This time last Saturday I was getting ready to take a Journal and Life Writing Workshop here at our local library in Whangaparaoa.
The room could accommodate up to 20 people and the Workshop was booked out. There was such interest from our local community in telling life story through journal writing that I have the potential to fill two more workshops with those who missed out on last Saturday's programme. If you're interested in attending a workshop, please contact me and I'll keep in touch about upcoming dates.
This tells us something very important. People are keen to record their lives, either through daily journal keeping, life writing, or both. The advent of blogging has seen millions of people writing about every day life in full public view, but the process of journal writing and life writing can be intensely personal, private, and is often done just for the writer, or for sharing with immediate family and future generations. Of course the simplest journal entry can also become a full length, published book or memoir too, and we talked about this process in the Workshop.
Journal writing can be 'good therapy', helping us through times of challenge and difficulty. It can help us sort out problems, make sense of our world, and help us express feelings, thoughts and emotions. It is also a wonderful source of material for life writing and many of the class participants found some inspiration from the day to start on memoir or story telling.
I enjoyed the day so much. We had such a good time together, some amazing writing came out and I thank all of those who shared their stories and thoughts so generously. It was a jolly good day.
I'd like to thank the team at Whangaparaoa Library for their support and of course the Auckland Council Creative Communities scheme for their funding.
I saw Little Boy sitting outside this morning, waiting expectantly for something - probably food - and I thought, yes, I know that pose and that expression quite well.
That's how I must look when I'm staring into space, sitting quietly, waiting for words to fall out of the air, or from the ceiling, or rise up off the floor.
Getting started can be tricky. And there is nothing more daunting than the blank page glaring back at you like a white-out, or the computer screen continually going back to screen saver as the minutes tick by.
If you're just wanting to get writing about anything at all, sometimes a good way to start is to think of a sentence. For example, let's take 'a little cat waits'.
What springs to mind when you look at those words? Let the thoughts come as they may, no judging, no editing, no obstruction.
For me, I think of myself as a little girl, probably about four or five, waiting for my mother to come and pick me up from the neighbour's place. As a young thing, I hated being separated from my Mom for even an instant, so staying with the neighbour - as nice as she was - made me anxious and tearful. The lovely woman tasked with minding me - and she is still a dear friend today - said, 'Now just wait a bit longer, your Mom will soon be here.' But I had other plans ...
Now I have my story. I can recall the feelings of worry, my hair in two little pigtails, the inside of the house, my imagination can conjure up the smells, the feelings, what I was hearing, my little palms sweating ... and then of course there is the ending.
What actually happened is I walked out the door, down the street, across the parking lot of the school next door, up the stairs, over the road to the gas station where the attendant intercepted me. "I'm going home," I said, and indeed that's where I was headed.
Needless to say, the neighbour was not far behind, scared and frantic. It's a story we laugh over today.
So pick a sentence - any sentence - allow your imagination, your memory, and your senses space to 'frolic' - and see what happens.
My Journal and Life Writing workshop is fast approaching on 16 April and in preparation, I decided to look back through some of my very early journalling efforts to see how I got started.
I was at high school .. it was 6 March 1974 when I took an exercise book, sat down that evening, and began writing.
My reason for starting was as follows:
"Yesterday I saw Susan writing a diary in her usual open manner, telling everyone what she was writing and how very private it was. Hmm. She was also writing about how she had lost a boyfriend because of her diary. Apparently she had written something horrid about him and he had read it. So, I thought, lots of things happen to me, and some I don't want to forget (some I do), so I may as well start writing them down. I was kinda sorry I hadn't started a diary sooner but I hadn't thought of it. Anyway, I've done it now so I guess we may as well get on with it."
Back then we called them 'diaries' because we associated the word 'journal' with the school journals we used to get in Intermediate and Primary school - and keeping a 'diary' meant writing in something that was deliciously secret, those around us wondering constantly if they were 'in it' and being 'written about' and 'could they have a read?' And of course, we diarists were only too happy to drop tantalizing tidbits of information about our scandalous entries. It was a power thing.
I've kept a journal ever since - the photo above shows 'the pile' of books I've scribbled in over the years, that I have lugged around the world with me, which I now have snuggly secured in some cardboard wine boxes under my desk - perfect location in ideal receptacles. The content of these journals has moved on from the school days, I have to say, but they are reflective of my life, in so many ways, and at so many stages and phases.
You're never too young or old to start journalling. Just pick up a pen and go for it. However, you might want to start your journal on a computer or tablet. Saves having to cart all that paper around ...