Of journals, journeys, and soup du jour

When I saw today’s prompt word, “jour,” this immediately jumped to mind…

Dumb and Dumber was a very stupid movie, which might be why I like it so much. Maybe because Jeff Daniels upstaged Jim Carrey in it, too. Carrey was funny, but Daniels was a scream.

Of course, there were the words “sojourn” and “journey,” which mean pretty much the same thing, a trip of some sort. Journey is also a pretty good band from the ’70s. They did the song “Don’t Stop Believin’,” the theme for the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox…

Then there’s the term “journal,” which seems to be a popular name for newspapers, for example the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They used to be two separate newspapers, the Journal being the afternoon one. Another nearby newspaper is my hometown Marietta Daily Journal. When you think about it, that’s almost repetitive: a “journal” is a daily record, so the name of the paper is the Daily Daily Record. The name “journal” is also applied to publications such as The Journal of the American Medical Association. And, “journal” can be another name for an audit trail, a computer file that tracks the changes to a master file or a database.

But the most common use of the term is in reference to a personal journal. You might keep a personal journal to record your life, all its major events and your impressions of them, and to work out problems you’re having with it. You might also keep a writer’s journal and record ideas for characters, situations, settings, and plots, and a diet journal or fitness journal to record your progress with those. At work, you might keep a journal of a specific project, with all the correspondence, call logs, to-do items, and other minutiae. You could even think of a commonplace book as a form of a journal.

You might even do something like Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal, which he describes in the book At a Journal Workshop: Writing to Access the Power of the Unconscious and Evoke Creative Ability, which replaced his previous book of the same name. It is a very involved process, complete with a binder with a tabbed index and a set of nearly-indecipherable instructions that only make sense if you’ve taken one of Progoff’s Journal Workshops, not a cheap undertaking. But people who have taken it sing its praises.

Most people have moved their journaling online, or at the least use a computer file to record their thoughts and ideas. I use 750 Words, which I’ve spoken about a few times already on this blog. It’s based on the “morning pages” concept Julia Cameron described in The Artist’s Way. Her idea is to write three pages of early morning thoughts, longhand, as soon as you get out of bed or shortly thereafter. Well, the person who runs 750 Words decided that writing longhand was a drag, and it was just as easy to write three pages (i.e. 750 words) on the computer, and more convenient, because it doesn’t involve finding a notebook and pen and writing longhand. Since I have trouble writing with a pen since my dominant hand was the one affected by the stroke, typing, even one-handed, is much easier and faster. There are any number of good applications out there that will keep all your thoughts and ideas together in one place. Evernote is my favorite, but others use OneNote, SimpleNote, or space on a cloud somewhere that can hold all of their text files with all the associated ideas.

A new idea I’ve seen and been learning more about is the Bullet Journal. It’s intended as a manual, paper-and-pen solution to keeping your notes, to-do lists, monthly calendar and other items of interest. Designed primarily for creative types, it leaves a lot to the imagination of the person keeping the journal. It’s attracted almost a cult following, complete with groups on Facebook and Google+, and lots of YouTube videos with people discussing how they use it and showing off their particular journals. They get very involved with the type of notebook (Moleskine seems to be the most popular), what kind of pen they prefer, and what sort of symbols they use to denote to-do items, events, appointments and the like. Again, my lack of dexterity in my left hand when it comes to writing limits the usefulness of the Bullet Journal, but I can see where people would really get into it. I’ve been looking for a way to do the same thing using Evernote, but then I realize there really isn’t much I need to keep track of anymore.


Naturally, this was another entry in Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Check her blog for rules and how to join.

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Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

20 thoughts on “Of journals, journeys, and soup du jour”

  1. I liked your discussion of journals. The 750 words intrigues me. I have read some of Julia Cameron’s stuff and knew about the writing 3 pages. Which I haven’t tried yet. The online thing is appealing. I usually take notes on ideas in my Word program. I love physical journals too. It is nice we have all these tools available to us.

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      1. That’s interesting. I was thinking this morning that 750 words might be a lot for me everyday. I don’t think I write that much in my posts usually. But with Cameron she recommends stream of consciousness. So I guess the 750 words could be SOC.

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  2. I kept Morning Pages for almost 17 years. I’m taking a break because I am doing a different morning routine (maybe I should make them Night Pages). I loved them because I discovered buried dreams and interests, solved problems, and had a safe place to rant. I don’t keep them around because I wouldn’t want anyone reading them — they’re the worst of me, as they’re supposed to be. When I fill a notebook, I shred the pages and compost them.

