Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Researching for my journaling class coming up, I found this list of 10 famous journal-keepers:  

Virginia Woolf                                    Anais Nin
David Sedaris                                    Jonathan Franzen
C.S.Lewis                                           Joan Didion
Franz Kafka                                       Susan Sontag
Jessamyn West                                 Ray Bradbury

Virginia Woolf began writing her journal in 1915, at the age of 33, and continued until four days before her death.  She left behind 26 volumes written in her own hand.  A Writer's Diary is a collection of her journals edited by her husband and a must-read for any writer.  One of the uses Woolf found for her diaries was as a place of exploration, of trying out ideas and styles for her writing.  Here is an excerpt from an entry dating to April 20, 1919:  What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through. I should like to come back, after a year or two, and find that the collection had sorted itself and refined itself and coalesced, as such deposits so mysteriously do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life, and yet steady, tranquil compounds with the aloofness of a work of art.

Many of us writers use our journals the same way: jotting down thoughts and snippets of conversations we overhear, copying memorable passages we read, trying out different voices and tenses for a story or a poem, and just plainly documenting our daily lives - sometimes dull and dreary, other times exhilarating and surreal.  

Do you keep a journal?
What do you write in it?
Do you illustrate it?
Do you read it months, years later?
What do you learn about yourself from the practice?
Tell me.

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