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Author: Heather Bradford, Issue: October 2005, Topic: Writing

Journaling has long been heralded as an venue for catharsis, a springboard for larger artistic projects, and a healthy past time. If you've never been one to journal, you are in an ideal position to start now, being overseas, a foreigner, and possibly away from the familiar or the comfortable. Not only may you be in a position to be helped by journaling your inner life, venting your frustrations or observations, but you are also in the unique position to offer the wisdom and insight that can only come from your position of being in a foreign land, thereby turning your thoughts into fuel for instruction and change. How's that for renewable energy?

So, what do you need to get started? Just paper, a pen, and honesty. That's about it. You don't need one of those fancy-schmansy cloth journals. Author Natalie Goldberg commented once that writing in one of those made her feel like she had to say something beautiful, something profound. The hundred yen shops have great little portable spiral bounds. Make it a new habit. Write on the bus, on your lunch break, over morning coffee. Put one in the bathroom.

Journaling can be a beginning point for other creative or intellectual endeavors. Often, as a writer, I go back to my journals and brush off the dust to find some undiscovered treasure, some particularly clear thought lost in the scribble. Not an artist? My husband is a scientist, and often journals his reactions to and opinions of the various books and articles he reads.

Recording our thoughts can be a process of revelation, also. We all have questions we wish someone would ask us. The important stuff. The silly stuff. Write a list of questions in the front cover, leaving room for more, then answer them. At least you'll be ready if someone ever asks you:

How would you really like to spend the last year of your life?

When did you feel the most alive? Lonely? Bored? Inspired? Dorky?

If you were an animal, which and why?

How does your life compare with what you imagined as a child?

What do you really believe about God? Freedom? Economics? Cheese?

Keeping a journal is more than writing down your own comings and goings, the various minutiae of life which constitutes the bulk and filler of everyday existence, though that has a place now and then. Keeping a journal allows for us a voice somewhere in this world where we can stand up and be heard, be counted. Even if we are the only ones who will ever read our words, we will have at least uttered them, said what we had to say when we had to say it. The page offers to us a blank and receptive audience, an unconditional acceptance of our thoughts, however angry, banal, petty, silly, or vulnerable they may be. A journal allows for complete honesty, the only barrier to that is how honest we want to be with ourselves.

  • A new Creative Writing group is being formed in the Tsukuba and Tsuchiura area. We will gather for discussion, analysis, critique, and interpretation of our English-language creative writing, be it fiction, poetry, drama, etc. All are welcome. Please email Heather Bradford at jhbradford AT nifty.com or call 029-842-7650.

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