I first started keeping a journal in 1959. Inspired by the diary of Anne Frank, I wrote my entries to an imaginary “Mimi”. I wrote fairly regularly during my last year of high school which was a painful time. After that it was hit or miss through my college years, the year spent in Europe after I graduated, and my years in California. By that time I had discovered the Diary of Anaïs Nin, and my journal writing became more self-consciously literary. When I moved to Brunswick, Maine, bought a house and settled down, I took a dream class from Charles Ponce, a Jungian Scholar. For years I wrote down all my dreams, and I wrote them on the left-hand pages of my journal notebooks. The symbolism which connected the left hand with intuition, dreams, and the moon, etc. and the right hand with rational, linear, and the sun, became the structure of a book I wrote, called The Feminine of History is Mystery. On the left-hand pages is material that includes some journal entries, some dreams, fantasies, and passages from a journal I kept as I traveled in the British Isles and Brittany in France. The right hand pages explore much of the same material, but linearly, logically, and complete with footnotes & bibliography.
I didn’t start writing every day until 1991. In that journal I mention “writing practice” so I’d read Natalie Goldberg. Another book that was really important to me is Deena Metzger’s Writing for your Life. Somewhere along the way I also read The Artist’s Way and started doing “morning pages.”
When we got a computer in 1988, I began to type up all my old journals. At one point I calculated that I had typed up one million words. As I typed up entries that had been written 2 or 10 year before, I would sometimes be moved to comment — from the me of now to the me of then. The journal became a place to dialogue with myself and gain perspective on my life.
I periodically would get excited about a book I would make up out of selected journal entries. There was “Dialogues with the Moon” which was an exploration of the symptoms and passage of menopause, “Written in Blood” — the story of childhood abuse and its consequences, the story of “Nika” which was about an artist coming of age, and “Shaman” which was mostly about dreams, and scenes that had appeared through active imagination. I would get excited about a particular idea, go through my journals choosing passages, copying and pasting in the computer, printing them out — and Bingo! there’s a book, or at least a start on a book. Then I would get distracted, or triggered into despair or terror, and the project would lapse.
In 1995 I was once again talking to my (now ex-) husband about the perennial project of trying to make a publishable book out of my journals. He usually tried to discourage me, which I thought was because he didn’t think my writing was good enough, but in fact he saw more clearly than I did that whatever “art” I was supposed to be doing didn’t include writing books. He asked me, if you did publish a book, what would you have then? And this sentence came out of my mouth: “It would prove that I deserved to live, even though my parents were disappointed in me.” I was horrified to see that that was my motivation for doing all this writing. A huge chunk of my energy for writing just disappeared and I felt bereft. I almost stopped writing, but found I wasn’t able to, the discipline was too much a part of my life. I think my writing changed in character, becoming more honest and less self consciously literary. But I did stop typing up my journals. I started typing into the computer again in 2000 when I began writing the “Guidance” passages, and wanted to have a record to reread. Gradually I began to include more of the daily entries. Now I’m typing up about half of what I write in the journal notebooks, and that is the raw material for the blog posts.