The Secret Files

Although I stopped blogging for awhile, I never stopped writing. I started a journal around the time I backed off from blogging. I’d written in a journal here and there over the years but never with any consistency. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am an enthusiastic starter of things but am not, as a general rule, a reliable continuer of said things. In the past, any new habit entailed a trip to the appropriate store for an abundance of perceived vital materials, in this case, the perfect journal, followed by a two or three day preoccupation with the new habit followed by a gradual loss of enthusiasm. I felt a little superstitious this time. I was afraid to draw the attention of the universe by making a big flashy show of my private endeavor. I started with an old journal I found in the back of a  drawer. It even had a few entries from a previous journaling attempt. I  turned to the first empty page and began writing. The next day, I did it again. And, slowly, it became a real habit instead of a fantasy habit. I finished that journal, found another in the bookcase and filled that, too. I recently began my sixth volume. It’s the practice that I enjoy. It goes along with being the first one up each morning, watching the sun rise, and enjoying a morning coffee with a little heavy cream and cinnamon. Wake up, make coffee, write.

It does present a little problem. What am I going to do with these journals? “The Artist’s Way”, a book/primer on creativity, recommends journaling in longhand to clear your mind each day and then throwing away the pages. It’s supposed to loosen up those creative juices. I am not the sort of person who can spend 20 minutes creating something and then throw it away. It’s not that I think what I’ve written deserves to be preserved; it’s that I’ve invested time in this pursuit and throwing it away would indicate a waste of my time. Surely this work has some worth? Maybe my kids or grand kids will want to read them someday. Instead of jewelry, silver and money, they can have the comfort of my musings on yoga poses I’ve attempted.

Then, I fantasized that maybe three hundred or a thousand years from now my journals might be found, perfectly preserved, wherever I hid them before my demise, and scholars will use them to reconstruct the daily life of a middle class 21st-century-woman. This injected an unhealthy amount of self consciousness into my writing. Shopping at Banana Republic and watching Netflix didn’t tell a very compelling story of a life well spent and so, for a little while, I included news snippets each day of what had happened politically or catastrophically around the world. At least, I reasoned, in between shopping for the coziest winter sweater and watching reruns of Friends, the record would show that I also, on occasion, listened to NPR. Then I reconsidered and decided that I did not need the pressure of being the world’s observer. Let someone smarter and more eloquent do that job. Like Donald Trump Junior, for instance;-)

I am beginning to see what “The Artist’s Way” was getting at. The value is in the process, not the by product. Maybe someday I will throw them all away. I’m not there yet. Do you journal? Do you like the process of writing in longhand? What will you do with all of your secret journals?

Chicken out


  8 comments for “The Secret Files

  1. Doug in Oakland
    November 12, 2019 at 8:31 am

    There’s something about writing longhand on actual paper that inspires creativity in a way that typing just doesn’t. I think for me it was in how I varied the handwriting to match the content.
    I still have five or six journals that go back to 2002, but I lost all of the earlier ones to a move under duress (which also claimed my music collection, most of my clothes, and my classical guitar).
    One of those journals was entirely from my hospital/rehab stay, and it actually became somewhat useful later as it contained notes I jotted down about what my doctors and therapists did and said that I used to make decisions about my recovery after I was home.
    And of course the effects of the stroke are on the left side of my body and I am left handed, so my handwriting is awful these days, and certainly not creatively inspiring for writing purposes.
    That gave me an idea when I got home from the rehab place: I was going to transcribe some of my better journal entries into my computer. I named the file “Dead tree to digital” and fairly quickly discovered that those journal entries lost something in the transcription.
    One of my journal entries noted how the internet had pretty much eaten all of the time I used to spend journaling, a fact I noticed when two entries in a row were from times when the internet was down. I titled that entry “Chronicles of Interrupted Connectivity” and just straight up owned up to the fact that most of my writing was being done commenting on blogs…


    • November 12, 2019 at 11:54 am

      Hi Doug, it must have been awful to lose your music collection. Talking about having to learn to let go…I”m sorry that happened. I had a feeling you might have a journal collection, too. You seem like a born writer to me. And I do think of your comments as your blog. Your traveling blog. It’s too bad you can’t centralize all of your blog comments in one place and give them titles because you are great at titles. I’m a lefty also. My handwriting fluctuates from self-consciously neat to unreadable. I totally get the concept of varying your handwriting, too. For me it seems more tied to mood but I have entries that you would swear are written by different people entirely. Maybe they are. Maybe we are all a little disassociative from day to day.


