An Editor’s Perspective: The Value of Journaling


Roseanne Rini, SCN Editorial Service, #1

A Discovery
When I was in school, every paper I was assigned brought on a crisis. It was necessary for me to work through several days of anxiety before I could actually begin to write and by then the pressure of the deadline, forcing me to complete the task, would produce a result far inferior to what it could have been had I had more time.

The reason I went through this, I finally figured out years later, was that I was not writing in my own voice. I had not yet found my own voice and instead was forcing myself into an external mold. Naturally I felt intimidated, like I could not measure up, and confined or stifled; in short, I was stopped. All of this changed when I began to devote regular attention to my journal and to trust the voice emerging there.

Trusting Your Voice
Mistrusting one’s own voice is what stops a writer. Keeping a journal is one of the best ways to discover and strengthen that voice. Journal-writing is liberating because in one’s journal one is accountable only to oneself. One may write whenever and whatever one wishes and in whatever way without concern about criticism. Initially some people are blocked, even with journal writing, because years of school and grades may have created an internal censor who interferes even with this very private act of self-expression. But if one keeps at it, if one becomes convinced that one is truly free in the journal, this censor begins to loosen its hold and fall away, and the authentic voice comes out of hiding. Journals then become rich sources for memoir.

People often say, “My life is too ordinary to be the subject of a memoir.” But if you are keeping a journal, if you are listing or describing your experience and reflecting upon it, you will find that you do have a story or several stories to tell. Often the “germ” of your memoir or personal essay may lie in a statement or paragraph that could be more fully developed; one that, like the tip of an iceberg, suggests so much more.

Click Here if you are interested in some examples of journal entries that could be developed into a personal essay or memoir.

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Roseanne Rini: I’ll be sharing some of my insights as an editor in this and future blogs. As a member of SCN’s Editorial Service, I look forward to the opportunity of editing a chapter or a manuscript that you feel is ready for the helping hand and watchful eye of an editor.

Click Here for more information on SCN’s Editorial Service.

Want to see me at work? I like to do my editing work sitting in my favorite spot in the living room, a cup of coffee or tea at my side and my cat, Joey, wandering in and out of the room or curled up next to me. Outside my window I see the trees, barren now against a late winter sky but soon to bloom with a mist of green, and in the distance, the brick house of my neighbor across the street.

Here’s a little background information about me.

I have a Ph.D. in English and thirty-four years of experience teaching college English and Women’s Studies courses, most of which have required a considerable amount of writing. As a result of my teaching experience, I have developed strong analytical and editing skills. I have especially enjoyed working with students individually to improve their writing skills.

I bring to my reading of any manuscript a knowledge of what are considered the “classics” of American and British literature in addition to a special interest in and familiarity with nineteenth and twentieth century as well as contemporary women writers, many of whom I have taught in both my Women’s Studies and English courses. I am especially interested in women’s memoirs and I am currently writing a memoir of my own.

A life-long journal-keeper, I am also very interested in the role writing plays in personal growth, healing and spirituality and have found my own journals to be critical to these processes. The search for identity and autonomy is in my experience greatly facilitated by the keeping of journals, which may then serve as rich sources for personal essay and memoir. The issue of identity is especially interesting to me within the contexts of gender and ethnicity, specifically Italian American ethnicity.

Reading and writing are central to my life, both my work and my pleasure.

15 responses to “An Editor’s Perspective: The Value of Journaling

  1. Pingback: Editors on Editing: Mining Your Journal for Memoir — Memoir Writing Blog

  2. Dear Roseanne,

    Thanks for showing us how keeping a journal can help us with our writing practice, personal growth, future projects, and just plain cutting loose and having a bit of fun.

    Janet Riehl

  3. Linda G. Harris

    This morning I read my first posting on Herstories. Like all good articles, it seemed written just for me. I told a friend this week that I had started a blog, “but only for me.” What you’re saying is you are journaling, she said. I guess so. I am indeed using my journal to find my voice. Thanks.

    • Dear Linda,
      Thanks for writing. I wasn’t sure, from what you said, if you had read someone else’s post on Herstories or had posted your own. In either case, it’s great that you are finding your own voice through journal-writing/blogging.
      Are you familiar with the work of May Sarton? Before the days of blogging, she kept journals for publication through most of her adult life. If you haven’t already read it, you might enjoy her Journal of a Solitude. And then, of course, there’s also the multi-volumed Diary of Anais Nin.
      It’s wonderful, and generous, to share with others what you have written in your true voice, perhaps just for yourself. I think that’s when, paradoxically, readers find something that speaks to them as well, because it is authentic and real.
      All the best to you,
      Roseanne

  4. I, too, hated essay assignments in school and, I realize now, for much the same reasons. I didn’t feel I could write “my writing” but that I had to write the way I was “supposed” to. Even when I got a score of 99.5 percentile in English on the ACT, I still didn’t know if I was writing my way or “their” way. Now I don’t worry much about scores and such because I’ve learned that I can write with clarity even when I do it “my” way.

    • Dear Sam,
      Thanks for your response. It’s great you’ve found confidence in your own way of writing, your own voice. It’s really too bad that our educational system has had this effect on so many people. I’m glad you’ve found a way to keep those rules from stopping you.
      Best,
      Roseanne

  5. Roseanne, as a longtime journaler and promoter of journaling as a way of finding voice, learning to write, and many other benefits too numerous to mention here, all I want to say is, “Amen!” Your sister articles (here and on womensmemoirs.com) are both excellent.

    WritingThroughLife.com

  6. Coincidentally, I have been talking with some friends on the subject of whether to keep journals or throw them away. Those who throw them away (or wish they had) say that reading old journals brings them face to face with repetitive issues in their lives and makes them relive old regrets.
    I am firmly in the “keep” camp, myself. I always imagine that something I wrote then–a poem or a an idea–might turn out to be fabulous, now that it’s had time to ripen. And as for mistakes and regrets… they are the foundation of drama–and comedy, for that matter!

    • Dear Mary,
      I, too, am in the “keep” camp, and have found it very helpful to review old journals. While it’s true that reading painful entries from the past can force you to relive unpleasant things you thought you had put behind you, it can also help you detect negative patterns and, with that awareness, begin to change them. They are also, as you said, a great source for literary endeavors.
      I will grant a couple of other problems with keeping journals though. One is finding space for them, especially if you’ve been keeping them, as I have, for years and you have enough for two or three filing cabinets. Another is making arrangements for them after one is gone. Would you want family members or friends to read them? I’m hoping at some point to look into archives or libraries interested in preserving women’s personal papers. Any thoughts on this?
      Thanks for writing.
      Roseanne

  7. Maybe it depends on the journal!

  8. Hi , I am so happy for you and your writing is just amazingly wonderful. You have such a gift and that you are sharing it with everyone who is fortunate to come to your site and learn from you, and read what you have to say and how kind and truly sincere you are in your words. Bravo!!! I look forward to your next writings. I love what you have to say and share! You are a gift! and thank you!

  9. Dianne–
    Thank you so much for your kind words!
    Roseanne

  10. Pingback: An Editor’s Perspective: Using Primary Sources, Part 1 | Telling HerStories: The Broad View

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