Monday, November 26, 2012

The Art of Journaling or My Dad is a Spaz

My dad is a hilarious and very unique person.  In some ways, these two attributes are independent of each other and in other ways they are dependent.  Yes, my dad is sometimes hilarious because of his uniqueness, and other times, well, you get the idea. 
Pops and I at a metric century bike ride in October.  Eating pie.  Naturally. 
Firstly, my dad is an engineer at heart.  He loves to plan, loves to make lists, loves to think about things.  If you are working on a project and need some help, Dad is the go-to person.  He'll make a list or five, think, and voila, have a solution for you.  Sometimes this helps and sometimes the solution comes three days too late.  The problem is, Dad is a planner's planner.  Analysis paralysis, I think they call it.  Pops loves to think about doing things, but sometimes doesn't actually get to the doing part. 

Enter the relevance to writing.  I keep a journal.  I started this journal during my senior of vet school, in order to record all the crazy patients and their owners I worked with along with memorable moments in the OR (3 am colic surgeries), the large animal hospital breezeway (loose cow, anyone?), and instructors, techs, and other staff we had to learn to work with (or work around, depending).  I regret not starting my journal in earnest three years prior, at the start of freshman year, but better late than never.  As such, I've surprised myself and have kept the journal going since then (about 5 years). 

I don't make daily entries.  Sadly, my life is just not that exciting and I can't bear to draft an entry that reads: "July 15 - Ramen for lunch and dinner.  Walked the dog.  Had a bowel movement."  But I do write in my journal on average 3 to 4 times a week.  Now that I'm in the habit, I find it relaxing and cathartic - a way to record what's happened, to take a step back and really re-live the past day or so.  When I first began journaling, I put pressure on myself to write every single day and record every single thing that happened in excruciating detail.  Thankfully, those self-imposed demands quickly fell by the wayside when I realized if I adhered to them, the journal would last about one week.  Now, my entries are much more relaxed, often stream-of-consciousness, and rarely account for things in minute detail.  My grammar is atrocious, spelling is embarrassing, and sometimes things don't make sense.  But for me, this is ok.  Now, enter my dad.

Dad post-retirement
Dad retired in April.  Since then, he's been busy painting the house, hiking, bike riding, and taking yoga classes.  He's busier now than when he was gainfully employed!  He's also healthier.  As he finds himself doing more interesting things than being a desk jockey, he has started keeping a journal.  Sort of. 

Last time I talked to Dad, he informed me he bought a new journal to start over.  Confused, I asked why he needed to start over.  How does one start over in a journal?  Did you mistakenly record something on Tuesday that you actually did on Monday?

He told me that as he was reading his older entries, he found them full of typos and long, rambling sentences.  Plus, he said, it was profoundly boring.  To which I responded: yes....?  I think everyone's journal is that way, unless you're Neil Armstrong or Nelson Mandela or a member of ZZ Top.  This wasn't good enough for Dad.  Nope, he's starting over, this time paying more attention to short, succinct sentences, spelling, handwriting, and content. 

We'll just see how long this lasts.  As I said, he's a planner's planner, which means he'll think about the journal and his wonderful spelling and properly placed adverbs.  He even went as far as informing me he's only going to write on one side of the page, not on the back.  All I could do was say ok and jot down the make and model of the journal he ordered. 

In the mean time, I will continue my own journal.  In a recent issue of Vanity Fair, their Proust Questionnaire involved an older author who I am ashamed I didn't recognize and therefore now can't recall his name.  The question was: What is your most prized possession?  His answer: his over 100 volumes of personal journals.  This struck me as an amazing achievement in recording the most personal history of one's life.  This also gave me something to work toward.  Since my budding journal writing beginnings 5 years ago, I only have about 6 volumes.  I better get crackin'.

PS: while I'm on the subject, here's a good post on 5 reasons to keep a journal (important for us writerly-types).

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you have a good habit formed with the journal writing! Everything I've read about becoming a "real" writer indicates that this consistency is one of the most important things, so nice job. Your journals will also make it much easier to start in with the veterinary memoirs a few years from now too... I think we're due for another James Herriot!