How long have you been keeping a journal? How did you get started?

I'm 37 now. I've been writing as long as I can remember. I don't know what exactly got me started. I like to imagine I might have said in my earliest books but they've all been lost through a vicious and uncalled for attic cleaning when I was a pre-teen.

My dad was an aspiring writer and my earliest babysitter was this wonderful and wise old woman who I remember saying "If you want to be a writer, all you have to do is write." At a young age I aspired to write childrens stories (being one myself) so I think I was emulating my dad as well as taking her advice.

I think I started around age 8 or 9 or 10. The earliest books I have are from age 13 and they are long entries, overflowing every page.

I have memories of writing single sentence entries and I myself kinda wonder how I got from those single sentence memories to the overflowing pages of my 13 year old self.

Do you prefer the term "diary" or "journal" or something else? Why?

I'm endlessly intrigued by other people's definitions of the differences between these words. I call myself a diarist, or a journal keeper and I call what I write in, my 'books'.

How often do you write/draw?

I write a couple times a day if I think of it or if I have anything to comment on. But then again I miss days here and there and don't let that worry me.

What does your journal mean to you?

It IS me. It's all I have and all I am. When I look at the filled ones - I don't see books, I see me. And sometimes I think - "funny how much like a bunch of books I look."

Do you envision a future audience for your writing/art?

I used to think no, but now I know that's not true and that I do in fact. Thomas Mallon's book "A Book of One's Own" (an excellent book by the way) was the first time I read the idea that even if we say we don't, that journal writers do indeed imagine an audience, and at the time I thought "not me! These are just for me", but then I began to look closer at what I wrote and I saw the miniscule hints that I expected someone, someday to read it.

I have always wanted my books to be discovered 1,000 or 2,000 years from now. I think that would be an amazing thing.

What are your favorite writing techniques?

Stream of consciousness. But it's sort of like that's all I call what I do. I never knew there were 'techniques' until just the past few years but spontaeneously I have used them all except the visual stuff (like mind mapping etc.) I make lists, I write to people I have something to say to, knowing I'm not sending it, I write about books, movies, ideas, people, events, scenery, my animals, weather, work and other creative projects, I think (or I like to think) that eventually I touch on everything under the sun.

I never have to sit down and think 'what will I write today' or 'how will I write today' I just pick up the pen and write whatever is there to be written.

Do you use music when you write or create? What types?

I love to write to live music and most anytime I go to a concert I can be found having hunted up a comfy place and just writing away. I don't usually, at these times, write ABOUT the music or anything - I just like writing while it's being played live. Sort of like - you do your art while I do mine.

What is your favorite pen to write with?

I'll use anything handy and I think if I was on a desert island I'd write in the sand.

What is your favorite type of notebook/paper to write in/on?

Again - anything handy. For that reason I try to keep a book handy. I've taken to collecting blank books. I love them all. And sometimes I have to put restraints on myself like "no more buying blank books until I fill 2 more." Such a resolution is extremely hard for me to keep. I often break down and buy one (or 2 or 3) before I finish the second one of that proclamation.

When I finish one book and must choose the next I lay them all out. Then I can tell right off "not this one," "not this one," not this one." That narrows it down pretty quickly to 3 or 4 choices and then I begin to think about - "well, what might be going on in the next little bit?" "How long might this book last me and do I want to stay in the same place for that long right now?" (Because I must admit my books are the place I am at the time and sometimes I want to be in the same place awhile (choose a thicker book) and sometimes I'd like to move on quickly (choose a thinner book.)

If a future archaelogist were to unearth your notebook, what do you hope she or he would learn about you from it?

Ooooo yes! See, this is my dream! I have no idea what they'd decide about me but I'd love to be a fly on the wall as they talked about me and their findings.

I'd love to see how the history of our world, our time, would be pieced together by what I've written. Would it be accurate? I am not in a position to see what it says about the larger picture - the world as we know it, as I know it. Like 'I can't see the forest for the trees' kind of thing.

How many finished journals do you have? Do you ever look through them?

I've got about 55 or 60 filled. And no I rarely look thru them. When I finish one I take it to my mom's house, where resides a big ole metal, locking, fireproof desk. I unlock the desk, reverently place the journal in a drawer, and then I pull out my list of journals and add it to the list - this is how I'll know the order they fall in. "Purple leather w/brass button", "tan suede", "spiral black velvet", "small black and white polka dots", "bugs bunny cover", "purple tree", "red chinese silk", and on and on it goes.

Only occasionally do I read thru any of them. In the past, as I ended a book, I'd flip thru it's pages and write down lines that jumped out at me, making a sort of poem. They usually weren't very good tho, as I do not pick and choose the lines, but merely write down whatever jumps to my eye.

About 10 years ago, on a very primative computer I transcribed all my journals from the 1980's, (what a project!) and then the primative computer died. Live and learn.

How many different types of journals do you keep?

