Sunday, November 15, 2015


Did you write every day in your freshman English journal? I did. I hadn’t kept a journal before, but I leaped into the assignment. The instructor said to buy a ruled notebook, and we would start our journals in class.

I didn’t wait. I had a few extra notebooks at home, and I started writing that very day. All these years later, I am still writing in my journal everyday.

I became a freshman English teacher and assigned journals. I know many students did not take to them as enthusiastically as I did. I would collect journals at the end of the semester and some students had just one of two pages. Few students took a liking to journals as quickly as I did. But there were a few who enjoyed the experience promised to keep writing journals.

Some had kept journals before the class started. One student told me she would keep a separate journal for the class because her personal journal was too private.

A few students made their own journals. One student was a kindergarten teacher’s helper and she used construction paper for covers and she added drawings. While I preferred students keep a cheap notebook, I did enjoy the special efforts. Those students who created their own notebooks seemed to have more fun.

The question I was asked most often was: What do I write in my journal?

I would ask them what made them angry. If you are mad about something, then you have lots to say about it.

Oprah Winfrey tells her audiences to keep gratitude lists. That’s a much better idea, but for many people finding the joy in life is harder than finding the faults. We often concentrate more on things we don’t like that on the blessings life is giving us. I gave the students writing prompts from various books and websites. I suggested unsent letters, altered points of view and descriptions.

One of my favorite assignments from my own freshman English class was to go someplace on campus and make a list of 126 sense sensations. We had to list things we tasted, smelled, felt or heard.

The assignment didn’t work very well when I assigned it. It became a journal suggestion instead.

Now that I am retired I still keep a journal. I consider it practice writing. Sometimes I experiment with chapters and scenes for one of my own writings. Sometimes I write about my pets; sometimes; I just write down memories. There always seems to be something to write about.

If I have a day when few words are coming, I start a silly story. After a few nonsense words, I find the words I was meant to share for the day.

What are your experiences in keeping journals?

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