Tag Archives: On Journal Writing

Morning Pages – A Writing & Creativity Exercise

One of the things we hope to do with the shop and the blog is to encourage and inspire you to write more. Whether it’s writing letters, or writing in your journal, or writing creatively, I hope you can find the physical tools to inspire you, but that you can also read the blog and maybe find some small spark for your writing. So, when I stumbled across this, I couldn’t resist sharing. What a great exercise to try!

This is a tool designed by Julia Cameron, who writes and speaks on finding ways to build on your creativity and your thoughts.

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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”.

On Journal Writing

I think I’ve mentioned somewhere on the blog before that I write in a journal, although I sometimes wish I made more time for it. I don’t write anything too earth-shattering, no haikus or secret love affairs, just my day to day and whatever thoughts I’ve managed to keep in my mind by day’s end. I don’t know what will happen with my journals, but I’ve told Jon that if I die before I’ve had a chance to censor out all the juicy bits, he should burn all my journals so Caleb will never read the sordid stories of his childhood, like how his parents may or may not have used some of his Chinese New Year money to buy hot dogs from a stand because we didn’t have any cash, or how I may or may not regularly encourage the dog to lick Caleb’s wisps of hair across his head because it gives Caleb a comb-over which I think is hilarious.

But journal writing is something that I think is a thing that’s good for you, like drinking enough water, or stretching. I’ve been thinking about writing a series of blog posts on journal writing for a while, but it’s been a bit on the back burner. It sometimes feels like I have a lot of soups on the back burners, and some of them take a bit more simmering than others.

I’ve got a few library books kicking around that have been buzzing around my brain to get me started on the series, but it wasn’t even the threat of late fines that finally got me going (I think I’m basically completely desensitized to late fines, since I make Jon go in to pay them for me so the librarians will never know my shame…) – I came across this Instagram shot from Humans of New York. I don’t know if I should make some comment on the irony of finding this inspiration on social media, rather than doing some reflective thinking to inspire myself.

Humans of New York (@humansofny on Instagram) typically shows a picture of a person or a couple of people and shares a bit of their story. The stories are anything and everything: funny, sad, surprising, thought-provoking, silly. It’s kind of just a peek into someone else’s real life, just a slice.

Humans of New York

And check out those red pants! One day I hope to be fabulous enough to pull off pants like that.

The complete description, from the words of the woman in the photo, says:

“I’m writing in my journal. When I was in 11th grade, I had an English teacher named Ms. Lois Bricklin who required us to write in a journal every day. Then at the end of each marking period, we were supposed to turn in our journal. For the first two marking periods, I wrote all my entries right before the journal was due, and then backdated them. But for the third marking period, I actually made an effort to do it every day. By the fourth marking period, I was hooked. I haven’t missed a day in over 30 years. It’s like brushing my teeth. I turned 50 in January, so my latest entries have been very reflective. I’ve been questioning whether I’m living the life that I wanted to live.”

I mean, of course as a former teacher, how could I not love the fact that this woman is sharing this deep impact on her life that one of her teachers has made on her. I also want to point out that as a teacher, I know when my students have done all their work at the last minute and post-dated it. Yes, even when you use different coloured pens and try to crumple up the sheets.

But also, what I’m writing about in this post is this idea that writing every day has helped to shape how this person is going through her life. This is a meditative and reflective practice that can you sane and positive and focused.

There are all sorts of reasons for keeping a journal – to help you think and unwind and reflect and re-live the good and the bad, these are probably the most obvious, and I think more than enough reason to do so. To learn from our mistakes and to grieve and celebrate and wonder. To be able to go through life a bit more thoughtfully. I think there are enough online articles that surface and re-surface every once in a while that discuss some of the mental health benefits and boosts to creativity and the inner peace that the reflection of journaling has, which is all well and good, but I think writing in a journal as a regular habit is one of those things you just have to do to understand.

Maybe it’s because people who use and like to use fountain pens know that there’s an intrinsic link between the act of writing and the act of thinking, but journal writing is one of those completely personal and subjective and reflective things in our lives. It’s you and the paper and a pen or pencil, and maybe a cup of coffee, or maybe the view from your front porch, or maybe the last few minutes at your desk at night. 

I’m hoping this will be a series of blog posts on journal writing and the how and the why and the nitty gritty, but also on how the great thinkers and authors and just ‘ordinary’ people used or use their notebooks and journals as a record of their lives and the times they lived in, and as a way to understand the world around them. 

I have read quite a few diaries and journals over time, and I even taught a few when I was teaching. For some reason, in my personal reading, I’m always a bit hesitant to start reading someone’s published memoirs or diary because I have this idea that it might be boring, but once I start, I find them fascinating. You read about a different time, and a different reality, and you also hear a person’s voice in a very real way.  

But a lot of these journals have become an important piece of history, and the times lived in the situations that the authors were a part of or witnessed. I’m not necessarily talking just about the extraordinary situations, although I think each of our lives has a bit of the extraordinary in it. I’m talking about witnessing and living in the world as it is at that time. And while I’m certainly not saying that we should be writing in a diary for the sole purpose of establishing our eternal place in history, I do think that we should view our writing as something that’s important and lasting.

I think for us today, the insane speed with which technology is changing how we live and communicate and do business is one of the most important things that we in these times can record. Jon and I often talk about how businesses are getting bigger and fewer as big fish gobble up all the medium fish, and the small fish are sometimes just barely afloat (we would be a minnow, in this scenario). I think Best Buy and Future Shop, two already massive businesses, are now just Best Buy, can you believe it?

I mean, huge changes from technology are coming everyday – Canada Post is stopping door-to-door mail delivery (does this count as a huge change??), you can hardly find a person who isn’t on social media in some way, people are creating entire communities with other people they’ve never even met or seen, the death of the physical book and the local bookstore (and maybe also the pen..) has been predicted again and again…and all of these changes that are massive are lived every day in the tiniest of details by all of us.

But even aside from technology, the cities we live in, and the issues we are passionate about, and the cafes we sit in and the dreams we have. Each of the diaries and journals we write in preserve our humanity for the period of time we have here. And our humanity is important.

I hope that’s not too morbid. Having the baby and seeing him grow so crazy fast even though he’s less than a year old has made me a little morbid some nights. Jon says I should just have some more wine. But I think what I’m trying to say is that there’s so much that we could each write and record about each of our worlds and how we live and interact with each other. And in this world that’s moving at warp speed all the time, we should take a few minutes, and make a note of just where we are.