Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Finding Freedom in the Common

The other day I was browsing through a back issue of "Personal Journaling" magazine and came across an article about using a "commonplace book", or a book to record "unremarkable activities". The article discussed using a common book to keep a listing of the events of the day.

At last, I thought, something I can relate to! See, journaling for me has always been a sporadic process. Intimidated by the thought that any journaling has to be profound, I avoid writing in mine for weeks on end because I just don't have anything profound to say. I further complicate this process by reading journals of great writers and finding my entries pitiful in comparison. And so the page remains blank because the inner critic has already squashed the creative process.

On the other hand, keeping a list of the days happenings seemed to be painless. I decided to give it a try.

I'm one week into the practice of using the common book. It's a remarkably freeing process. The common book doesn't require long, dramatic entries - just simple, short bullet point lists will do. I can fill it out in ten minutes or less. I keep the notebook in my purse and often jot something down during the day. Somedays the entries are pretty mundane - "got groceries", "chicken for supper", "finished newsletter". Once in a while something a little more inspiring slips through - "drove TJ to Red Rock and saw an awesome rainbow over the mountain. Skies soon clouded over again and went back to a misty rain. Weather site on the web calls it 'distant precipitation' ".

This listing of daily events frees me up to be more creative in my other journal. This journal is more like a scrapbook. Larger and with big blank pages that I can draw on, paste on, and scribble on. Sometimes I'll paste emails and letters into it, or notes from friends. I save movie and concert ticket stubs and paste those in - adding a little note about the performance. If I want to write a long diatribe, I have lots of room. I can cut out words and pictures from magazines and make a collage.

Because I've cleared out the clutter of my day and poured it into the common book, I can play in my scrapbook journal as often or as little as I want. I know I'll mine the common book later - to remember things that have happened, to write more about something I've recorded, to dig out nuggets for a poem.

No longer do my days seem to disappear in a blur. The minutiae of my everyday life is duly jotted down in my little common book. * o


Erica Miner said...

What lovely thoughts. As you know, I am a great advocate of Journaling. The beauty of it is that you don't have to edit yourself, and you can just go with the flow and let your stream of consciousness take over. Once you're in the routine of the common book, you might try to add in the emotions about your entries; that makes it 'up close and personal' - and I believe that emotions are what Journaling is all about. It's simply the best therapy! How did you feel about that rainbow? Did it inspire you? Did it make you recall other 'misty rains' from your past?

from Erica Miner, the 'Journaling Queen'

Queen Jaw Jaw said...

This is a great idea Evie. I like the "no strings of creativity attached" idea. In other words, you can do as much or as little as you want. I can see where it WOULD free up ones mind to record the happenings of the day. I like it. I think I'll try it.


Camellia said...

Eveline...thank you for this essay on everyday journaling. I have my mother-in-laws...oh what a hoot...one entry...K. and I got dressed and went to the H.s....

K. Was her oldest son..the H's were her new in-laws...this was her comment on my husband's first wedding. And I have to make lists to get past the clutter. Thank you for sharing. Camellia

Eveline Maedel said...

Erica - exactly!!! The common book should lead to more detailed journal explorations in my other journal. Instead of facing the big, blank page I can go through the common book and pick out entries I want to explore further.

The beauty of the common book is that this 40 something brain doesn't have to remember what it did lately! :)

JJ - thanks. Hope you give it a try and let me know how it turns out.

Camellia - list making can be a great exercise!

Beautiful Bern said...

I too found this a great 'article in its own right' and hope to share it with my students (who I think don't write enough!)

At the moment my blog is my bin for mundanity although it usually develops into something more. I love it

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of this"common book" Soooooo much easier than journaling...which I haven't done in months. It is so easy to do in on retreats...why not at home????