As a society we are now more literate than we have ever been before, no matter what certain newspapers would have us believe. Thanks to the Internet we now have the opportunity and inducement to write and share our writing on all manner of things. We have blogs; social networking sites; forums where we can share poetry and prose; review sites; anything that we want to write about there is a place to write it on the Internet.
All of these places are great for writing for an audience, to share our public persona. But to write on paper, with a pen, this is where your true self can come out; this is where your mind can be free. Just like in a conversation there are those words that are said out loud and there are those that remain unspoken. Your journal is the place for those unspoken words.
But what do you write? The answer is, of course, whatever you want to write.
You can fill your journal with everything from your hopes and dreams to your frustrations and anger; you can write about things that you find beautiful and things that you find ugly; you can use it to record your daily observations, like a verbose photograph album; you can write in verse or prose, you can sketch or scrapbook. In short, you can fill it with you. The more that you use your journal the more you will become addicted to it, carrying it with you everywhere, ready to take out and scribble frantically in it’s hallowed pages.
And when you finally complete a journal, when you have filled every page, that’s a very special thing indeed. It is no longer a tool, something that you are working on, it becomes an entity in itself, a block of your life from the past that still exists now in the physical world. The completed journal will become a time capsule, full of those captured moments that the human mind, in its frailty, so easily forgets.
And although writing tends to be a lonely pastime you will find yourself in good company whilst filling your pages. You will join the illustrious line of famous diarists, those people whose obsession has given us glimpses into the past, those people whose words captured a point in history where manners, customs and language may have been different but they show us that human emotions never change.
Anne Frank who recorded her brief life for us while in hiding in Nazi occupied Amsterdam.
Charles Darwin kept a diary from the age of 29 until just before his death at the age of 72, that’s 43 years of diaries not only about his personal life but also about his work.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous journals, written mostly in mirror image, contain beautiful images such as Vitruvian Man and his forward thinking designs for machines, these are interspersed with the minutiae of his life, shopping lists and debtors.
Then there are the great travel writers. Celia Fiennes who travelled across every county in England on horseback during the early eighteenth century, a time when travelling for the sake of travelling was still quite unusual.
Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe and the generally considered father of modern journalism (journalism, journey and journal all have the same root word), also wrote ‘A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain’ in which he chronicled his journey through the entire country, giving us an account of Britain at the very birth of industrialisation.
Of course, there were others that did great things, but we can only remember those that chronicled their deeds and journeys. These are the ones with the passion and the need to write and, as such, are immortalised by their words.
But all of these people were extraordinary, they all led exceptional lives. What about us mere mortals? What could we find in our mundane little lives to write about?
My own journal keeping can be best described as erratic. I can go for weeks without writing a single word (usually when I’m busy making books for other people to write in) and then sometimes I can write for hours at a time, furiously scribbling page after page. I always carry one of my journals with me, just in case I get the need. Some of them have been with me for years and they look well travelled and weatherworn, having been crammed into pockets, squashed into rucksacks, left too close to camp fires and all the other perils that an intrepid journal encounters. But each one of them is a friend, and rereading my words, even from a few months ago, makes me realise just how extraordinary my ordinary life is.
And I know that yours is too!
Jason at Earthworks.
For more 'Thoughts from the Workshop' visit the Earthworks Journals Blog.