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N e a t    A r c h i v e s

November 1999

Has anyone ever offered, "A penny for your thoughts?" We believe they are actually priceless. No amount of money could purchase such unique and extraordinary personal possessions as our thoughts. Furthermore, when we become "women of a certain age," we have accumulated a wealth of these precious belongings.

The thesaurus provides the following meanings of the word "thought"-think, reflect, reason, consider, deliberate, contemplate, meditate, ponder, muse, dream and mindful. One of the easiest, most inexpensive, and satisfying ways of capturing your thoughts in a tangible, lasting way is by keeping a journal. For those of you who already do, we applaud you and support your endeavor, for those of you who don't we would like to recommend that you consider the possibility of doing so.

In this age of technology, it is simple to merely set up a journal file on your computer and make entries when you are in the mood for a bit of self discovery or observation. Many of us, however, who have routinely recorded our thoughts and ideas, are drawn to the vast array of tools available for this purpose. We cannot resist the brand new, decorative coverings of the multitude of journals one can find in book stores and card shops today (also in the grocery, or such places as Target). The fresh, lined or unlined pages of an, as yet unused, book offered specifically for the purpose of committing our inner most feelings to paper has an almost magnetic appeal. Some of us are equally drawn to the huge assortment of colorful and interestingly shaped writing utensils available today. Like the expression, "Hooked on phonics," we are "Drawn to diaries and pens," like bees to honey.

Clearly, a personal journal, is the same concept as the small, usually pink, little books with a latch and key, that allowed us to pour out all our girlhood fantasies, miseries, and ambitions. Not to mention, the unbridled rage we unleashed upon younger brothers who managed to break into them for the purpose of finding material with which to taunt and ridicule us!

Diaries and journals have a very long history-fortunately for those who have benefited from the insights, wisdom, and recordings of people who left them as amazing legacies.

The Concise Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia defines diary:

a daily record of events and observations. It derives its impact from its immediacy, unlike the retrospective memoir. Diaries interest historians because they depict everyday lives in a given time and place. Three of the most famous are those by Samuel Pepys, who bore witness to the plague (1665) and great fire (1666) then sweeping London; Mary Chestnut, who chronicled in personal terms the fate of the Confederacy in the American Civil War; and Anne Frank, a young German-Jewish girl who, before she died in a World War II Concentration Camp, recorded her experiences while hiding in Holland. Important literary diaries include those of John Evelyn, Andre Gide, Franz Kafka, and Virginia Woolf.

Now, before you react quickly with the notion that you have nothing so worthy as those journal writers, we would ask you to take a minute and review the following reasons for keeping a chronicle of your own. More importantly, this illustrates why "it is never to late" to start and explains how it can bring a new dimension of satisfaction to your life (taken from http://www.writeplace.com/Journal/overview.html):

Catharsis - use a journal to release troubling thoughts or emotions.

Reflection - use a journal to explore a truth or idea to understand it, to decide what you think about a situation, or how to apply an idea in your life.

Remembrance - use a journal to uncover and use your creativity and intuition.

Problem solving - use a journal to look at a problem and develop ways to take care of it.

Exploration - one of the best ways to use a journal is to write without expectation or desire, to jump in and follow whatever words, ideas, images, and feelings come up, and see where they lead you. This can be a powerful way to develop your creativity and intuition.

Personal growth - Who are you? What are your goals, boundaries, principles, and beliefs? What do you really long for? Journal writing can help you get to know yourself and live in accordance with who you really are.

In other words, in terms of the possibilities, there is "something for everyone." Regardless of your approach, here are some useful guidelines:

The important things in life frequently don't happen on the surface, but below it.

"We actually construe the world and ourselves in the light of the projects we live for. It is our commitment to these which 'structure' our world. The world and my experience of myself change with the change of projects. If you help me give up old projects which are no longer satisfying or fulfilling and encourage me to dare new ones, you are helping me grow." Sidney Jourard

"We write to taste life, in the moment, and in retrospection." From The Diary of Anais Nin, vol. 5 (1974)

"One day toward the end of this century, a woman born in the last met with her senior citizens' group. Their new project: to write down stories about their lives. Eighty-year-old Jessie Lee Foveaux began reluctantly then became enthusiastic. The manuscript she finally produced so impressed her writing instructor that he sent it to Clare Ansberry at the Wall Street Journal, who immediately devoted a feature to it. The record that Jessie Foveaux created at her kitchen table with the thought of sharing only with her family had been recognized as a rare and precious document, a preservation of the challenges and struggles that defined the American experience in the twentieth century-a story of a little girl born in 1899…Any Given Day: The Life and Times of Jessie Brown Foveaux"

Our "expert" advice is: don't write for publication but rather for the sheer unbridled personal pleasure of it. You may want to explore these resources which provide some directions for "excavating" your life:"Writing Down the Bones," by Natalie Goldberg