Monday, October 3, 2011

Quotidian Journalling

I spent some time today organizing my curriculum closet (in the background of the picture).  As always I found lots of things there I could use and indeed WANT to use, but forget about when it's not in front of me! 

I was thinking about how I seem to be having trouble writing regularly on here, and so I think I will focus on journaling on this blog for a while. Not that I won't still write about Abolition of Man, or books I'm reading, or homeschool plans, or thoughts that I'm trying to keep from circling around my head like bats that have accidentally gotten trapped in our log home.  But I think it's easier to just start writing what's happening and then go from there. 

And it seems that when I don't make a commitment to journal daily or nearly daily, I just don't journal, because hardly anything seems significant enough to write about, and when something journal-worthy does happen, I'm either too busy experiencing it to write, or else I'm too engaged in processing the momentous event to know what I want to say.  So, like real life, journaling probably is best presented with a quotidian texture. 

Even an associative one?  While I was writing that last paragraph, I remembered for some reason how much I enjoyed reading Anne Lamott's journal of her son's first year:  Operating Instructions.    My Goodreads friend Meredith, who seems to be a kindred spirit with regard to the kind of books and volume of books she reads,  recommended it after I read Bird by Bird.    I also read Hard Laughter, which definitely had a more juvenile feel to it since it was Lamott's first book, but was still interesting because her father, like mine, was a writer who died of cancer, though otherwise our stories have almost no similarities.  Except that she also had two brothers, as I do.

When I read Operating Instructions, I wished I had written such frank and detailed descriptions of my childrens' early years.   I did journal back then, but sporadically and usually about how much I wanted to get the house more clean and organized.     This is a writing trap I still fall into occasionally.  It has come to seem like a symptom of acedia to me.   Not the desire to get organized, but the default of writing about it.

Anyway, good journaling makes me realize that a certain kind of solipsism (I am using the term loosely) can be a sort of representative type of a larger truth.

It's not so much recounting the events themselves that matters in the long run, I see when I read old journals, but something that is brought out of the details by the writing of them.  For some reason this reminds me of a Eucharistic hymn I rather dislike (not because of the message but because of the presentation), which talks about the grain harvested by human hands and made into the bread of the Sacrament.   God gives the grain and causes its increase, and God gives us the sacrament, but we have something to do with it too.  We receive, yes, but He allows us and in fact asks us to do something in cooperation.  This changes us as well as changes the materials we work with.  

When I just live, of course I am processing significance in my head.  Everyone does that.  But when I write, or take a picture, or reflect more consciously, sometimes I see what has happened in a different light.   This gives me a correlative to the outside world that I lack when I simply react to it. 

On one of my favorite blogs, called knitting the wind, written by a writer and homeschooling mom called Sarah, there is a keeper post called how I take photographs.  The post works for me as a metaphor about how to live.  And when you journal, you have a kind of distilled chance to do things she recommends in the photo tutorial, things like Notice, Love, Trust, Be There, and Really Be There.

But for me, journaling also requires Showing Up -- daily or near-daily.  When I used to play the classical guitar, I noticed that almost always, if I stopped for more than a day or two, I ended up about 3-4 days back in progress.  My fingers were like someone else's and I had to get used to them again.   That seems to happen with almost everything when you don't keep it up, especially every art, I suppose.

Nothing to do with anything else, but I believe Quotidian and Journal both etymologically derive from words for "day", and I think I remember that mixing etymologies like that is rhetorically improper.  Plus, I don't think "journalling" is a real word, because it gets a red underline when I type it, and subtracting one of the "L's" doesn't seem to make the teacher's red pencilling go away.   But I am keeping that title anyway, even though it has those two solecisms.   That is about as dangerous as my life gets.    Plus, today is my birthday, and my age is now the square of my favorite number.   That will only be true for, at the most, 364 more days!  So I have to take advantage of it and live a little!


  1. I absolutely love what you say about journalling. I have two journals for the girls, and I'm appalled that I haven't written in them for almost a year... I'm back TODAY. I love reading about insignificant things about their life that now are precious memories otherwise lost, since at the time, they are sort of similar to last and next month. Now, years after, I couldn't retrieve so much from my memory, or so vividly.
    You've got me thinking about how I want to go about with the blog too. Like you with the cleaning, I keep writing about 'parenting', or 'education', not that I am able to pull those fantastic plans and things as I write them, that's when I feel like an impostor, not that I don't live by that, but if I present the theory, it's like the heart, or our particularities, are not present, and it does not come the way I would like for it to be.
    But sometimes I refrain from writing particularities about my girls, for I fear that I may end up saying something the wrong way. I'm always readier to admit to something about myself.
    I like your idea. I think I'll try to journal too. Lately I've been busy living things, but I regret I have not left as many traces in writing as I could have, because I'm always writing mentally.

  2. Happy birthday!

    I love your comment about your age being the square of your favorite number -- I didn't know anyone else did that. I spent practically my whole life looking forward to that birthday, because it was also on the date I was born. That was an awful long time ago though, because my favorite number is five.

    I like what you said about journalling helping see things more objectively -- that's very helpful.


    (Blogger's not letting me comment on embedded posts lately.)

  3. Thanks for commenting, Silvia and Kelly! I felt like this was such a rambling post; I almost didn't want to publish it because of that.

    I love both your blogs.... Silvia, I do that with planning too. A bit of it is helpful, I think, because talking about what we want in our lives seems to help us get there, but I kind of overdo it sometimes, too.

  4. What a gorgeous post! I love your insights on journaling. I really like Anne LaMott, especially Operating Instructions.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!