The Priceless Value of Keeping a Journal

@eleanorparkerwv #latina #writer #amediting #amwriting #historicalfiction #novel #publisher #booktrope

That’s about the gist of it today. Eleanor Parker from West Virginia (not originally) is a Latina writer who is editing her first book-an historical fiction novel that will be published by Booktrope this summer. #adecentwoman Wouldn’t that be cool to use that hashtag!

I’ve used Twitter for a couple of years and until this week, I had never used a hashtag in my life. In my defense, I was writing a book. I see that #eyeroll. Although I was doing my part to create and maintain my author platform on many social media sites, I didn’t know how to use hashtags. I thought it was some fad that would wear off eventually. Wrong. I’ve found out how very useful these little hashtags are! They get me to where I want to be and allow me to communicate with people who are doing the same thing-editing and writing. It’s awesome.

Earlier in the week, I watched a very informative YouTube video from Writer.ly.com about using Twitter and it opened up a whole new world for me. I know it’s old news to you, but I’m genuinely excited. I forced myself to log off after the tutorial because I’ve been known to search for videos of angry cats, people’s reactions and behavior to being slung into the atmosphere on amusement park thrill rides, and of course, videos of twin babies discovering each other for the first time. I could spend hours on that site. So, I went back to Twitter to use what I’d learned and it was fun. I discovered lists and created one list, but it didn’t work. I’ll have to tend to that later. This morning I composed a tweet about something dumb I did this week and ended it with #brainfart. Perfect.

One of my favorite authors, Joyce Carol Oates is on Twitter. I had a lovely morning catching up with the author. She tweeted about keeping a journal and her comments prompted my decision to keep a journal again. My memory isn’t what it used to be…who am I kidding, my friends will tell you that I have a bad memory for people’s names, book titles, movie titles and dates. Forget dates. I know. I’m an historical fiction writer, how can that be, right? Well, I’m telling you the truth. If I don’t write it down, it’s lost. I will remember the story, the location, what the weather was like, who wore what and said what, but the day and time? Not going to happen. My good friends will tell you that I don’t remember their birthday. My brain cannot and refuses to retain that type of information. You’ll hear from me when your birthday pops up on my Facebook page.

Today I’m editing and tonight, I’m ordering a big, beautiful, hardback, non-lined journal. I kept a diary as a teenager. It was a small diary with a tye-dyed cover. I kept it until my mother found my sister’s journal (okay, I told my mom where it was hidden) and I promptly threw it away. I remember it was trash day. I stuffed my diary into an athletic sock and pushed it deep into the outdoor trash can.

A couple of years after my mother passed away (1992), I moved to Belgium with my then-husband and two young children. It was a perfect time to begin a journal. I’d lived in Europe as an Army brat, but this was a whole different ball of wax. I was an Army wife and member of a new community, a very active community of Americans, Brits and Belgians. We became family, as you do when thousands of miles separate you from your loved ones back home, and many of us still keep in contact today. On Facebook, of course. We remained in Brussels for 13 years. I kept a journal of our travels, adventures, my life as an ex-pat, a working artist, and as a mom. I have kept those lovely journals.

When my children and I returned to the United States in 2006, I stopped writing in my journal. I had a divorce to deal with, I worked full-time and went back to school. I don’t think I could bear reading about that difficult time in my life, but it so happens that I’m writing my second book, another historical fiction novel, Finding Gracia on El Camino. The story of a recently divorced woman who finds her grandmother’s journals that chronicle her walk on El Camino, the medieval pilgrimage walk from Roncesvalles, France to Santiago de Compostela. My kids and I walked El Camino one month after my marital separation. I kept a daily journal on our two-week walk. Thank God, I did.

Perhaps I will regret not keeping a journal during that time in my life as my new book unfolds and takes shape. My sister and good friends, however, have long and good memories. If I need to tap into that moment in time as a writer, they will help me and it won’t take me long to access the feelings and emotions that seem to reside just beneath the surface.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urgency in Getting it All Down

I believe we all have many stories to tell that should see the light of day. I believe that many of us will never write those stories down and that saddens me because I want to read those stories. At funerals, I’ve often wondered if the deceased accomplished what he or she set out to do in life. I think of all the wonderful untold life stories that go with that person.

We all wake up, most of us get ready for work or school, we spend our day doing our jobs and if we have families, we come home to make dinner, do homework with our children, talk to our significant others, perhaps eat it in front of the television and fall asleep. We wake up and do it all over again. That’s not all we do, of course, but you get the picture-we live our lives. We live the lives we’ve been taught to live or we do our own thing. Most of us follow routines that make our lives and the lives of our loved ones manageable and for some of us, that is enough and we are happy. Others, however, develop an urgency deep inside that whispers, “Time waits for no one, do that thing.”

Only you know what “that thing” is. That thing for me turned into two things–to write books and paint in between my books.

I believe that fear, excuses and our busy lives stop us from writing our stories. I am of the belief that you should fake it until you make it. Just write it all down. Write a daily journal, blog, keep a notebook with you at all times, or type out the stories of your life. Don’t worry about grammar or the right words, for now, just write.

As the granddaughter and daughter of oral storytellers, I had a wealth of information, details and story lines by the time I was in my 30’s. My memory and the repetition of these stories kept them alive for me as well as telling my kids the stories, but I didn’t write them down.

Soon after my mother’s death in 1992 at the young age of 57, I began to keep a journal. Her death shook my family and her friends to the core. Again, I wondered whether my beautiful mother had left things too late. Had she left unfinished business and did she live all her dreams? Or even one? She was the epitome of a great mother and grandmother, but I wasn’t sure.

My mother’s death was the kick in the pants and in the gut that I needed. I began a journal, written long-hand for over ten years in beautifully bound, unlined books. I took those bulky journals everywhere I went. I wrote during trips, vacations and even on walks because my entries also included photographs I’d taken along the way and small drawings done in interesting places. I wrote down pieces of conversations I heard on the Metro, in small cafes and on ferry boat rides. I jotted down descriptions of people, of corner bodegas, and the tiniest flower. I began to see and write down what I saw and heard and how it made me feel. I also kept a notebook by my bed to record dreams.

During those years, the book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron arrived as a Christmas gift from my father’s new wife, Rebecca. That was when I started my journey toward doing “that thing” and her book changed my life. I read the book alone, did the homework and went out on my Artist’s Dates and soon, I was sharing the book with girlfriends. We met once a month for a year and soon, another group was formed and I was facilitating. I began to write poetry and a year later, I wrote my book, A Decent Woman.

It is not surprising that through helping others with their creativity, I found my own.

Blogs have long replaced my journal. Julia might not agree and I understand that she may be right. I might go back to writing in my journal, just maybe…

Ellie