No. I Won’t Journal.
by Marion Steiger
Mama started the journal thing when I was five. She gave me a little book, all pink and shiny on the outside and blank inside. She talked to me about my day, her eyes searching mine as she asked me to draw what I liked best. I lost the book. Mama found it. After the third time she gave up.
My sixth-grade teacher made my class keep a journal for homework assignments. She promised better grades and improved life skills if we listed our goals each morning then evaluated our work each afternoon. I hated that journal. Mama loved it. I quit at the end of the year. Forever I thought.
Our church tried cute ways to inspire us to journal. Some friends wrote letters, saved them in notebooks, and called them journals. They loved writing letters. I hated it. Still do.
When I taught special education, I came closest to journaling. Only because I had to
remember things. When I showed my daily planner to my students, explaining how a planner helped me and how it could help them, their faces said I was crazy. I gave up. But I think journals are stalking me.
On the first night of my nonfiction writing class, the assignment was, of course, keep a daily journal. I did. Once.
Pia’s First Journal Entry
Pia is my nickname, given lovingly because it fits. PIA means pain in the “you know what.” But keeping a journal is a bigger pia than I’ve ever been.
My writing teacher is what I politely call a loose cannon. I know because I am too. She shoots ideas at us. But—keep a journal? That isn’t original. I’ll fail.
I did before. I’ll try again.
Only because I must.
I just want to write. Instead, I have reading assignments and reports for the class. At home, I have to cook when I can’t avoid it, same with cleaning. And I never miss the grandkids’ soccer and football games. Kids at the games act out and say great story stuff.
To relax my brain, I watch General Hospital. I know the reasons not to watch. Soapies steal time. They’re dumb, addictive and I’m hooked, so I pretend to find funny mess-ups for my stories.
I’m forgetting something important for this entry. Maybe I need to keep a list. No way.
That would be another kind of journaling.
For the last class, writing my opinion of journals was fun.
Pia’s Second and Last Journal Entry
This daily journal stuff isn’t exciting. Writing stories is. Writing’s in my head. It wakes me early. Keeps me from reading the morning paper. I write before it’s delivered. It ruins my routines, changes the way I talk, and the way I look. Best not to explain the looks part.
But I don’t care that I see things and hear sounds, stuff I never used to notice.
I love it when thoughts jump out and land in my head, all potential story topics. During TV shows, my husband catches me staring into space and asks what I’m thinking. My head’s dancing with a new idea for an article, but I say I’m thinking about the show. His frown says he knows better. I squirrel away a notebook and pencil for pop-up ideas. Journaling doesn’t do any of that for me.
So. Goodbye to journals.
My class is over and I’m still not journaling. I’m editing my daughter’s diaries into a
memoir for young people fighting life-threatening illnesses. Unlike me, Shanon loved keeping journals. She wrote about her diagnosis, surgeries, friend problems, and fear of being different at fourteen. I believe writing her journals helped her survive cancer. I know organizing her journals into a creative nonfiction memoir is helping me. Oh. Does that mean I’m writing a journal?
If I am, I refuse to do it every day. Except . . . my writing teacher is now my friend, and she says I must tweet a twitter, pin-my-interests, get LinkedIn, facebook without spilling secrets, and blog. She promises that will put me on a platform.
I’m terrified of heights.