On Journal Writing: Inspiration from L.M. Montgomery

I hope you all had a great weekend! There was a bit of rain, but also a bit of sun, and I had some bubble tea, which is a new thing for me. I mean, I’ve had bubble tea before, but since we’ve moved here to the East End, there’s a bubble tea place not so far, and I’ve had enough of it to make up for an entire teenage-hood without it. I feel like I’m discovering my Asian roots. Jon is indifferent to it, but I’m really enjoying it.

We had the last major heave-ho to organize the apartment and the office/packing area, which a bit like pulling off a bandaid…for two days straight. There are still just a few boxes that haven’t been unpacked, but I think I can officially say those will never be unpacked. After we’re dead, Caleb is going to open them up as a time capsule of when we moved into this space and discover mis-matched socks and a dog toy and some long expired cans of soup.

Caleb’s contribution to the unpacking: taking stuff out of boxes and leaving them on the floor. And look at those thighs! Ready to have a big bite taken out of them by yours truly.

But it’s Tuesday, and the shop is open, and we’re back into the swing of things. Right now, I’m in the back, working on the blog and answering the phone, which usually means I answer the phone, someone asks a question, and then I have to go out front to get the answer from Jon.

And I’m also here to share some more on journal writing inspiration, featuring L.M. Montgomery’s ledgers of journal entries. These journals are edited by Mary Rubio & Elizabeth Waterston. 

On Journal Writing: L.M. Montgomery Wonder Pens Blog wonderpens.ca

There is so much of myself in these volumes that I cannot bear the thought of their ever being destroyed. It would seem to me like a sort of murder…

Lucy Maud Montgomery was a Canadian author most famous for her Anne of Green Gables character, although she was extremely prolific and wrote many other short stories and novels. She died in 1942, but she was famous in her day and now, both in Canada and internationally. Apparently the Japanese really like Anne of Green Gables, and there’s a Japanese anime version of the story.

Anne of Green Gables Canada Post Stamps Japan Wonder Pens wonderpens.ca Blog

And check out these! Japanese anime Anne of Green Gables release of stamps joint-issue between Japan and Caanda.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, Anne is an orphaned red-head who goes to live with an old couple on Prince Edward Island, winning the hearts of her adoptive parents and a cast of quirky and loveable neighbours around her. It sounds a bit cheesy when you sum it up in one sentence, but it was one of my favourite novels as a kid. When I was younger, I had a complete set of the Anne of Green Gable novels. While I read all of them, it’s interesting to note that you could tell by how worn in and wrinkled they were that the first in the series, Anne of Green Gables, was my favourite, and they went in descending order from there. I think I read the last one only once.

However, whether or not you are willing to invest the time into reading a not-short novel about Anne, I do recommend you watch the CBC film, to which there is also a sequel. It’s old now, and you may groan and roll your eyes a bit, but your heart will be warm while you’re watching, and there may even be a tear (I’m serious!). Just give it a chance, even if you’re male. Especially if you’re male. You could learn some lessons from Gilbert, Anne’s main love interest/nemesis. Jonathan Crombie, the actor who played Gilbert Blythe, recently died, and I remember reading this article in the New York about what made Gilbert so enchanting to generations of females. (I have my own Jonathan now)

Jonathan Crombie - from NOW Online

Jonathan Crombie – from NOW Online

In any case, aside from all the Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery was also a prolific journal writer. I stumbled across one volume of her journal quite by accident – I was encouraged by a librarian at my local branch to make the trip to the Toronto Reference Library for journals by authors and famous people, but having the baby, I decided I was just going to have to wander the shelves closest to me and see what came up. The volume I’m reading is the third volume of Montgomery’s journals (they didn’t have volumes I or II), and having long loved Anne of Green Gables, I decided to check it out. The third volume covers the years 1921-1929.

On Journal Writing: L.M. Montgomery Wonder Pens Blog wonderpens.ca

Remember the days of the stamped due date? Somewhere between when I was a kid going to the library and then returning to the library as an adult after university, these were phased out, and I never noticed!

Montgomery, always having been a faithful journaler, realized that her fame might one day make her journals valuable in the future, and at this time in her life, began copying out and re-writing her journals, editing presumably for grammar and clarity, but also apparently “shaping” past events. Any journal, whether re-written or not, is obviously going to be biased and subject to the whims and perspective of the author, but I guess in this case there’s an extra layer.

On a side note, I can also appreciate that she re-wrote her novels into legal-sized ledgers, and there’s something to be said for uniformity in notebooks. I’m always changing notebooks, and it would be wonderful to see a whole shelf of the same notebook, although I don’t think I’ll ever achieve that.

There’s no mistake, though – Montgomery is an author, and her writing is quite engrossing. I think I read in the introduction that the compilers and editors of the volumes of her published journals omitted some of the tedious and repetitive parts that didn’t contribute anything, so maybe that helped, but I really did enjoy reading this volume.

Montgomery writes that “this journal [hers] is a faithful record of one human being’s life and so should have a certain literary value,” which I think also indicates that it’s not necessarily that she is herself famous that makes her journals important, but that it is as complete as possible record of someone’s life and the times they lived in, and that in itself is important for history.

