Day after day, month after month, year by year, I scribble my thoughts in journals, sometimes faithfully, at other times skipping whole chunks of time. I will call them journals, although most are Morning Pages–three pages daily of stream of consciousness handwriting, as prescribed by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way.
Many days I wonder what purpose this serves, dumping my thoughts onto the page, as I rarely go back to read them. Recently, though, I committed to contributing a piece to an anthology themed “Life Unexpected.”
A couple of fitting experiences came immediately to mind, so I looked to my journals to refresh the details. After retrieving nearly ten years of notebooks from various places I’d stashed them, I stacked them in chronological order, isolated the time period I wanted to focus on, and started reading.
Memories, and the accompanying emotions flooded back. I sensed that I was holding the feelings at bay, like viewing events through a telescopic lens. Was this because I have achieved a level of detachment that only time can provide? Or are those emotions still locked away, trapped in the pages of the notebooks?
I told myself, I’m just skimming now–strip mining, so to speak. Strip mining is a practice used to remove overlying soil or rock, waste material that covers up the rich minerals underneath. The reference seems appropriate here; I unearth a gem now and then, like this quote from Mona Eltahawy:
“As a writer it is my duty to poke the painful places.”
My journals are where I “poke the painful places.” Revisiting those rough times–the life unexpected–I extract the lessons learned and, through the alchemy of writing, transform them into gold.
At least that is my goal–to transmute my experiences into stories others can identify with and benefit from.
Do you journal or write Morning Pages? Do you mine them for material or keep them, and the stories they contain, locked away?