I’ve been working for the past year on a book for women who want to learn to lift weights. I had trouble believing in my own authority to write this book. Friends and supporters assured me that my voice and perspective are unique, and that they want to hear the information that I want to share, even though books on lifting already exist.
I wanted to make myself more aware of whatever they were seeing. What is unique about me? We know every person is unique, but how? “Find the uniqueness” is the motto I’ve found myself repeating in 2018.
I decided to reread my journals from my young adulthood — thirteen years’ worth of spiral-bound notebooks I filled with handwriting and then hid away in a box. I had never read these journals all the way through since writing them. Well… I found uniqueness, all right.
From the perspective of fifty-three years old, I can see so much in myself and my friends that I could not see at the time. I want to use all this accumulated writing as a creative resource somehow. I also want to encourage other people to keep journals and to revisit them without judgment. (I don’t know why, but this is the first year I’ve been able to delve into my journals with no embarrassment.) I would love to find a way to encourage young people to write without self-consciousness, as I did, privately, starting at age ten after reading “Harriet the Spy.”
My notebook was an extension of my mind. I wrote when I felt like it. I had no rules for what to write about or not write about. I kept up this habit all through my school years, and then majored in creative writing in college. I kept up the habit after college, and hand-writing in my journals helped me see the feelings and untie the knots in a long and intense relationship. It was almost meditative (a concept I’d never heard of then), helping me to observe what I was going through, even while I was in over my head.
If we keep a journal — of whatever type of content we choose — we can look back and learn. We can see our own uniqueness, and I believe that we can also find out that even though we are each unique, we are definitely not alone in whatever we experience. That is, if we find a way to share the material with others in whatever way is appropriate.
What do you think? Have you kept a journal? Have you reread it? Is it possible that there could be a safe enough setting to share bits of it — not for irony or for laughs, but as a constructive space for vulnerability and feeling seen?
I want to create a setting like this, for a small group to explore seeing their own uniqueness and their not-aloneness. Can you help me flesh out this idea? Have you taken any sort of class in journal writing, or in using a journal for creative personal writing that is public, or using a journal for any other reason?