“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.” Joan Didion
I didn’t keep a notebook or a daily record of life until I was in my late thirties or even later.
I did. keep a notebook, briefly, during my first pregnancy.
I wrote my heart on the page and the last I remember seeing that notebook was after I read a passage at a support group meeting. I threw it across the room of the bedroom Emma is sleeping in right now. I wish I had picked it up and tucked it in a drawer so that I could honor that young woman who was so deeply sad and didn’t know if she would ever feel better.
I hadn’t thought of that in years.
I started writing daily in my notebook when I read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron as many people did and still do after reading this life changing book. We get a firm directive from Cameron: three pages, daily, stream of consciousness, which serves as a comfort because we know exactly how to do “it” this journaling or free-flow writing “thing.”
I wish I had learned this secret sooner.
Why didn’t my freshman composition teacher require us to read Didion’s essay instead of what we read?
This morning I sat on my porch and wrote into my notebook in cursive, another dying practice, did my best to capture the essence of the day in as concrete yet flowing style as possible.
I don’t know that it worked. At least I tried. (My favorite four words for this chapter).
I re-read a poem I thought was brilliant yesterday and today seemed like little more than a shopping list of laundry supplies.
Who was I yesterday that I thought it was brilliant?
What is up that I am fussier today?
What made me happy on that night in 1981 in a dorm room in Stockton, California, with four other young women and only two whose names I remember?
One of the nameless I remember she was from Indonesia and as I wrote, her sister’s name, Esther, comes into my mind or maybe she is actually Esther. She had very unique eyes. The other girl, forever lost. She was in a special community program.
Mel hadn’t met Tom yet.
My guess is Jill took the photo.
I don’t need to fill in the missing meanings in the photo or surmise anything else. I only wish I had kept more notes.
I look at my notebook from fourteen months ago and in most of it, I have the barest of recollections. “I could easily find fault with myself and I may as well clear it away now.” What was I critiquing myself for in that sentence? I continue to read and I see I forgot to bring along writing materials on a particular outing which I also can’t remember. “tucked away, buried and today the aftertaste of regret lingers and I don’t mention it, figuring no one will understand so I delete junk from my email instead.”
Now we are getting somewhere.
My writing notebooks are as much about being heard by my best, most faithful audience, myself, and preparing for the best rest next thing from a clearer perpective.
My notebooks allow me to note, to question, to process, without having the need to weigh in with other people’s opinions which in the long run, hold a lot less credence than my own.
The photo here was less than ten years before I threw that notebook across the room in a moment of grief-laced fury.
It was ten years or more after that I picked up my pen and a cheap notebook from a big box store I started writing, daily, stream of consciousness, usually three pages, about nothing and everything and had companion notebooks for digging into the nooks and crannies and questions in between those early morning sessions giving the dumpster of my mind free reign.
I have no interest in making up the interim.
I have plentiful interest in refreshing what I have collected.
From that fourteen months ago notebook: “thoughts that flew through? Forgotten. Like the name Manzanar I can never seem to come up with on the first try. Forgotten, Lost. Fallen out my ear and floated overhead and tip-toed to the celing and through the cracks in the crown moulding. Insect thoughts. Beelzebub is what depression looks like.”
At the top of the next page, “I need to find my courage,” and with that I remember what I had forgotten.
Didion is right.
“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.”
Julie JordanScott is a writer, a mother, a creative life coaching and a notebook keeper who loves watching people smile in satisfaction after a transformative writing session. She currently lives in Bakersfield as she completes her final editing for her most recent book. She is especially thrilled to be re-starting her writing and personal growth workshops. Follow her on social media (links above) and check out the upcoming writing circle before space and time are no longer. (Information and link may be found below.)
Passionate, Purposeful Women’s Writing Circle: a group of women devoted to their writing and each other for accountability, on-line community and movement forward to satisfying completion.
New Session starts September 26: register now to secure your space.