I’m terrible at keeping journals. I’ve tried about a hundred different times, and it just never sticks. Part of it is that I’m a full-time writer already, so at the end of the day, the last thing I really want to do is unwind by…writing. Especially just to recount what happened that day—which never seems anywhere near as exciting as what happens on the page.
Well. I’ve been terrible at keeping traditional journals. In high school, I was fantastic at keeping poetry journals.
I wrote in them incessantly. Many of the entries have dates instead of titles. They were free verse accounts of what happened that day—how I felt, what was going on inside my head. It’s probably not such a coincidence that these poetic journal entries kicked in at about the same time I started dating. But the poems weren’t JUST about teenage heartache. They were about music. About things I saw, things I noticed for the first time. It was about the comings and goings of friends.
I’ve always felt there was just something about boiling your days down to poetry—writing in verse makes you compact what you want to say. You find the single best nugget of the day—the bit you really would like to remember more than anything. Poetic journal entries also seem more honest. They force you to lay yourself bare. You strip everything away until you have four lines of complete unvarnished you.
One of these days, maybe I’ll start a new poetry journal again. (When you’re sixty, do you look back on your forty-year-old self and say, “How naïve I was then!”??? It’d be interesting to find out.) At the very least, I’m certain that in twenty years, I’d love to have a way to look back at the complete unvarnished me I am right now.
PS: Many of those poetic journal entries made their way into my first book, A BLUE SO DARK. I tweaked some of the wording a bit to make it fit the storyline, but those are all poems I wrote when I was around fifteen years old.