I think and say that I only have one real journal. But that's not truth at all. Last year I started an art journal and I still occasionally do visual works in it but I do not easily combine visuals with my words. However my art journal and my 'books' are two totally different and separate entities. There's also a small mead-type fat little notebook that I try to keep on my person at all times. Everything worthy of notation gets written in here - phone numbers, directions, web addresses, passing thoughts, notes on employee's performances, ideas for some of my projects, or actual journal entries that must be written when my 'book' is not with me. Then I have a large extremely thick notebook of purple paper that I've had for many years and in it only gets written notes and comments on diary writing, diary reading, autobio ideas and concepts, occasional story excerpts (tho writing stories is not on my priority list sometimes it can't be avoided. Like when I finished readingTrout Fishing in America, I immediately started writing the sequel. It petered out after about 4 pages of closely packed longhand but so it goes eh?) notes from classes I've taken and comments about the current and future progress of some of my projects.

What is the primary focus of your journal? What do you get out of keeping one?

I'm not sure of the answers to these questions. I'm not sure why I keep one. I simply must. It's not really a question of will I, or won't I, write a journal. That's as moot a question as will I, or won't I, breath. Somehow, to me it's proof that I live, proof that I exist. If I lost them, I'm not sure I'd still have a past. (I do not necessarily think this is normal or even good. A part of me honestly questions if I would still exist if they disappeared.)

How do you respond to people who scoff at the idea of diary-keeping - those who think the practice is silly or frivolous?

I simply disregard them, they don't matter to me, or at least their opinions on this, don't matter to me at all. I don't care what others think. I do what is necessary to be me.

How often do you write? Under what conditions?

Lately I write a couple of times a day. Sometimes pages, sometimes just a line or two. There have been times that I've gone weeks or months without writing but that's unusual. The more stressful my life the more I write, and lately, the more I contemplate the how's and why's of fragmentary life writing, the more I write. I'll pick up my pen to note the sounds of a flock of geese flying overhead, or the new battle scar on my cat Warrior, who seems to be trying to live up to his name. I'll put down the book I'm reading in order to explore in my book an idea that occurs to me because of what I'm reading. Sometimes I'll pick it up to write a few lines just because I've found myself, for the moment, sitting within reach of it. I always write on planes. When I'm traveling I write just about everytime I stop moving - mentioning who I've met, where I've been, what I've seen and what I've learned.

What are your favorite creative tools or products? How do you use them?

A pen and paper. I put one to the other and see what happens. It's a sort of alchemy.

What is your favorite creativity book, or who is your favorite creativity author?

I'm not sure if this falls into the realm of a 'creativity book' but it's a book about, well the title says it all - "A Voice of Her Own; Women and the Journal writing Journey" by Marlene Schiwy.

Do you have any websites or other resources that you would like to recommend?

I highly recommend the above mentioned book. Ms. Schiwy has some unique and enlightening perspectives on why we do this writing and what it means. Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones" is always good for new or hesitant writers to see how you can say anything, how you can open the tap into the words inside you.

And to anyone interested in the concept of what happens to our journals after we pass from this earth, I recommend my own website - www.personalwriting.org - I hope to start a National Diary Archive someday and I'm interested in what people think of this idea. I'm pretty sure this desire comes from A - the vicious attic cleaning and resulting loss of my earliest writings and B - my desire for my written words to be here still in 1,000 years. How will I insure this? I'll start a depository - because it's not just my fragmentary writing that I think is so very important, but everyone's fragmentary writing of their lives and perceptions.

Do you ever share your journals with others?

Occasionally I've read aloud from them to a boyfriend. And in the past, when I traveled with a group of friends they were okay for anyone in the group to read. Only one of my friends took advantage of that and about once a week he would read what I'd been writing. Sometimes he'd disagree and I'd just shrug. Every once in a while an entry will say so much about me, and where I'm at, that I've transcribed it and emailed it to people I know who care about me.

What is your favorite way to dissolve writer's block?

I don't get writer's block. (I'm sorry if it sounds smug but it's true.) There is always something to say, be it as simple as "the sky is very blue today" or "I'm hungry." Ahh! There was one time I got writer's block. After I first read Anais Nin. I must have been 19 or 20. She was so eloquent and graceful with her words, so much more than I could ever hope to be. I came up against a wall. If she's that good, and I'm not, then why do I bother? And tho I'd pick up the pen, there was absolutely nothing there. I was shamed by how good she was. I was quite relieved when that went away. And I've never faced such a time since. Who care's how good anyone else is? I have words in me and I will write them, however mundane or trite they might seem, because in the end I now know, they are neither mundane nor trite - they are my life.

What advice would you give to those who are just starting to keep a journal?

To me these seem obvious -

  • Don't worry about rules, or grammar or spelling.
  • Write whatever is foremost on your mind.
  • Write where you are. What you see, hear, smell.
  • Write about how you got where you are right now - don't worry about details - you'll know what you meant if you say "I'm here because of an argument with _____." There's no need to write about the argument (unless you want to.)
  • But again - don't ever feel there are things you HAVE TO do. There aren't.
  • Any words you can put on paper are worthy and never let anyone tell you different.
  • And lastly - you'll appreciate dates on the pages later, so do consider making dated entries.

Do you have a journal prompt or writing exercise that you would like to share with us?

Try just picking up a pen and saying who you are.


Visit Hollie's websites:Diaries, Journals, Notebooks
Diary and Journal Book Discussion
Diaries and Journals Reading and Discussion Group
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