Journals – Seedbeds of Memory
Journals are records of the facts of life as viewed by the writer at the time that the journal is written. Call it a daily calendar of events, of facts, of thoughts, of worries of a human life at one particular moment. Those facts taken together permit a writer to foraged among past happenings facts to develop a theme for a piece of writing or those same facts can be forged into a memoir. Remember that the word “journal” comes from the French word for day “jour,” just as a “journey” can be accomplished only day by day.
When a journey or journal or memoir stirs an author to develop it further, such a written piece takes on a life of its own which may not reveal all of the nuances of that “day” within the writer’s actual life. Looking at the past alters the writer’s view of an event. This natural phenomenon often protects the writer’s ego from insult or from pain of an actual remembrance too strong to admit. This revisionist rewriting of one’s own history serves as a protection for the ego as well as a numbing of the pain of actual recollection.
The act of journaling often provides a seedbed of ideas for writers, a place to store random thoughts to be processed at a later date. As a teacher, I often had my writing students divide a page in half its length with two long columns. The left-hand one recorded the simple facts of an event while the right-hand one told the feelings or emotions that those facts covered. We found that the left-hand column was short and the right-hand column was pages long. This separation of fact from feeling can show writers how to express each both sides of an event.
Memoirs are often journals “dressed up in fancy clothes”, so to speak.Memoirs often take a rosy turn of events because they are reprocessed thought or thoughts which have had time to mellow or to strengthen. Many memoirs are written for a purpose beyond recalling historical events. That’s why memoirs are tricky to write. Because they are mined from memory, they may shift in emphasis over the years. Yet journals have their place as a goldmine for refreshing memory. Like most worthy efforts, both journals and memoirs serve writers well.
An example occurred recently when a young child died. As a writer I can write the factual details of that death in the fact column.But, also as a writer, I can find consolation in a poem which sees that she was surrounded by active Love while she was in this world and Eternal Love when she left it.
The Journal phrase which triggered this memory, this memoir of sorts, is one that will haunt me forever. They said that she “simply forgot how to breathe.”
By Anne K. Kaler, PSBVA
Anne K. Kaler, Ph.D. As a life-long reader, Anne (always with an “e”) is now attempting to read every book in the universe, while helping to publishing more. Surprised to learn that she was actually a teacher, she persisted in that field for nearly fifty years until she started volunteering at PSB.