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Journals, notebooks, diaries, and ’blogs (#1251)

Topics/tags: On writing

We have the next meeting of the Rebelsky Family Book Club in a few weeks. In preparation for that meeting, I’m reading Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life by Tara Schuster [1], one of the books we plan to discuss [2]. Early on in the book, Schuster writes about the value of journaling. However, her model of journaling is a bit different than mine, or at least seems different. Hers is a daily word-vomit [of] your thoughts onto three pages of paper. But she doesn’t really mean thoughts. She means emotions. You can tell that by reading the first hint she gives you.

1. Admit the thought or feeling [3] you’re having, no matter how dark, petty, or seemingly insignificant. Permit the feeling or thought to exist even if it’s something as small as An ex reached out to me today and it made me feel uncomfortable thinking about all the what-ifs, or as large as It’s always bothered me that my dad isn’t much of a hugger. I haven’t ever really talked about this, but I always wanted to be held. [4]

She may think those are thoughts, but, to me, they feel much more like feelings. From my perspective, thoughts are things like I wonder how we’ll deal with the increasing divides in our country? Or is that just a question?

I don’t mind that we think of journaling differently. In fact, I found myself wondering whether I’d benefit from a daily emotional dump [5,6]. I may try it someday. Maybe even someday soon.

But it’s another part of the chapter on journaling that caught my attention (or, perhaps, my ire). Let’s see …

4. If you are avoiding journaling because it’s dumb or self-centered or because only broken narcissists keep journals, let me tell you this: Mark Twain kept a journal. Frida Kahlo kept a diary full of illustrations and her thoughts. Charlotte Brontë kept a diary, and Leonardo da Vinci kep around fifty notebooks. Ida B. Wells crusaded for civil rights in America and still found time to keep a diary. Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Susan Sontag—they all kept journals. Do you think you’re above Mark Twain, Frida Kaylo, Charlote Bronté, and Leonardo da Vinci, Ida B. Wells, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Susan Sontag? No? Then get to writing. [7]

Hmmm … Schuster uses three different nouns: journal, diary, and notebook. These days, we might add ’blog, even if most folks don’t use the apostrophe [8]. Are they the same thing? Possibly not, especially if we follow Schuster’s model of journal. Let’s see … How might I classify them?

Journal: A place to record feelings, most typically to help yourself address those feelings.

Diary: A place to record and reflect upon the day’s events.

Notebook: A place to record ideas, both textual and visual.

’blog: An electronic version of one or more of the above.

I won’t defend these definitions. For example, I’ve often used Journal interchangeably with Notebook. And perhaps it’s not right to pigeonhole how people write.

Still, I don’t think it’s appropriate to compare daily emotional vomit to the notebooks of da Vinci or the diaries of Kahlo. Perhaps not even to the ’blog postings of Rebelsky.

Hmmm … I may have to take that last statement back. If I can write publicly about the assorted issues that come to mind, you can also write publicly or privately about your thoughts and feelings. As I’ve said before, you learn by writing. Writing helps you think through issues. Practice writing, even free-form writing, can also help you write better [10].

As I said, I may start journaling in the Schuster sense. I’ll let you know after I’ve done it for a bit. That probably won’t be soon; I have enough trouble finding time to muse.

Postscript: Aren’t you delighted that I didn’t detour into dictionary definitions of the diverse designations for documentation?

[1] No relation to Ivy, at least none that I know of.

[2] We’re also planning to discuss Waybound, the last book in the Cradle series by Will Wright. There’s also a chance we’ll discuss one or more volumes of The Scholomance. I don’t know whether or not we’ve decided. Why are we discussing so many books? Because we used to have fewer opportunities to meet in person than we used to.

[3] Emphasis in the original.

[4] Schuster, Tara (2020). _Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life_. New York, New York: Dial Press. p. 13 (Kindle edition).

[5] I also found myself considering whether my not-daily ’blog posts are a form of emotional dump. They can be, but not in the way the Schuster

[6] Dump is such an interesting word.

[7] Schuster, Tara (2020). _Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life_. New York, New York: Dial Press. p. 27 (Kindle edition).

[8] ’blog is a shortened version of weblog or web log, the original name for those things [9]. I prefer to preserve the apostrophe to indicate the shortening. I may be the only one.

[9] Or these things.

[10] Whether or not you can tell, they’ve helped me write better.

Version 1.0 of 2023-08-13.