ABC’s of Writing: J is for Journaling

ABC’s of Writing, Matilda Butler, Post #11

The birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. is celebrated yearly on the designated third Monday in January, a federal holiday. (His actual birthday is January 15.) Since today is the official Martin Luther King Day, I began to think back to 1968, the year of his assassination. That year was on my mind because Susan Wittig Albert wrote that she began journaling in 1968. She is the focus of our post today on Women’s Memoirs and her post with three journaling prompts will appear tomorrow on our site. In her blog tomorrow, Susan discusses journaling and her new memoir based on her 40th journal written in 2008 — An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days.

Indeed, each “ordinary” day passes in such a whirl of activities that without journaling both our personal lives and public events pass without much reflection or even notice.

Come join me in thinking back to 1968, the annus horribilis that covered the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, Martin Luther King’s assassination, the assassination of Robert Kennedy and so much more. That year when Susan Albert began journaling was an incredible time:

–Tet Offensive in Vietnam
–Civil Rights Poor People’s March
–Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated

–At Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral, Robert Kennedy called for America to “Tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.” After last week’s tragedy in Tucson, Arizona, we see the continuing need for Kennedy’s call to “make gentle the life of this world.”

–Students protest the Vietnam War at colleges across the U.S.
–Andy Warhol is shot and wounded
–Robert Kennedy assassinated

–President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation for a 10% income tax surcharge and reduced government spending saying that we “cannot provide both guns and butter.”

–Arlo Guthrie performed Alice’s Restaurant for the first time
–Richard Nixon nominated and later elected president

–Humphrey nominated as Democrat’s presidential candidate amidst major civil unrest in Chicago

–Nuclear-powered submarine (Scorpion) sinks with 99 men on board

–60 Minutes debuts on CBS
–Led Zeppelin perform live for first time
–Jacqueline Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis
–Yale announced it will admit women
–Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood debuts

I included a range of types of events in this list because the days of a year are not even — some are painful and others bring joy. What would you have written about 1968 if you had been journaling? What happened in your life? What took place in the public world around you. As I typed each item on this list, memories flooded back reminding me of my personal time and place when each of these public events took place.

Not yet keeping a journal? I’m pleased to announce that for a limited time, we have Amber Starfire’s ebook — Journaling Essentials: Everything You Need to Know to Start and Keep and Journalavailable for free, a $7.95 value. Amber has already removed the free offer from her website and we have promised her that we will shortly begin charging for it on our site as well. If you don’t already have this valuable ebook, click here to get it at no cost.

[NOTE: The link takes you to a page where we list all three of our free ebooks. You can sign up for just the journaling one or for all that interest you.]

We also invite you to read Susan Albert’s responses to our three questions:

1. Why did you start journaling in 1968?

2. You probably started journaling with a certain amount of enthusiasm. Did the enthusiasm ever lag in the early weeks or months? What did you do to keep yourself journaling?

3. How do you characterize what you journal about? I know you include some elements that others might not think about such as reflections on books you are reading and meaningful quotes. Did you always put those elements into your journals? In other words, how has your journaling changed over the years since 1968?

Then tomorrow, be sure to return to Women’s Memoirs for Susan Wittig Albert’s Journaling the World.

4 responses to “ABC’s of Writing: J is for Journaling

  1. It’s quite interesting that this post hearkens us back to 1968, since only yesterday I was drawing parallels to that year of turmoil and our present time. My prayer is that the vitriol of public discourse and unrest in 2011 does not unleash the same level of street violence. It is a fervent prayer.
    What I recall in 1968 are the continuing race riots, the long hot summers, and racial tensions in San Francisco. I was teaching English at a “ghetto” junior high school in the Hunters Point area where hostilities raged each day. They still do. Much of what was promised in 1968 as the flicker of a dream has now come due. May we have the heart and courage to deliver.

  2. Thanks Kate for your comment. Some years stay with us a lifetime — that mix of external and internal events. Those of us who were at an impressionable age when President Kennedy was shot will always remember and retell the story of where we were and what we were doing when we learned the news of his assassination. The events of 1968 also seem, as my car mirror says, “closer than they may appear.”


  3. I was 13 in 1968 … and I think the events of that year shaped my future. You forgot to mention (or omitted) Woodstock and the Summer of Love! Talk about a wild time. Ah, we were all so young and idealistic then. No longer young, but the ideals are still alive and well. May peace prevail.

  4. Hi Amber: Since I’m older than you are, I think that the Summer of Love was 1967 and Woodstock was 1969. But the real issue here is that events and movements often shape the people we become. In the collective memoir that Kendra and I wrote about the generation of women born during World War II (1940-1945), we found that women just a few years older were well established in their life routines and were not influenced by the 1960s as much as my generation.

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