Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Journal Project

I started writing in a secret diary when I was nine. You know the type -- with the little lock and key. Unfortunately, I didn't keep it. I do, however, have two crates full of journals from the age of twelve to the present. That strawberry book is one of the first, from a stint at summer camp. It sadly begins:

"I knew from the start that I wouldn't make many friends today."

Hannah Hinchman, from her lovely illustrated book A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place, writes:
"A long-running journal is an invaluable document, because it records something other than the time-and-goal-dominated anxiety that drives us through our days. We can tease out of its evolving narrative evidence of sub-lives, parallel existences, omens of shifts that won't be realized for decades, recurrences of themes glimpsed periodically through the years."
I'm the type of person who not only records the 'evolving narratives' but consults them periodically for those recurring themes: love, loss, longing. A couple of years ago, rather than just randomly read through the paper pages - some spiral bound, some beautifully crafted in cloth, many captured in composition books pasted over with postcards - I began to transcribe them.

Thus began The Journal Project.

I finished 1985, then skipped a decade and typed up 1994 - 1999. Though I didn't edit my voice by altering semantics or syntax, I did delete small passages for fear that the narcissistic prose might incriminate me. Upon completion I took cathartic pleasure in ripping the pages out, to the horror of friends who value the paper and pen as much as I. But it's as if by transferring the record I have also transformed my past and the way I read it. The words, and their meaning, are clearer now.

Maybe someday I'll pine for those pen-scratched words once painstakingly scrawled in some cramped corner.

At least I kept their postcard covers:

3 comments:

Yurika said...

I love this post, especially "it's as if by transferring the record I have also transformed my past and the way I read it. The words, and their meaning, are clearer now."

Did it make you feel free of that past?

Nicole said...

Thanks Yurika. Yes, it did release some of the painful aspects of the past - but only after reliving those emotions too. Part of the incentive for editing and typing the journals is to have more concise material to rework in the form of essays, poems, memoir or even biographical fiction.

PKB said...

Nicole,
You are so insightful and feel so deeply. The essence of who you are comes across with every recorded word. Keep up the brilliant work my friend.
Pat

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