it in their Christmas stockings. To my surprise, they used them. All I could thing was "yippee!"
    Most of them are sealed in a box or an envelope alond with knick knacks and mementos highlighting that chapter of my life.

  7. In this, I have completely caved to technology. I can read my own typing. The handwriting not so much.
    I guess I'll stick around with you. :)

  8. "Convert thoughts to printed words, it puffed, restore those pipes to good working order..." -- looks like you're well on your way.

  9. Thinking back, journaling would have likely been a better outlet than shooting my mouth off.
    Great post.

  10. Part of preparing to move house, for me, is deciding whether I want, yet again, to bring the half-shelf of old journals, kept from 1971 to 1985, with me yet again. Do I want that past? Do I want my kids to know about that past? Is there anyone else who will ever want to know about that past?

    I find it all horribly embarrassing, I'd rather be flayed alive than read it all again, and yet... I still haven't been able to make up my mind to get rid of them.

  11. id- Isn't that journal clever?! I love Fenwick's quirky designs. I think they might just ignite a whole new generation of handwritten blogs w/that journal. I mean, even my daughter has a website. But wouldn't she like that journal!

    Antares- I'm enjoying the blog experience, and the community in which it thrives, but it does add a whole new dimension to noting your thoughts... after all, they're not locked up any more. One must be brave to blog! ;)

    David- My habit now is to use the paper version to write down words I have to look up in the dictionary. And I can fill a journal quickly. ;)

    Shopgirl- Same here. Although, I'm not sure if it's the clatter or rhythmic movement, but typing does seem to help move the process along more quickly than pen and paper. Maybe because the thoughts are literally at my fingertips. ;)

    Laoch- Gosh, I'm not sure how illuminating my diaries are. The utter pettiness of my problems back then... If only I had such issues today!

    Nessa- Aw...see someday you and the kids will open those boxes and be amazed by all the memories. I think chapters should be shelved so they might be dusted off in years to come. That "for posterity" thing does create a space issue, though, doesn't it? ;)

  12. Danger- It's best. Until the computer crashes. Then, I'm in trouble. Must learn to back up. ;)

    Milo- I'd like to think I'm making a little progress. A few words a day. Well, sometimes, more like a week... better than none at all I guess. :)

    Munk- Yes, but maybe not quite as effective. ;)

    Dale- I've been living in my house for nearly 13 years and I still haven't unpacked boxes from the previous house in which I lived. I'll bet you can guess what's in those boxes. Our old thoughts are a hard thing to leave behind.
    And those are good questions to ask. I know I wouldn't want my kids to see my journals until they were much older, and I, gone--so I wouldn't have to answer any questions!

  13. Ahh we walk along the same trail sometimes I think J-Girl. I too have endless diaries, scraps of paper and other detritus in unpacked cases floating around my place.
    Rediscovering some the other day had me laughing and crying at some of the thoughts I had 'scratched in black manganese' over the years.
    Oooh I was an angry, nihilistic young firebrand. I still am in many ways except I have a few more grey hairs.
    That said I did buy a brand new little pocket sized notepad the other day and started to write. The process of doing it in longhand was a cathartic experience in some ways. No delete buttons, no font cares and no waiting for the pc to boot up.
    Anyway enough of me...I really dig this piece. Obviously.

  14. a while back i decided to regain my ability to write longhand. rather than playing solitaire in my office at the cracker factory i'll pick out a favorite song and practice writing out the lyrics. not only does it improve my handwriting, people actually think i'm working when they peek into my office. i've been working on highway 61 for the last few weeks.

  15. Jayne, you always surprise me with your words… Letting them pop up like a Jack in the box, and startle people. When I read your blog I’m never bored…that’s what I love about your writing.
    I unearthed a cache of my old journals about a month ago. There were leather journals, fabric journals, pocket journals, and yellow legal pads full of thoughts from different phases of my life. Most of it was crap, but every now and then I found a gem, and it made me glad that I still had them. I still journal in longhand, but when it’s all said and done, journaling is all about having the right pen. I love a pen that slides along the paper like a stiletto on a wet floor.

  16. Billy- This is exactly why I miss the cracker factory! I would have been happy to share my office with you. Oh, wait, I think I did. ;)

    Leah- That's how I'd sum up my old journals, too--pure crap! But you're right, there are little jewels hidden in the rubble that are perfect for mounting in story. Hmm... so that's the trick--a pen! I'll need a pretty perfect pen to restore my handwriting! ;)

  17. Dan- "An angry, nihilistic young firebrand." Ooooh, I'll bet you've got some mighty impassioned stories in those journals! I think you're going to need more than a pocket notepad for your ventures. Although I can picture you scribbling away at a little seaside cafe--you, hunched over a rounder, words spilling frantically into a 4"x4" tablet. Better keep a stack of napkins nearby! ;)

  18. Jayne, I've never maintained a writing journal, but have had many art journals. When we visited N. Carolina a few weeks ago, I bought a beautiful leather bound journal with blank pages. It was handmade by a local artist. I thought, it's time to start sketching again. Guess what. I haven't opened it since I've been home. Well, this is it! I'm getting that journal out TODAY and I'm going to sketch something. Oh, yes I am. Yes I am.

  19. The composition notebook has become my companion of choice - journal, place for taking notes, scribbling thoughts and ideas, making attempts at poetry. So ordinary, no intimidation like the finer blank books. It is also a place to record gratitude, when the end of a day seems enhanced by finding the good. But blogging, who would have dreamed, pushes me to be more intentional - and, one hopes, clear - about what I record. A sense of wanting to make the words count. :D

  20. For some reason I wrote journals of my life's loves--comedies and tragedies--in poetical form. Everything from Tennysonian epics to haiku. I wish I had preferred prose because I have no idea who or what many of these dim, distant entries refer to now. I do know that I'd like to be reacquainted with some of these characters--either to rekindle passions or knock their blocks off. I still have the long hand muscles in working order. I put on my Jane Austen persona and write epistles to friends--on vellum and with a fountain pen. I'd use a quill but the cats keep eating them.

  21. Lin Ann- Ah! Glad to hear you say that! Nothing like a fresh new journal. Sketch away--I want to see your work!

    Marylinn- Keeping it simple--maybe that's the best strategy. I'd certainly be less intimidated by the composition book, where strikethroughs and doodling are welcome. But the on-line journal does require we push ourselves, organize a bit more, before hitting the orange button. That's why I have so many unpublished posts!

  22. Lord Wellbourne- My, journals in poetic form... Sounds like your journals/poems could easily be published. Perhaps, this way, your characters will find you!
    And I think a fountain pen (I used to often write with one!) is just as romantic as the quill. ;)

  23. I'm wondering if journaling is a female thing, I don't know any guys who did it. I tried as a teen but couldn't read my own writing, and besides, it was depressing. Better to suppress those thoughts.

    Don't know why blogging does not effect me similarly, maybe because I can actually read what I write... or I can delete it all in a click. Donno.

  24. i just came across this and thought of your post here:
    "the act of writing (as opposed to typing) lights up an area of the brain called Broca's region, which facilitates understanding and communication."

  25. Robert- I can tell you that my three brother's never journaled, at least not to my knowledge. But my two sisters did. So, if that's any indication...
    Agree about the blogging. Perhaps we're more likely to steer clear of depressing thoughts/topics in a journal that others will read? I know I'd rather not be a downer on line! (Nor in my real world, too!) ;)

  26. id- Thanks for passing that along. I'm going to look it up, sounds like a good read! ;)