I tried off and on to keep a journal for years before I finally started one that I was able to keep going. My original journal concept was basically a diary. I think that’s why it didn’t work. What could I say about my day to day life? I worked; I drank beer; I went to school, or later taught school. Certainly, there were personal relationships I could have recorded. But mostly I was too busy living those relationships to write a whole lot about them.
It wasn’t until August, 1993 that I started a journal that took. It began out of a wish to document my commitment to writing. Several times I’d made statements that I would work on some writing related task every day. But I often fell well short of that goal. I started a journal to record specifically what I was doing in writing each day, and I reread it each week so I could see those days I hadn’t done what I promised to do. Essentially, it was a way to guilt myself into doing something writing related each day.
The first couple of years consisted largely of just these kinds of entries. Here’s a typical example from 1993:
August 4. Did about 6 and a half hours on the non-fiction guidebook, editing, rewriting, printing, doing the index, etc. Did about a half hour on fiction, on "Lookadder." Wrote well.
Occasionally, I added a note about something I was reading:
August 9--Monday. Did about 2 and a half hours. Made good progress on Mythules 1. Did weak work on "Wanting the Mouth of a Lover." Read a powerful story by Dean Koontz called "Twilight of the Dawn."
Only the biggest of non-writing events made it into the journal:
August 10. Did about 1 hour, 2 paragraphs on "Wanting the Mouth of a Lover." Not much progress. Josh choked on a grape in the evening. He threw it up and caught it in his mouth, and it got lodged in his throat. He had coughed it up again before either Mary or I reached him, but it scared him. It sacred us too. Shook me up.
Even on my birthday, I wrote:
October 14. My birthday. Did a little work on "Cold in the Light."
And when I could only do school work, I noted that:
October 15. No writing. Graded tests.
And when I was being lazy, I didn’t let myself escape without some guilting.
May 20. No work today. I'm being lazy.
Over time, I found myself adding more and more non-writing information. My entries these days tend to be a lot longer, although I still record everything writing related that I do. This past ten days, for various reasons, I’ve actually been going back and reading my older journal entries. It’s been a bit of a discovery process. I’ll talk about that in a second post.