Tuesday, March 10, 2015

On Journaling

Somewhere in a box in our shed is my first journal.  It is probably next to the first letter I received from a friend.  (She taped peanuts to the top of that letter and no one has sent me anything quite so interesting in a letter since then.)  The only entry I remember making in my scratchy writing was one where I described my concerns with the man my aunt was marrying. The end of their marriage years later confirmed my sixth grade concerns.  

Journaling was a habit I continued through much of my young adult and adult life.  I tried to pen worthy thoughts and find great quotes in my reading, but they frequently were about boys and my mysterious interactions with them.  As I grew in my faith, the entries became like prayers, but I suppose it isn't surprising that once I got married, I started "talking" to my husband instead of "talking" to my journal.

One of the ways I made my journals more useful was to regularly look back through them.  In my heyday, I wrote almost daily, so I would look back one year into the past and read my previous entry each day.  That practice was so encouraging.  I was able to see what struggles had diminished, areas where I had grown, and how prayers had been answered. It was endlessly interesting since humans (and our mothers) are fascinated with our own lives.

I will have been married ten years this summer and sadly, those married life entries fit into only two journals instead of ten.  That is changing.  I recently heard the term commonplace book.   Some people use them to store, in their best handwriting, only meaningful quotes from their reading.  Some include those quotes, their responses to them, their to-do lists, long-term goals, etc.  I've decided to morph my journal back into a "commonplace" type of existence.

I have loved to read since the fifth grade, but I tend to read like I eat fast food - I try to get through it before it cools off or my interest fades.  So, I read voraciously, but not carefully.  I am consuming books rather than interacting with them.  I hope that by engaging with the material by writing quotes from books and my thoughts on those quotes, they will actually change me.  In The Little Book of Talent, Daniel Coyle reminds us that we'll remember ten pages of a book better if we read it once and then write a one-page summary of what we read than if we read the same passage four times in a row.

What does this look like in real life?  Well, I read every day, but now I listen for a twang on my heart strings as I do.  Some passage will make my chest vibrate and I try and write at least one of them in my journal each day.  I keep my journal with a pen in my stack of books so that I don't have lack of access as an excuse.  In just the week that I have been doing this, I am seeing themes emerging from disparate books (nonfiction, fiction and the books that I read with my children) and my mind is better able to weave them together.  I can see a place in the future where I don't just consume books, but I am consumed and changed by them.      

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