Journal to Memoir: Planting the Seeds for Story
Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler
“The nicest part is being able to write down all my thoughts and feelings, otherwise I might suffocate.” Anne Frank from The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition.
It all started with the pink diary I received for my eleventh birthday. It had a key so I could lock away all my deepest secrets, like what boy I had a crush on in the sixth grade or all the fun I had at the girl scout camping trip even though those half-cooked hot dogs made me yearn for home.
I could write whatever I was thinking and feeling and nobody would ever know.
Now I am writing a memoir and the whole world will know what I am thinking and feeling. I can’t help but ponder how the transition- from guarding my thoughts with a lock and key to sharing my inner and outer story so openly- happened.
For me, it happened through journaling…
I have journaled for years and never realized that all those times I had poured out my feelings onto the pages of my journal , I was planting the seeds for my memoir.
I still have the blue cloth, three-ring notebook that I created for my senior English teacher, Miss Philips back in 1964. The page dividers have pictures depicting the sections: hopes, beliefs, thoughts, ideas with varied colored plastic tabs where the white labels were inserted.
At the time, it seemed like a silly project. What did Miss Philips know? I can still see her, pencil-thin frame, always dressed in some dark-colored–grey, navy blue or black–dowdy dress or suit. Standing so straight by her desk, she never smiled or wore makeup. Her brown hair was pulled back in a tight bun and her wire-rimmed glasses dangled at the end of her nose.
What in the world would I ever do with that silly notebook?
I packed the journal when I went to nursing school and every once in a while, I’d pull it out to glance through the sections. Sometimes, I’d even jot a few thoughts down. For the most part, it lay dormant.
But, as I began my career and started out on my path to contribute to society as an adult, the pages started beckoning me.
It turned out that I did plenty with Miss Philips’s notebook and if I had the chance, I would thank her for the gift of that handmade journal which provided me with a framework to fill in my life story. What started out as an assumption in my adolescent mind that my out-of-touch teacher was wasting my time became a slowly evolving admiration for a teacher who made a lasting difference in my life…
She planted a seed that has bloomed over and over again as I have worked my way through my life challenges.
Without realizing it at the time, I was planting the seeds for my life story.
I have journaled through the heartaches of relationship failures, the searing pain of divorce, the loneliness and exhaustion of being a single parent, the terror of dealing with an alcoholic son, the heart wrenching losses of my maternal grandmother, Nan and my best friend, Judy, my own diagnosis of cancer and the illness and death of my beloved father.
The seed journal has spawned many spiral notebooks and decorative journals to accommodate my evolving thoughts and feelings; to capture my moments of need, longing, passion, creativity, my life…the moments that will matter in my memoir.
The journal tells its own story.
*The pages sit blank and patient just waiting to receive my words. As the words fall on the page, the emotions get sorted out. There is something about labeling a feeling that helps to put it into perspective.
*The feelings that grip and gouge on the inside take on a different shape on the outside.
*Knowledge is power and when one becomes clear with one’s own feelings, there is a sense of empowerment.
*When I journaled my way through my father’s 11-day illness and death, I found clarity and solace in my own words. In sharing my deepest, heartfelt grief, I received support and love in return.
Journaling has become my pathway to healing and hope and has helped me to recall, relive and reflect upon the moments and times of my life that will make up my memoir.
Thank you Miss Philips for helping me plant the seeds that have yielded a garden of stories for my memoir.
Here are a few journaling resources I recommend:
Amber Lea Starfire, writer and journaling mentor offers journaling prompts and writing tips through her Writing Through Life website, “helping you find meaning in life through the act of writing.
Kay Adams, a pioneer of journal therapy and author of Journal to Self hosts a radio show, Journaling for a Better Life.
Dawn Herring of JournalWriter Freelance and author of The Birthday Wall: Creating a Collage to Celebrate Your Child, hosts a weekly Twitter chat at #JournalChat where she features topics from journal writers. Thursdays 2:00 PM PST.
Julie Cameron, award-winning poet, playwright, filmmaker and author of thirty books, is best known for her work on creativity. One of her books, The Artist’s Way helped spawn a” movement that has enabled millions to achieve their creative dreams”
On February 23,2013,I will be co-facilitating a workshop in Exton,Pa, Journaling: A Voyage of Self-Discovery ,with Susan Weidener of The Women’s Writing Circle. If you are in the Philadelphia area, we’d love to have you join us.
How about you? Do you journal? If so, has it helped you find your story? I’d love to hear from you.
Please share your comments below~
Announcement: Congratulations to Debra Marrs. Your name was selected in a random drawing of commenters to receive Pamela Richards’ memoir, Singing from Silence!
Next Week: Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Memoir Author Andrea Lewis will discuss “Writing My Memoir Helped Me Find True Love.” She will give away a copy of her memoir, Dramaville: It’s not a Place; It’s a State of Mind to a random commenter.