Journal for October 14, 2010
I’ve noticed something appearing in the tenor of these journals. They’ve become very presentational, and from that sense also very egoic and possibly self righteous. They haven’t been as exploratory or engaging as I’m used to. I think that’s in large part due to their topical nature, meaning, I am writing in response to a topic presented in the reading and discussed in class that week. A lot of these feel like topics I’ve already explored, at least in part. Further exploration would involve starting in the middle, which isn’t fair to the reader. On the blog, I don’t worry about that so much. I can just reference an earlier post and leave it to the reader to decide if they want to spend time on the back story. Things are different when presenting work to a teacher.
In starting from the beginning, I seem to be presenting a “this is how it is” story. I’m Monica. I’m a white chick from Nebraska. I’m stubborn. I like cheesecake. I don’t meditate. So there. Oh, and I’m mildly bored because I feel like I’m repeating myself and that’s just not very engaging as a writer, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this.
This attitude is not helpful. Journal writing should be and has been, for me at least, an exploration. It’s not about what you want to present to a reader, but what you want to understand about yourself as a writer and a person. Often, the best journal entries start from the basis of a question, sometimes an unspoken wondering. They explore things nobody knows, including me.
The other day I wrote about an incident with my grandfather. It happened many years ago. My entire family was present at the time. But I don’t think anyone ever knew precisely how impactful that incident was, including myself. Through writing about it, I was able to reflect on it, explore that moment and how it has shaped my life, and come to understand something new about myself.
The single most frequently read post on my blog is about inherent existence. I wrote it because I was trying to understand this strange new concept of emptiness. I wrote that post in October 2006, mere months after the blog began. In July 2010, Google started tracking and providing statistics on the blog. That old post has received over twice as many page views as any other single post (the main site address doesn’t count). The search keywords ‘inherent existence’ bring more traffic to my site than any others. Yet I didn’t write the post because I wanted to tell others what I though inherent existence was. I wanted to figure it out for myself.
The main difference (besides length) between these journals and my normal blog posts is topic choice. For the blog, topics of exploration come up naturally. In these journals, they are assigned. Certainly, I still have options. Many topics are covered in the weekly readings. And perhaps I’ve been a bit lazy. I write the journal for each class when I find I have something to say, and not necessarily something new. I end up quoting myself, recycling old material, and summarizing old topics in a shortened format.
This is not a good thing. In the future I will try to do better. Writing is my main form of practice. Sometimes people talk about their practice becoming stale, routine, and thereby loosing meaning or power to make positive change. Writing is no exception. I need to be more vigilant in my approach, apply effort and diligence a little more mindfully.
After all, there’s still a lot I haven’t figured out yet.