Home > Blogging, Personal, Writing, Youth > Mrs. Deborah Scissorhands on journaling

Mrs. Deborah Scissorhands on journaling

“How can I become a better writer?”

People ask me this (perplexingly) often. Regardless of the “why” of it, my answer is constant: Keep a journal.

Wait. Let me clarify that for those thinking they can simply tuck a journal between their mattresses and call it good. Regularly write in a journal. Really keep it, versus simply owning it!

In the sixth grade, my best friend gave me a Snoopy journal for Christmas. Thus began a lifelong obsession not only with documenting my life but working my way through its difficulties in a judgment-free forum. In my journals I found a confidant who wouldn’t get upset with me for trying 100 different times to find the right way to express exactly what I was feeling. With years and lots (and lots and lots) of practice, I got to the point where 1-2 attempts did the trick. In five minutes, I could sit down on my bed, jot down some words and feel the goodness of transferring weight off my heart and into my journals.

I haven’t always written heavy stuff. The first page of my first journal lists the names of the boys I then liked. The entry below much better reflects my eleven-year-old self’s concerns:

If I had to summarize that journal in a single sentence, the sentence would be, “Oh, Edward Scissorhands, how are you so dreamy?”

My next journal, which I started in 1993, unfortunately replaced scissorhand dreams with griping about every indignity that ever existed or might exist in the world. Most of these entries implicate others and so aren’t fit for sharing, but I found a non-implicatey entry that pretty well reflects where I was at the summer before my 15th birthday:

This journal could best be summed up by the statement, “Life is misery, then you die.” (Obviously I haven’t changed a bit!)

In 1995, I started an online journal to differentiate my webpage from those that were only collections of links to other pages. I learned a little bit more about myself and others through emails exchanged with my journals’ readers. I enjoyed these discussions, but I just knew online journals could never be as fulfilling as private printed ones.

In other words, my predictive skills must’ve been pretty much limited to Edward Scissorhands!

What I write now is very different than what I wrote in 1990, or 1993. It’s blessedly unlike what I wrote as a college senior in 2000, which was mostly endless justifications about continuing a relationship substitute that should never have been.

It’s even dissimilar to what I wrote as recently as 2008!

I daresay–please be sitting for this whopper of a revelation!–having a child changes life.

All of this change is an excellent thing. Through continuing to pursue clearer articulation and assessment via journaling, I’m allowing my writing to evolve with me. I’m also opening myself to the converse: the evolution that springs from looking myself in the eyes and describing that image honestly. Is there anything in that reflection I’d like to see retired? Anything I’d like to see more of?

Sometimes it’s embarrassing to read excerpts of what superseded versions of myself once felt. That embarrassment, though? It’s insignificant compared to the joy of being able to trace my fingers over pages that show just how far I’ve come.

This was among posts accidentally deleted from this blog.
Reposted 6/24/15

  1. June 24, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    This seems to have become my online journal. I love seeing how far I’ve come on pap power and in my life. Thanks for the added encouragement.

    • June 24, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      I’ve met a few people who are dismissive of journals, online or off. How sad for them, to miss out on this amazing opportunity to express oneself clearer! Blogging has a leg up there, because the questions people ask improve that further still. Fortunately, the benefits keep flowing no matter how many people are dubious.

      Keep it up!!!

  2. June 24, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    I have tried and tried to journal, but I just hate it. No idea why.

    Also, Johnny Depp is STILL dreamy! Except when he’s being a pirate … I cannot like those stupid pirate movies of his. Have you seen “Chocolat”? Ooo-errr… 🙂

  3. Mac
    June 24, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    I’m always so amazed at how you’ve made a habit of journaling (long-hand, I can’t stand to do anything long-hand! :D) for so long. I kind of see my neuroses exposed by my journals… I buy nice blank books, and then never write or draw in them because I know anything I do isn’t going to meet my expectations and I’m a crazy perfectionist. When I do write anything like a diary (usually on my computer because yay typing), it’s only when things are SO BAD that I just need to word-vomit about it, and re-reading them later is too horribly depressing.

    I have found though that blogging kind of works for me in I think much the same way that journaling does for you. (Not on my “professional” blog, mind, but on a somewhat anonymous tumblr where I can feel free to talk a bit more.) I don’t share everything ever because I know it’s in front of the public, but it feels good to talk things out and get input from other people and kind of feel like I’m being heard. Probably what I actually need is a shrink, though. 😀

    • June 24, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      MAC!!! I have wanted to call you dozens of times the last few weeks, but have refrained since I figured you probably wouldn’t pick up. (Not a complaint, just a matter of statistical probability.) I’ve been debating writing you snail mail for a variety of reasons.

      I only just linked my blog and LinkedIn a few weeks ago. There are a handful of things I won’t discuss in either place, but overall … I’ve come to decide that the kind of places I want to work will see the exchanges I have here as positive, even if my every opinion doesn’t mirror each C-level persons’ opinions.

      It’s a nice place to be after these many years. 😉

      I miss you, my friend. I love you!

      • Mac
        June 25, 2015 at 11:42 pm

        I wish it wasn’t the sad truth that I don’t even usually realize people are calling me because nobody ever calls me so I’m not paying attention to the phone. (Also not a complaint, I just have my friends well habituated to my unreliability at this point. :D) Snail mail would be totally welcome, or feel free to email if you want, I keep thinking I should email you but then I forget again because this is me we’re talking about. 😀 I have been stupidly busy though, I’m working again and it’s eating up a lot of my time.

        Maybe text me sometime and let me know when’s generally a good time to call you? I always worry I’m going to get you when you’re driving and/or taking care of a child and I talk myself out of calling and there’s way too much neurosis happening in my head at all times. 😀

  4. June 25, 2015 at 12:37 am

    Writing is another of the things that has to be done. And redone. And redone again.
    I am a reader rather than a writer, but don’t think there is every a perfect phrase. Or that the work, and the growth is ever done. Which on good days is encouraging…

  5. June 25, 2015 at 7:12 am

    I’ve been keeping journals off and on (well, “off” during long spells of dissociation — but otherwise all “ON”!) since 1995. And yes yes YES, that’s how one becomes a better writer. (Often a better person, too — though that’s a different matter.)

    I no longer have any of the journals I wrote in as a kid, but I remember coming across one once many years ago. One of those small diaries one gives to little girls, with the lined and pre-dated pages and the tiny lock-and-key to close. I had only filled out a few pages, clearly when special occasions needed to be marked. The stand-out entry was the day I got my first bra and simply read: “Maggie [a neighbor who was a little younger than me] says I look THIRTEEN!!!!!!!!”

    Ah, the dreams of children… 😉

  6. July 4, 2015 at 9:47 am

    I started journal writing around the same age, five or six, and could definitely say that I had the same simple way of summing it up. I never had boy crushes though so I was mainly focused on horses and animals. It’s amazing though how our voices can stay the same somewhat but over the years we change because of life and what we experience. We always seem to be evolving with what’s going on around us. Your post reminded me that I need to get back to my handwritten journals on top of blogging as well, it really helps to clear your mind and process through things.

  1. February 3, 2016 at 4:12 am

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