This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

September 27, 2006 - Keeping a Journal

I started keeping my first journal in 5th or 6th grade. My mother got it for me one Christmas.

It had a soft, burgundy-colored leather cover, and paper that was slightly yellow. There was only one page per day. At the top of the page, I was encouraged to record the weather, and my general health. Then I got a blank page.

So I kept a daily log of my life -- and my thoughts about it -- for about two years. I kept one again my senior year of high school, my last couple of years of college, and on and off ever since.

I know why I always start up again: personal therapy. I've got things I need to work through: situations, big decisions, or just ideas that got a hold of me. There's a kind of imbalance in my life that I feel a need to focus on. Writing is thinking, and sometimes, thinking is the only way out.

Then there's perspective: the discovery I make when I reread the journal later. What was so baffling back then is utterly obvious now. A journal lets me know that I've learned something.

Often, what I learn is that the journal should be destroyed before anybody else sees what a fool I've been. Still, it's progress.

I'm not always sure why I quit. The imbalance is resolved, I suppose. I've worked through the situation, made my decision, or just no longer feel the need to focus too intently on my feelings, my thoughts, or my actions. Too much self-examination can also be a barrier to growth.

The form of my journal has changed. Through the years I've used the dedicated journal; record books I picked up at a surplus sale; and school notebooks.

Eventually, I moved to the computer. There I've used a variety of programs, everything from simple text editors to full blown word processors, to customized databases, to "personal information managers."

I prefer outliners with a built in search tool; but I saw a wonderful and free product for the Mac called Journler (yes, that's the way it's spelled) that I foisted off on my daughter. It not only records your thoughts by day, but lets you fold in all kinds of multimedia things -- digital photographs, for instance.

Journals, or "diaries" (the main subject heading in our catalog, which is worth a look), is also a time-honored literary form. Whether in a novel or a travel log, the journal is often the key narrative structure.

For historians, journals can provide useful raw data for things that too easily get lost: the actual pattern of people's lives as revealed in the small details. The black and white TV on the revolving table. The price of gasoline. The outbreak of an epidemic in a rural school district.

Another use of the journal, combining self and literature, is the reading log. It's a great way to take control of your own education. A journal then becomes both a record, and a reckoning, with the world of books.

The root word of both "journal" and "diary" is "day." Seize the day; keep a journal.

[Disclaimer: LaRue's Views, unless otherwise stated, are his alone.]

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