My Life in Journals

I have been maintaining a daily journal continuously since 1978, my sophomore year of college.  And I’ve been schlepping the journals around with me on every move, boxes of them, ever increasing.  I’ve sworn to myself that, someday, I will review and catalog all of them, saving the “nuggets” (as I’ve always called the good or promising stuff) digitally, to be developed into something more substantial, and then, finally, burn the journals.  Sometimes I imagine that this will happen after I die.  Of course, it would help if I were famous and there were some literary historian who had an interest in doing the culling and cataloguing, who marvels at my diligence in saving every word with the exception of some journals in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet that were lost to Superstorm Sandy, which covered various periods of my life – it’s not like I lost the first half of 2003 or something like that, but rather I lost little bits from different years.  I tried to salvage them, sitting on my deck with latex gloves, paging through the moldy, stuck-together pages with ink illegibly bled and trying to find anything worth saving, but I gave up after a fruitless couple of vacation journals from a trip to the Pacific Northwest in 1994.

The content of my journals also varies widely.  Some entries are word sketches for future blog posts or essays or stories or, way back in my history, poetry, but I long ago discovered that poetry is far too esoteric for my talents – or maybe I’m just too wordy.  [An aside:  I read an article today in which a writer said she wanted to teach a college course where each assignment would consist of a three page piece of writing, which would then be edited down to a one-page piece, then to a three-paragraph piece, then to a one-paragraph piece, and then, finally, to a single sentence, developing the vital skill of editing, especially one’s own work.  I wish I could take such a class.  I have a tendency to blather on and I’m never sure how to end my writings.   I liken it to some of the designers on “Project Runway” who Tim Gunn tells to “edit with a critical eye”.]  I’ve got lists, and quotes, and unfamiliar words I need to look up.  My journals are basically a lifelong, ongoing conversation with myself.

Since I’ve started my blog, I’ve noticed that I write in my journal less often.  Maybe it’s because a lot of what I would have written in my journal I type directly into the computer, often because it’s coming up on Tuesday and I need to post SOMETHING.  But not everything in my journal should be posted on my blog.  I’d prefer my journals to be more a place for experimentation and introspection, where I can write words of encouragement to myself.  Unfortunately, though, I must confess that huge swaths of my journals consist of whining, complaining and beating myself up, along remarkably similar lines historically no matter the era it was written.

I am certain that buried in those journals is the fodder for a life’s masterwork:  a collection of essays or short stories that will serve as my breakthrough, the little piece of genius that can be my contribution to the universe, if I could just find it and then hone it – EDIT it – until it glows.

But when will this “someday” be, when I can organize and read through my decades of journals?  Of course it comes down to time.  If I could devote all of my waking hours (and even some sleeping ones, if I happen to be rewarded with a juicy dream I can recall in detail) to reading, researching, writing – and of course editing – if I didn’t have to worry about paying bills and doing work I despise in order to do so, I could have my perfect life and create my art.  Will I have to wait until I retire?  I’m afraid that I’ll still have to do SOME kind of bill-paying work even after I retire, especially considering the damage I’m doing to my already-sparse retirement savings due to the additional work I need to have done on my house and getting my kid through college (although both of those things, if considered in the big picture, are still investments for the future, just in a different form).

That’s why I need to win the lottery – so that money concerns can be removed from the equation and I can just be the writer I was always meant to be.

True, there are people who manage to write even while holding down jobs that require much more devotion than I give to mine.  My cousin George Hanna, on his podcast “The George and Tony Entertainment Show” [], always seems to find these creative folks who (a) host weekly podcasts (sometimes multiple podcasts), (b) read comics (or watch movies, or play video games – whatever their podcasts are about) voraciously, (c) attend conventions and conferences to network and promote their passions, and (d) still manage to hold down full-time jobs (and some even have kids on top of it all).  HOW DO THEY DO IT?  Have they somehow managed to extend the hours of the day?  Can they somehow survive without sleep?

I confess that I have become very adept at time-wasting in recent years, blaming my job and the need for me to be “available” but really just keeping up with multiple games of Words With Friends and trolling the Internet in the hope that Donald Trump will voluntarily withdraw from the presidential race or some disaster will befall his campaign that will otherwise force him out so Hillary can just skate into the job she has earned and we’ll be done with it.  When hockey season starts, reading hockey articles will occupy big chunks of my time, and next spring, it will be hockey PLUS Game of Thrones – all major time-wasting endeavors that suck hours from my potential writing time.  There’s no excuse.  All the “Seeds 4 Life” and “Daily Thoughts” websites I read (MORE time wasting) say I have to envision the changes I need to make and then make them, and keep moving forward, and all sorts of other words of encouragement and positivity.  Every night I go to sleep optimistic and hopeful that TOMORROW will be the day I can make the changes I need to make in order to take better advantage of my days, to be more productive, to make time to do the things that will give me joy and not just keep me in a holding pattern, waiting.  And every morning, I struggle to get out of bed until mid-morning, and then it’s dog-walking and litter-scooping and pet-feeding – and of course dealing with whatever work disaster has arisen from Asia overnight; the first thing I do, when I turn over in the morning to shut up my stupid robot phone alarm, is check my work emails – and the next thing I know it’s after noon.  I sometimes imagine that I could wake up with the sun, at 6 a.m. or so, and come out to sit at my computer (or on the couch with my journal) and just write, stream-of-consciousness style.  Or tackle the journals themselves, sorting them into piles by year and then just diving in, capturing anything that’s worth saving on the computer and making the little nuggets grow into gold.  See?  I have the project envisioned; now I’ve just got to make it into a reality.

One of my recent “Seeds 4 Life” emails contained a quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer, the late guru of positive thinking and renowned author of such books as Your Erroneous Zones, Wishes Fulfilled, Excuses Begone and The Sky’s the Limit:  “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  So the key is, according to this post, “If you’re not getting the results you want in ANY area of your life, know that the answer lies in change.  Change in your attitude, your approach, your thoughts, beliefs and perceptions.  Your life will change, when you make a change.” [July 27, 2016,

My friends from college are coming for a visit tomorrow and I’m very excited.  I haven’t seen them since we were together in Greece a couple of summers ago.  While in Fira, on the island of Santorini, they convinced us to buy these cool string bracelets from a shop called Babylonia.  I chose a bracelet with a purple braid and a silver charm that signifies “optimism”.  I never take it off and I look at it often.  It is my talisman, a symbol of my deepest belief that I CAN change, I CAN have the life I’ve always dreamed of as a reader and writer, surrounding myself with knowledge and interesting thoughts.  (That’s why I love school so much.)


As with all of these buoyant advice posts, easier said than done!  But I have to begin somewhere.  So . . . I’ll start tomorrow.  Check this space next week to see if I managed to have any success or if I’m continuing to wallow in my (possibly summer induced but definitely there) lethargy.


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