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    1. I was pretty much the same. I’d have several notebooks, then I’d realize if I dropped dead someone would find them and read them, and I didn’t want that to happen, so I’d throw them out.

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  3. I agree, the computer is so much easier. I have a hard time writing longhand as well. I can never find a pen that feels comfortable enough to write anything very long. When I write songs however I do use longhand in pencil, although I am a pencil spinner. Always twisting it in my fingers to the point have quite a callous on my middle finger from it.

    I like to write early in the morning as well. Clear headed and relaxed, with a nice fresh cup of coffee 🙂

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    1. I’m really not that good about writing in the early morning any more. When I was working, I could do it, but now it takes me almost until noon to get myself moving…

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  4. Being rather familiar with Cameron’s work – and the Morning Pages – the one true difference that I had to stress – is this – writing long-hand/form, actually putting pen or whatever preferred tool to actual paper is really not the same, as typing on a keyboard or even doing an audio thing.

    I can understand and empathize with you about the facility problem of writing, most likely fast enough, to keep up with your thoughts, long-form. I have arthritis in my hands and often find it really painful – so prefer to type – but there really is a difference.

    I’ve asked many others about it – those who do some form of journal work – because initially I thought I was nuts – there is more of a “direct connection” and freer form that just allows a certain flow that is somehow, well, more intimate – but, as it is, we all have to make do and accomplish what we want, with the means and tools best suited to us. And the important thing, really, is: to create, and write. No more – no less.

    Interesting post 😀

    https://mercyjames6969mile.wordpress.com/2015/04/11/hungerj/

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    1. I know, and as I think I mentioned in the post, I was trying to learn to write left-handed so I could get back to journaling on paper, but it became a frustating endeavor, and finally I said, look, you’re in your late 50’s and essentially retired, you have more fun things to do than to learn something you probably should have taught yourself when you were ten. The keyboard is also good because even when I could write my handwriting was so illegible that even I couldn’t read it.

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      1. You are quite right – and if I missed the idea in the post, I do hope you will not be offended. It was rather the wee hours of the morning here – and at that point, nothing much was all together registering well.

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  5. I’m terrible at keeping journals and to-do lists. All my ideas are written on scraps of paper, I do my best to keep them in the same drawer at least. My blog is the nearest thing I’ve got to a journal. I have written longhand – notably when I had computer problems earlier in the year, I wrote thousands of words that way – but I wouldn’t contemplate writing a whole book by hand!

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    1. I have an app on my phone called Day One, and for a while was writing down notes to remember what I did during the day, because I’m getting very bad about remembering.

      Woody Allen has been keeping ideas on little scraps of paper in a drawer in his nightstand for years. He grings them out when he needs inspiration. So you’re on the right track.

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  6. Thanks for this post John. I love Ira Progroff (Jungian Analyst) and have heard of his book that you mention. I love my moleskins too, the kind of pens I use (different colours) and have other also special journals over the years for journalling. (here in South Africa we use 2 ‘ll”s!). There’s great value in journalling, maybe about our dreams.

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    1. I’ve heard that it’s good to leave a pad of paper next to the bed so you can write yourself notes about your dreams. I leave my phone there to take notes, but never seem to do so. Guess I’m too busy being entertained by my dreams to remember much about them.

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  7. I never thought about The Daily Daily…lol. But you are correct, it is certainly repetitive. I’ve attempted to keep a journal but can’t seem to stick with it. It’s such a nice idea.

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  8. My blog is my journal. I have never had one where I write my most personal thoughts, only during certain times of my life.
    My blog is as close to a journal as I need and I loved writing about journals for this prompt.

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  9. I’ve never seen Dumb and Dumber, but I loved Jeff Daniels in The Purple Rose of Cairo. I am also a fan of 750 words, although I’ve not been writing there recently: I almost signed up for both the March and April challenges but realized it was unrealistic. Maybe this summer. . . . What’s nice about 750 words is that you don’t HAVE to do a challenge. It’s a great way to get going or to let off steam.

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    1. Daniels is a great actor. I’ve seen him in a number of dramas (“Speed” was one, and there was one where his daughter had adopted a flock of geese) and was surprised he was that adept at low-brow comedy. He was seriously funnier than Jim Carrey.

      I’ll probably get back to 750 Words next month, after all this A to Z Challenge stuff is over. It’s been a little busier than I thought it would be.

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