Monday, April 28, 2014

What's the Point?

I have always been passionate (I use bold here because the mere word doesn't express it strongly enough) about writing. Passionate about the art and mechanics of selecting words, stringing them together, manipulating the strings to fit my purposes, tweaking those strings, and then going back and fixing all the errors I committed during the stringing and tweaking process. As a result, I began keeping a journal at a very early age. Beginning with a black-marbled composition book and graduating later to whatever blank book grabbed my attention from a shelf as I walked by, I've been passionately journalling for 40+ years.

Before I go on, I want you to stop and think about something -- not someone -- you are passionate about. Perhaps for you it's knitting, or maybe it's golf or running or painting or cooking or reading cozy mysteries or . . . well, I think you've got the idea. What activity are you passionate about doing?

Do you ever get tired of doing it? Have you ever realized one day that it's been a while since you've engaged in that activity you were formerly so passionate about? And did that realization fill you with a sort of sad, resigned, ho-hum feeling?

That's where I've been with my own passion (journalling) for a few months. I could explain away my waning desire to write on a variety of things. My job is mentally (even emotionally) quite taxing and more active on a physical basis than most people would think.  My trip to England provided me with little time and energy for writing, and since I've returned I've been swamped with the stuff of daily life, preparing for my upcoming (fingers crossed) move, etc.

But I've been equally taxed and equally busy -- even more so -- at other points in my life. I've been in my current career full time (except for a few years when the children were small) since 1980, and I've run a household and had little children, then school-age kids, and then teenagers at home to keep up with. The fact of the matter is that my passion for personal writing has waned to the point that my lifelong daily journalling time has become a once or twice-a-week chore that I do almost begrudgingly.

I'd been pondering this strange set of affairs for several months, but I simply couldn't figure out why I felt such a strong sense of lethargy when it came to journalling (or for this blogging); finally, right after I returned from England, I realized that because I love to write, I had created a life in which I did as much writing as possible.

I had chosen a career that allows me to spend a large part of my work day (and night) writing lesson plans and other course materials, responding (via my own written comments) to student-generated texts,  and taking notes as I read published texts and work-related materials.  Outside of work, writing dominates my life as well. Throughout every day, in addition to any journaling and blogging, I also: add appointments, notes, tasks, etc., to my Filofax (paper journal); jot down items on my "gratitude list" -- a small notebook I carry with me everywhere; update my prayer journal -- a section in the pack of my planner; write emails and letters/cards to friends and family; jot down notes from whatever nonfiction text I'm reading; and complete other odds and ends writing tasks. In short, I was performing the physical act of writing most of the time every day.

Like the proverbial plumber with leaky faucets at home, by the time I finished all of my "necessary" writing, I craved a break from the activity as a while. I couldn't quit my job-related writing or updating my prayer journal, etc., but I knew some things could change and had to change if I was going to continue journalling (and blogging). First, I searched for and found a fantastic electronic planner that does exactly what I needed and that functions more efficiently than my Filofax (i.e. less entering of information, etc); I downloaded it to my ipad mini and have found in the past three weeks that I love it as much as I ever loved my paper planners. I consolidated my prayer journal and my gratitude journal into one, and I am scrolling through emails and facebook pages much faster, stopping less often to respond or to post. Real progress was being made, but I knew a larger change needed to be made, and I had no idea what that larger change might be.

Last night, I opened my journal and wrote, "I can't believe it's been a week since I've written. I used to write every day, sometimes several times a day. Heck, when I shopped for a new purse, I chose one big enough to toss in my journal -- I wanted it with me for those precious moments here and there that I could carve from the day and write a line or two." As always, as I continued writing, I got into the rhythm of writing, and I began writing more automatically, less stiltedly, with less internal censorship or editing. I wrote one last sentence and stopped, appalled by what I had written: "WHY am I still keeping a journal?"

That's a good question. What is the point of writing in a journal that nobody else will ever read . . . of writing in a journal that, quite honestly, I don't want anyone to ever read? I've always written for me, for the joy of the act of writing; later, when I married and had children, I wrote down things I knew I wanted to remember, that I would someday use to journal on the pages of the scrapbooks I would lovingly create for my son and daughter. Primarily, though, I continued to write because I loved to write and because a journal was my primary outlet for writing.

Now, though, I have this blog. Perhaps the two -- the personal journal and blog -- have become less enjoyable because of the cumbersomeness of keeping both. Perhaps the blog has rendered the personal journal redundant. Perhaps the need for a private place away from conversations with my husband and children and students in which I could hear my own voice has been replaced with a need for a social network -- even a small virtual one -- in which I can express my thoughts.

I closed my journal last night, went downstairs, and  placed it in one of the two large plastic bins that hold the journals I've kept over the years and that have escaped periodic minor attempts at purging.

Perhaps some day a new, gorgeous blank book will beckon from a store shelf and I'll bring it home and begin journalling again. Who knows? For now, though, I'm content to strip away one more activity, one more daily to-do from my life and to live a bit more simply, more authentically. Because that, for me, is the point.

What about you? When's the last time you examined your daily routine and your daily to-do list and considered if there are any activities or tasks that you neither need  nor really want to do? Perhaps, like me, you'll find that you do some things out of habit or a misplaced sense of obligation. Maybe it's time to cull an activity or two, giving you the opportunity to add something new you've been wanting to try or to expand the time you have available for other, more beloved activities. I hope you'll take the time to share your own thoughts with me, either via the comments (below) or by email (aliferedesigned@yahoo.com). 

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