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The First Journal and the Last

It started with a journal, a small 6" x 9" notebook that I held in my terrified hands as I sat on the cement steps of what was called "a garden apartment" in central New Jersey. It was summer and eternally too hot, my parents were in the middle of a horrendous divorce, my best friend had just cast me out of her life, and my father was threatening suicide. All I had at a certain moment on this July day was my 14 years of life experience, a journal, and a pen. Luckily, it was more than enough.

I wrote to understand, or at least try to understand, actions and reactions beyond my scope. I wrote to use the page as a mirror. I wrote to unleash and release and even take back in whatever was rocking my boat. I wrote to make something out of words that could nourish me at a moment of great soul hunger. I wrote for solace, I wrote for depth, I wrote for escape, I wrote for homecoming.

The page, to paraphrase writer Annie Dilliard, is what taught me to write, far more than the yards and yards of books I've read over my life (for true education including and beyond school). Having read over my early journals, it's quite clear I wasn't born with a golden pen in my hand. Yet through the act of filling up lines and pages and journals, I taught myself to be a writer, or maybe more accurately, writing itself taught me how to make poems, stories, novels, essays, songs, and more.

The first journal led to the second, and then to the third until, 40 years later, I've lost count of the worn tiny spiral notebooks, handsome leather, or cloth-covered and padded journals I've carried and filled. Most of these journals have all manner of poem and story starts or breakthroughs among many false turns made by too much or too little editing. All have accounts of moments I got lost, happy, confused, angry, broken, found, and lost again. Early journals focus on a string of crushes, and later ones on worries or marvels about time and health. Some of the entries tell the same old story of spinning my habitual wheels in the mud when it comes to the sturdy pile of my issues and crazinesses. Most have numbers scribbled on back pages as I calculated how to make rent, when various freelance checks might and should arrive, and what it would cost to feed the family on a camping trip that would inevitably involve lots of carsickness and losing the tent polls somewhere in eastern Colorado.

No matter what the journals hold, I hold them. I've never without a journal in my purse, and beside my bed are my small collection of what I call "spirit journals," larger books with more expansive pages for contemplation or just pasting photos and greeting card images that involve glitter or jewel tones. I've just herded together a pile of even larger books, art journals, with my very non-professional renderings of gel-penned mandalas, collages drawing heavily on Oprah magazine images, and charcoal drawings.

I cannot imagine not traveling with, waking to, or sleeping near a journal. These friends show me how to return to imagination, and with imagination, how to come home to whoever I am beyond the stories others or myself might tell me about identity. Like a forest that makes its own quiet and wind, my journals make their own rhythm and weather, bringing me right here to experience yet again the mystery and joy of the scribbled full or still blank page.

Get a boost to your journaling: Be inspired by author Roger Housden

You probably know the feeling of losing steam on your journal writing and in need of a boost.

I've been there many a time myself. I know how good it feels to write and how soothing and enlightening it can be, but when I'm in the thick of a busy life, journaling is one of the activities I may drop.

With journaling there are no deadlines looming. There is no other one depending on me to get even five minutes of writing done. I have no external consequences--the sword of Damocles hanging overhead--if I don't write in my journal for a week, or even for a month or more.

There may be no hunger pangs or feeling thirsty that alert me that I haven't written in my journal, but I may feel a small steady, almost imperceptible leak of energy. It's subtle, but you are in need of a boost of power.

That's where IAJW helps. We provide the lift, the air in your tires, or even more--the rocket booster to lift you up back into the journaling habit.

IAJW telechats are the rocket fuel to move you to the next level of journaling and author Roger Housden is the fuel this month.

Roger's topic is Writing Undefended: Finding Your Truths. He'll be discussing:

  • how vulnerability can be the doorway to the soul
  • how a tender regard for ourselves can assist our writing
  • the connection between undefended and spontaneity
  • the connection between undefended and truth

Come join us Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 7 PM Eastern | 4 PM Pacific for an inspiring conversation that will power your journaling forward into new dimensions!

A Journal Writing Prompt Blooms in My Garden

Many mornings I walk around my Florida yard--to see if new transplants are adapting to their new location, checking on the potted plants that they are sufficiently moist, watering some newly planted bamboo, visiting my avocado, mulberry, grapefruit and mango trees to make sure that they are happy. It's not a daily routine, but it's a continuous checking in to see how the plants are doing. I recently fertilized some bougainvillea which I moved from ground into pots, hoping to bring big splashes of color to the front walk and the back deck. On the fertilizer package, some text caught my eye: meaningful levels of micronutrients. The slogan struck me as a bit odd, and I started thinking about my own meaningful levels of micronutrients, small doses of things that have big impact.

How do I bring meaningful levels of micronutrients into my everyday life? Here are some things that I do--I sit outside as often as I can when I'm eating at home. I don't eat lunch and work at the same time. I try to write a few things that I feel grateful for during the day--or at least think of them as I'm falling asleep. I try to increase my F.Q. (my husband's shorthand for a term he coined: the "fun quotient") by going to a movie mid-week, going for a walk with a friend one morning each week, eating a small piece or two of dark chocolate a day, surprising an out-of-town friend with a phone call.

So try this journal writing prompt: What's a meaningful level of micronutrients that you use to sustain the blooming in your life? Can you identify your micronutrients?

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