  2. jenny_o
    November 12, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    I’m glad you’ve been writing all along because you have a gift for it. Also, I believe that’s the only way to really find out what works, what is truly “us”, and refine our voice. I like your comment to Doug that his comments are like a travelling blog!

    To answer your questions, I do not journal and I don’t write anything in longhand anymore except greetings on cards and things like grocery lists. Even then, if I’m not careful, I can’t decipher my own lists. I’ve never had good penmanship unless I concentrate on the physical act of writing rather than the content, and you can guess how the result of that would read. When I type I don’t have to think about the process and can concentrate on arranging my thoughts instead. Also, I have carpal tunnel in my writing hand wrist and gripping a pen or pencil makes my hand go numb very quickly. Mostly I just can’t do two things at once, which is rather pathetic when I put it like that 😀

    Actually, I just remembered that there was a period of time when I kept a tiny gratitude journal, which morphed to include a list of what I’d done each day. I wrote it when my dad was in the nursing home and I was working and had four cats and was very busy every day but had nothing concrete to show for it. I was feeling swamped and unproductive, and listing the things I was grateful for and the things I had done helped me to feel less hopeless. I don’t think that was the kind of journaling you meant, though!


    • November 12, 2019 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks Jenny. Did you keep the gratitude journal? I can see it as being really helpful in not only reminding you of all the things you’re grateful for but also helping you remember those days of helping your dad. I kind of wish I had kept one in the days that followed the deaths of my parents. They both died in 2010 just a few months apart. I really struggled, at times, for a few years after that. I’ve wondered if I would be able to look back and pinpoint the stages of grief. Not that it would change or help anything. At the time, I didn’t always recognize that what I was grieving. I’m rambling. Anyways, you are another person who had kind of a rambling blog. Do you remember those days when you supported everyone else with your great comments but didn’t yet have a blog of your own? I do. LIke Doug, you were very generous, even as a non-blogger, with your reading and commenting. Very encouraging. You still are:-)


      • jenny_o
        November 13, 2019 at 3:34 am

        I went through a couple of my gratitude journals and found there was a lot of repetition. I was grateful for Dad’s good days, for kind caregivers, and for my husband’s support. That was pretty much it. Over and over. 🙂 They make me sad now because they take me right back to those days, which had an undercurrent of sadness throughout (because of all the hard times Dad had after his stroke). I never wrote about the good times we had talking and laughing like fools. I should do that now.

        Yes, I remember before I started my blog – I loved commenting then and I still do, especially when the blogger answers! You’ve always been so welcoming and answered comments faithfully. Thank you for your kind words, Chickie. P. S. Doug IS a wonderful commenter – I look forward to his input! Doug, I hope you’re reading this 🙂


      • November 13, 2019 at 11:50 am

        In that case, get rid of the journals and start writing about the good times. Maybe one of your weekly poetry subjects could be “fathers”!


  3. Joanne Noragon
    November 13, 2019 at 12:08 am

    Oh, Chicken, my handwriting is so illegible that now I print. It is completely legible, and looks pretty cool, too. I once kept journals, a bit sporadically. But when the two houses downsized to one, I ruthlessly trashed it all. When I started again, a few years in I’d reconsider and out it all went. I still do it that way, and my reasoning is, I would not care to have someone else deciding what to do with it.


    • November 13, 2019 at 12:51 am

      Hi Joanne-exactly! And there’s more freedom when you know that writing will never see the light of day, never be judged. Still, there’s this other side. My dad’s aunt paid for someone to trace our history once. A few years back I got ahold of the results and basically, the guy wasn’t able to find much because, as he put it, my family was humble and didn’t put things in writing. I think he might have been saying they were poor, perhaps illiterate, and also heathens without even a family bible to fall back on. This is entirely possible. It’s also possible he wasn’t a very good researcher but the family’s failure to record it’s comings and goings always stuck with me. There’s a part of me that thinks I should keep some kind of running record.


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