For years, many friends and colleagues have called me the "journaling guru." There are a few reasons for this. First, people always see me holding a journal and secondly, I often write and teach about the healing power of journaling. While I advocate for novices to journal every day, most seasoned journal keepers and/or writers tend to journal when inspired. My passion for keeping a notebook was sparked by the diarist, Anaïs Nin, who began writing, like myself, at a time of loss. Our journals became our best friends and confidants.
My journaling habits have greatly evolved over the years. These days, my journals are a potpourri of musings, poems written by myself and others, first lines for future poems, article and book ideas, quotations, recipes, restaurant business cards and books I would like to read. It has become a sort of collage or scrapbook of what moves me during the course of my day -- both in the world and in my creative mind. For example, some years ago, after first moving to California, I jotted down all the creative ways hungry or homeless individuals asked for money with their handmade signs. Some were quite ingenious. I thought this might lead to a book one day, but that project, like many others in my scribblings, flopped.
Now that I am back in school, I am focused on my studies. Yet while much of my reading is academic, I always find time to read poetry and memoirs. I continue to carry my moleskin for jottings and musings. At the end of each day, my Google alert for "journaling," comes into my email box. Over the years I have read that blogging is the new journaling. Some say that blogging has taken journaling to a new level, in the way that it is an account of one's thoughts, feelings and actions. One thing I believe is different about blogging, is that if you want to attract readers, it is important to refrain from navel-gazing, and to share a universal truth. Writing a blog is not a place to boast or brag, but rather a place to show and tell in a way that will resonate with readers. Successful blogs teach readers something and can possibly make a difference in their lives. I am always honored to receive comments on my blog. Without those comments and the ones I receive in private emails, I have no idea how or if my words impact others.
I sometimes wonder about the distinction between diaries, journals and blogs, words which are sometimes used interchangeably. All three refer to a form of personal or individualized writings. In my opinion, a diary is a more old-fashioned term used when us baby boomers were teens. Diaries are often dated, chronological recaps of what happened during the course of a day. The term is derived from the Latin word "diarium" or daily allowance. A classic example of a diary is The Diary of Anne Frank, a personal book holding deep secrets and feelings.
A journal is a type of diary where an individual documents events but it's not necessarily opened every day. Some people have journals for different reasons -- for travel, for gratitude, for book discussion or a combination of all these things. Like I mentioned, mine is a like a collage.
A blog is a public and even communal forum of the diary or journal. It is a "web log," which is where the term originates. Some bloggers document and comment on their own daily events, while others might blog less frequently and address issues of broad interest.
If you write a blog or are considering starting one, it is a good idea keep a journal. The journal can be a storehouse of ideas to possibly share on your blog. Much like most personal writing, such as a memoir, it is important for a blog to have a theme or focus, which will be of interest to a larger audience, instead of just those who know you and are interested in your personal musings.
Tips on journaling
• Write like you would write to a dear friend
• Put your stories in context
• Be descriptive
• Show, do not tell
Follow Diana M. Raab on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dianaraab