Memory and Memorial

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

At the age of 41, I have finally come to admit the obvious - writing a journal or a diary is not my bag.  In hindsight, it seems pretty obvious.

My first diary, began when I was 12 or 13 years old, records small snippets of where I went, with whom, and who "got on" with whom, and who was a bitch (and, for some strange reason, every time I got my period and how long it went for).  And it never really got any better.  Later journals collectively make my toes curl.

There is something about the way I feel when I go to journal which makes for tedium.  It cramps me up, makes me feel tied and constrained, so that what I write is like a dull new version of "Dear Grandma, I am at Wilson's Prom.  It is really good.  We went to the beach yesterday.  Love Susan" type of letter my Grandmother must have choked on her false teeth with excitement about.  Or else it's a bucket into which I pour all of my emotions.  And how hard it is to write emotions well - reading it back I feel so sickened that I, who does not like schmaltz, writes page after page of it.  I sound so Pollyanna in my journals that reading them makes me want to go out and set fire to people's letterboxes and get a mohawk.

I tried to remedy this constraint by writing on unlined pages, so as to free myself up.  But that is a case of not-good workpeople blaming their tools.  It didn't help.

Part of the problem has been the feeling that someone is reading over my shoulder as I write.  A paranoid feeling that it is going to be read by prying eyes.  It means that if you were to go to my journal when, say, my marriage was beginning to falter (or, more truthfully, I was beginning to falter ... or falter even more than usual) there is nothing juicy there to find at all.  No confidence in sharing confidences with Dear Diary to be found.

I tried to remedy this by writing a journal on the computer, on Word, with a password protection.  That's a cool idea in a way except that it still feels tedious.  Add to that the fact that I can't remember what the password was I used to password-protect them and I think you'll agree I'm flogging a jar of Clag when it comes to journalling.

I remember one day when I was about 12 years old.  My father in his wisdom went to the tip ... and, as was his style, took a whole lot of everybody else’s stuff with him without asking them.  No discussion, no apology afterwards.  His decision, and that's how it was.  It infuriated me.

I think I've been fighting against that memory ever since.  I think it's partially why when I began writing morning pages six or seven years ago, I kept them.  Now I have folders and folders and folders of morning pages.  (For those who don't know, morning pages are a tool used in The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron - three pages, preferably done first thing after you get up, of handwritten stream-of-consciousness whatever-comes-outness.  The point of them is to get all of that crap out of your head and onto the page, so it's not running round in there all day taking up valuable space that your poem would rather take up.  And they work, too.  I stopped doing them for about a year and a half and have only started up again.  And after a few days of "What is the bloody point of this?" I have realised again how helpful they are.  They're like a meditation, a space cleared in my head at the start of the day. They work).

The good part about having kept my morning pages is that so many of them were written on different coloured paper so that I, in my desire to recycle wherever possible, am able to write my current pages on the blank undersides.  There is something comforting and expansive about reading what I wrote back in 2005 or 2007 or 2009, and then turning it around and writing on it in 2012, most likely the same boring dreariness, except that after I finish I don't even read them anymore.  In they go to Anthony's paper shredder.  Gone forever.  Writing them opens up a space.  Shredding them creates even more - throwing them to the tiles.

Some of that shredded paper is currently becoming part of a page of the latest incarnatiion of journal writing, one which I actually think I am going to get pleasure out of re-reading - an altered book journal.    A new life for an old children's book bought from the library for 50 cents, which has become the place where I am beginning to paint, stick down bits and pieces, collage bits and pieces from magazines, draw, stick down shiny Magpie bits I've found and want to keep, etc etc.

I've joined an online group (along with Kel from XFacta), run by a generous woman named Effy who creates her pages and films them in real time.  Alongside is a Facebook group where everybody shares what they have created.  I think it going to prove to be much, much more my style.

I'm a total beginner.  Some of my pages make me cringe in a different way to my old journals.  But it's fun in a way that diaries never were.

Here's one I prepared earlier.


  1. there is something very freeing in being a word person, but creating a visual journal
    an opportunity to literally see things in a new way
    like...the importance of play

  2. I've never been able to keep a journal, either. I'm with you there. I found some old diaries of mine from teenagedom, and they were chock full of a boring as hell play by play of my life. Nothing creative about them at all. 

    I love the new project, hope you have fun with it. My friend Pam (who just has a book out) is very much a wordsmith-collager, she loves it. Me, not so much any kind of artist.

  3. It's nice to be able to admit the things that you really don't want to do, ain't it :)  It astounds me how hard that is to do.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment with your insane schedule :)

  4. Yeah.  Now, THAT is a fact, Ms Kel!  I've done another page the other day - it's very slow going for me, but I'm coming around to the idea that that's okay.  It's really fun doing this and sharing the experience with you.  I'm astounded at how much you do every day :)

  5. Never too insane for Susie. :)


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