My journals’ journeys

I’ve noted here before that I’ve kept a paper journal for nearly thirty years. It’s been a repository for writing ideas (fiction and nonfiction), my musings about this or that affront in my life, a place to develop my thoughts, and sometimes, but only sometimes, a bit of a diary. I use spiral bound, narrow-ruled college notebooks, and for at least the last twenty years, I’ve used notebooks with college logos on the cover.

I have about twenty-six of these notebooks stacked on a shelf in a closet and my most current one on my desk with a trusty mechanical pencil resting atop it for when it will be needed. I suspect that at least half of the stuff I’ve written in these over the years is utter junk, and about half of what’s left is stuff I’ve outgrown as story ideas or profound insights. Still, if that left a half dozen notebooks with quality in them, that would be a lot of ideas that could still be developed.

I’ve found that I don’t write in my journal as much as I once did. There was a time when I might have made two or three entries a day, and they might cover two or three pages each. Now I often don’t make even two or three entries a month, and they are lucky if they cover two or three paragraphs each. It’s not that my brain is wearing down (at least I don’t think it is). Rather, I suspect that blogging and note keeping I do on my laptop is robbing my journal of its love and attention. Now, when I have an idea for a short story or one of my novels, I write it in dedicated subdirectories on my computer (or on Google Docs). This is, of course, much more efficient. I have journal entries about given topics that are spread across five or six journals. Even by putting titles at the top of each entry, I know that many are effectively lost. I don’t think I would ever find the stamina to page through all of my journals, looking for all of the entries dealing with a given topic (and often when finding what I sought that it was hardly as clever or insightful as I remembered and certainly not worth the effort to chase it down).

Still, there is something about putting pencil to paper that feels serious and committed that tapping keys doesn’t provide. I’ll probably always keep a paper journal.

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