owl in winter

owl in winter

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why Keep a Journal

Do you keep a journal? As a writer, do you believe it is important to do so?

I have kept a journal since I was a teenager. Of course, in the teenage years my ramblings were more of a "Does that boy in English class like me" type of thing, but the point is, I was memorializing my instant thoughts and experiences. That is important for a writer to do.

There will never be another moment of clarity like the moment right now. Memories grow dim, circumstances become enmeshed with other circumstances, we forget half of what we mean to keep and so on. You get the picture.

One reason I started a serious journal several years ago was to leave my sons some idea of the people they come from. So much of my family's history, particularly on my father's side, has been lost to anquity. I can't do much about that now but I can leave them with what I know. It is important that they know their heritage.

As time goes by, I find I journal about practically everything in my life. Why and who cares? Well, I do. I suppose many people step away from journaling for fear that something they've written will be read by someone who might judge them, and that could happen, of course. But don't discard journaling due to the fear of someone else perceiving you as human. I think you might be a most unsuccessful writer if you did that!

Journaling releases tension. I no longer have to carry the turmoil of the day or the situation or the heartache with me. Once I commit it to paper, it is outside of me, sort of like a good belly-aching cry. I can then move on to more positive things.

Journaling also builds writing skills and don't think it doesn't. The more you engage in it, the higher your writing skills become. What better place to work than in your journal where you can write about anything at any time, raw, uncensored, no reservations. You can even write about writing. Journaling builds discipline, and writers need to be disciplined about the craft.

Also, within journaling, you may discover a germ of an idea, something that has legs and can breathe and explode into a successful story. There is no doubt in my mind that this is entirely possible.

These are just a few reasons why keeping a journal is important. What are the reasons you keep one?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Sweet Melody Lingers

My mother gave me a piano years ago, before son #1 was born. The piano is a beautiful antique, heavy wooden carving, real ivory keys, brass foot pedals. Once it belonged to her aunt, and my mother bought it for $50 dollars after I was born and kept it all those years.

And then she gave it to me.

My mother was a musician first, above every other role she took on during her lifetime. I can't tell you how many nights I fell asleep to her accordion or organ music swelling the house. She was part of every choir in any church she went to or belonged to. When she and her brothers were young, they formed a guitar-playing singing trio and they traveled to county fairs around Wisconsin singing gospel songs. She was an avid pianist and violinist, and played the ukulele.

She required my sister and I to take piano lessons and one other musical instrument as well. My other instrument was the flute.

Back in the day, we, as a family, mother, father, sister and brother, formed a singing group and we also did a little bit of "touring." Mostly to neighboring churches and the occasional family reunion. Nothing big, but she would have liked it to be.

I remember, after her first stroke, how she struggled to relearn the piano skills she once had, and she eventually regained every bit of skill she had always had and played her piano up until the second stroke that ultimately took her life.

About six months before she passed, she asked me, "do you play that piano anymore?"

I shamefully said, "no, I haven't played in years."

Yesterday, I saw the sheet music she liked to play ("Sonatina No. 2") still sat in the same spot, the spot where she left it last Thanksgiving when she came to my house for dinner and played her old piano. I raised the lid, and sat down to the keys and began to play for the first time in way too many years. Haltingly at first, slowly, but with a little more skill when I closed the lid again than when I started.

Sweet memories, sweet melody. Bone of my bone, heart of my heart.

My mother left me with a sweet melody, one that I will always treasure.

What are your treasured memories?