The full title is Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal. I got this book on the recommendation of Mike Swickey who authors the paper notes in a digital world blog. His comment was “Best book in years on journal keeping.” Given my recent fling with Moleskines, it appealed to me.
He was right. I'm really enjoying reading the book. Its required reading for anyone who wants vibrant access to the rich and meaningful world of journaling. The author, Alexandra Johnson is a writer and a good one.
One thing that draws me in is her great curiosity and fascination with the journals she collected as she researched the book. She brings the mystery and treasure hunt alive. I remember as a teenager reading Nancy Drew. I loved the parts where she would be up in an attic poking around for clues or something special.
It helps that Alexandra didn't start out the ideal journaler. At all. She struggled with journaling from age nine and well into her twenties before she finally found a way in. Try this:
The proof was incriminatingly kept in my own hand, entries dated as regularly as a prison lockup. The litany of daily life reads as flat as the lines that guided my ballpoint: “school; walked dog; dinner - mashed potatoes, frozen peas, baked meatloaf, ketchup bled into rim of Pyrex pan.” ... The most shaming are days where there's that single entry: “nothing.”...
At twenty-four, mine changed by reading others' diaries carefully. I began experimenting, imitating, stealing. From Virginia Woolf, I learned how to keep a pen moving, imitating her “haphazard gallop” to avoid self-censorship. From Anne Frank, I learned how to look for patterns in a diary with an eye for imagining large work
This book is chock full of stories and excerpts from journals. A great read if you want to learn more about this sort of thing. The extra added feature is that the book inevitably motivates me. Motivation is key here. And all the examples provide options and angles when facing that blank page.