In Others’ Words: The Practice and Purpose of Journaling

remembering-the-words-2016 I started keeping a journal because Miss Gooley, my freshman English teacher, required it. Besides our regular assignments — reading, writing papers, taking quizzes and tests — students in Miss Gooley’s class had to keep a journal. Miss Gooley would read our entries, make comments, return our journals, and we’d repeat the process, all year long.

Decades later, I’m still keeping journals. Yes, journals. Plural. Maybe back in high school journal writing initially connected with the writer within me. And maybe I continued journal writing because it provided a private place in a world that was overcrowded and confusing  — a place to sort through experiences and emotions and to experiment with the idea of being honest about life.

Even this blog is a journal of sorts: a virtual journal of favorite quotes and musings that I share with all of you. And I invite you to “write” in the journal, too, in the In Others’ Words section — and am always delighted when you do.

And yes, Richard Powers’s quote has prompted the idea of a new journal — one where I record favorite lines from books I read, both fiction and nonfiction. Some of them could end up showcased in this blog, but a lot of them could just be recorded and savored and yes, used to spur me on as a writer, too.

In Your Words: What kind of journaling do you do? Why did you start journaling? And if you have no interest in journaling, why doesn’t it appeal to you? (I’m just curious.)

[Tweet “In Others’ Words: The Practice and Purpose of Journaling #InOthersWords #quotes #writing”] [Tweet “”I keep a quotes journal – of every sentence that I’ve wanted to remember from my reading of the past 30 years.” #quotes #journal #RichardPowers”]


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  1. September 22, 2016, 6:44 am   /  Reply

    I don’t journal on a regular basis but do keep a running journal in my computer of quotes, examples, songs, or meaningful revelations that I want to keep track of. Some of them turn into eventual blog posts, or are included in encouraging emails to friends. When I find particularly effective passages, character development, extra good writing in books, I sometimes photocopy a few pages to study those good examples again–not to copy but to learn from like Michelangelo mastered the skills and style of previous artists before mastering his own. I love your use of quotes and the consistently encouraging insightful blog posts you develop from them. Thanks and keep it up!

    • September 22, 2016, 7:42 am   /  Reply

      I’ve been a recipient of your encouraging emails, Dee, and they have so often made a difference in my perspective — timely words. And I love your perspective about not copying others’ words, but being like Michelangelo and learning from others’ skillfulness so that you can improve as a writer/artist.

  2. Gail Hollingsworth
    September 22, 2016, 8:41 am   /  Reply

    I have a hard time putting my thoughts in writing. I did do a diary for each of my two kids of their first year of life. And when I first found out I had breast cancer I was so overwhelmed that I had to write my feelings down. I have a “grandmother” book with questions to fill out that I hope to write in for my grandkids. I keep procrastinating. I’d rather spend my time reading or crocheting.

    • September 22, 2016, 11:36 am   /  Reply

      I’ve done journals for each of my children, too, Gail. And my journaling has varied in consistency at different times in my life.

  3. September 22, 2016, 7:09 pm   /  Reply

    I have a Jesus Calling Journal and for the past 6 years I’ve written a line or two every day. Now I can look back over the past 6 years and know what was going on that day. 🙂

    • September 22, 2016, 7:34 pm   /  Reply

      I love that, Pat. Yes, you have quite a retrospective of the last 6 years.

      • September 27, 2016, 7:20 pm   /  Reply

        And I just noticed my last book in your photo! Thanks!!

        • September 27, 2016, 10:14 pm   /  Reply

          You are so welcome, Pat! 🙂

  4. September 23, 2016, 11:06 am   /  Reply

    I have been journaling since I was 15 and have over 100 journals filled with the sense and nonsense of the years that have passed. {When a tornado came through our town last month, I stuffed them into to two huge suitcases and sat in my bathroom with my arms around the suitcases. The house could go and I didn’t care, but those books were not going ANYWHERE without me going along for the ride!!} I love going back and seeing my raw heart and using excerpts in my writing. Anymore, my handwritten journals are more prayer-like, and my daily happenings are chronicled on my blog and in my scrapbook. They are all my dearest earthly possessions.

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