On Journal Writing: L.M. Montgomery Wonder Pens Blog wonderpens.ca

Even aside from the copying out of the journal, the manner in which Montgomery wrote also indicates an effort to really create a complete picture of her true life. She wrote her journal notes on bits of paper, and then later she would compile and organize and flesh them out into her journal. Her entries range from daily to weekly to monthly, sometimes one or two sentences, sometimes several pages long.

As someone who tries to write in my journal everyday but often fails, I’ve now started trying to make notes in a calendar insert in my Midori about details and ideas and thoughts that I want to write about in my journal. The format of having the calendar means that I can look back on my week and remember that on Thursday, I went to do this and had this idea about something, which can actually be very helpful when I’m sitting down to write in my journal. Now that I’m no longer in school, sometimes it feels like the days all run together for me…

There are a few photographs taken by Montgomery – some posed family portraits, but also a few surprisingly artistic and poignant photos.

In this volume, there’s a lot about her daily life and the logging in of what she’s done over the past day or week or month, but there’s a lot of her as a person in there, too. She describes her marriage and her husband’s mental illness and her two sons. There is quite a bit about her interactions with her publishers and the progress of her writing, as well as the necessary publicity to go along with her writing – the good days and bad days of her work. Montgomery discusses the books she reads and the plays she sees, her trips and travels around Canada. I love when she describes her belligerent and grumpy maid, at which point I want to say, I would take belligerent help over no help any day! But I think it’s because she didn’t have a washing machine or dish washer.

There is some idle gossip and funny stories, but also she shares her perspective on some of the people she interacts with regularly. Some of it is scathing, but she also takes a lot of inspiration and enjoyment from her friendships and relationships. She writes about things as seemingly fleeting and insignificant as ladies’ fashion and bonnet-wearing as well as more serious contemplations about life.

On December 16, 1922, Montgomery writes:

“Is it because I’m getting on in life that all these wonderful inventions and discoveries, treading on each other’s heels, give me a sense of weariness and a longing to go back to the slower years of old. Doubtless that has something to do with it. But I do really think we are rushing on rather fast. It keeps humanity on tiptoe. And all these things don’t make the world or the people in it any happier

In a generation or two letters will be obsolete. Everyone will talk to absent friends the world over by radio. It will be nice; but something will be lost with letters. The world can’t eat its cake and have it too. And none of these things really “save time.” They only fill it more breathlessly full.”

Yup, even in 1922, sometimes you needed to take a step back from the racing speed of technology. And at this time, she’s talking about the radio. I love her description of all the hurry and speed making things “breathlessly full.”

I think she might be pleased to know that letter writing is not (yet?) obsolete, and even today still alive – in fact, there’s a so-called Snail Mail Revolution. People are writing letters because they enjoy the process of writing and the time it takes to make the trip to the post office, or creating a thoughtful and unique way to send a lasting message.

I think she would also be pleased to know that her volumes of journals have been published, and that people are reading them, along with her fiction and novels. From just this volume alone (although I think I would like to read at the very least her first and earliest journals), you can read her thoughts and her dreams, along with such an interesting glimpse of her daily life and Toronto and Canada at this time. Her legacy lives on, not just in Anne of Green Gables, although I think that will also remain her claim to fame, but in that reading her journals, people are seeing her and her life in its most authentic possible form.

And my favourite part about reading through some of these journal entries: the esteemed L.M. Montgomery uses the phrase “willy nilly”.

10 thoughts on “On Journal Writing: Inspiration from L.M. Montgomery

  1. pamelake

    You might ask your local library if they can borrow volumes I & II for you. Some libraries can borrow from other libraries so that you do not have to travel great distances.

    Reply
    1. Wonder Pens Post author

      Yes, the Toronto Public Library definitely does this! It’s actually incredible how you can look something up, and they’ll bring it right to your branch for you 🙂 Thanks for the advice!

      Reply
  2. Danielle P.

    I love immersing myself into diaries, especially those of authors (Virginia Woolf is a favourite). Thank you for writing so beautifully about this literary form!

    Reply
    1. Wonder Pens Post author

      Thanks for reading! I’ve heard a lot about Viriginia Woolf’s diary. I have just added it to my list to look into – thanks so much for the recommendation! 🙂

      Reply
  3. parobertson

    Thank you for taking the time to review such an interesting piece of history. I enjoyed the insight – this was fun.

    Reply
  4. Ben Stolz (@BenStolz)

    Liz,

    I really enjoy reading your blog posts 🙂 It’s always a treat when I see something on twitter or instagram and I think “Ohh! I wonder if there’s a blog post?” For what it’s worth, it makes my day.

    I wish I lived closer so I could not only come and see the new shop, but to attend the classes.

    I just started on a 31 day journal challenge and I’m going to do it this time (I swear!) Your posts are inspiring for me to write (and read) more.

    Thanks again,
    -Ben

    Reply
    1. Wonder Pens Post author

      Dear Ben,
      That’s so nice to hear! Sometimes blogging feels a bit like sending things out into the great cyber abyss, or a black hole… and so I’m glad to hear you are enjoying the posts!
      Good luck with your 31 day journal challenge! Let me know how it goes – sometimes all you need is something to help you get writing to jump start your creativity and reflection. And the next time you’re in town, I hope you’ll stop by to see the new shop and say hello again 🙂
      Liz

      Reply

Say hello!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s