Discovering the Heart of Your Journals

As I write my memoir, The Good Wife: Escaping the Shadows of Expectations, my journals from a certain period in my life are invaluable resources. They help me remember little things I had forgotten that add impact to the story. It also establishes a timeline of when events occurred. It chronicles my thoughts, feelings, and emotions during that time.

There are moments, when reading the journals, that I gasp in surprise as I had forgotten a certain detail, event, or feeling. Then it all comes rushing back to me…the memories of that time. It evokes the memory enough that I can write it with clarity instead of a cloudy fog wondering if I got the event “right.” While you can take a tiny amount of literary license, it’s important when writing nonfiction and memoir, that you stay as close to the truth as possible (think James Frey). Journaling helps you do that. Without these journals, I would be gumming my pencils to nubs trying to recall this vast wealth of information.

In your journals are diamonds, just waiting for you to discover them and turn them into memoirs. But once you’ve gone through your journal entries and you know which ones you need for your memoir, what then? Those words and phrases are rough – not useful without the cleaning, polishing, and editing that will make them sparkle. You’ll need to uncover the truths hidden within your original, unpolished entries – truths that lie beneath the surface of your writing and reveal the heart of your story. How rough those memory diamonds are depends on how what and how much you included when you wrote those entries.

The memories from my journal help energize my memoir writing. Without my journals for my memoir, there would be a lack of depth and emotion. While I can remember things about that time in my life, I can’t remember every, single, little, speck-of-dust detail, emotion, and feeling. By combining what I remember with I’ve written, I achieve a deeper, richer story.

Amber Starfire, a blogger who writes about journaling on Women’s Memoirs, offers seven steps to uncovering the heart of your memoir. Check them out here. She provides an invaluable resource as to how to find those small diamonds and turn them into something much larger.

Discovering the heart of your story isn’t an easy process. It takes guts, determination, and desire. Amber’s seven steps, however, will help you work through the process of revealing your memoir.

Have you tried unearthing diamonds in your journals for a story? What were the results? Are there any methods or processes you would recommend?

4 thoughts on “Discovering the Heart of Your Journals

    1. It is incredibly hard to recall everything from an event, especially if there was a lot of emotion and feeling attached to the event. I’ve been journaling since I was 7 or 8 years old. Sometimes I do it regularly and there are times where I’ve skipped several months. But I always come back to it. Writing my not work for everyone, but you can journal multiple ways! I’ll do a blog post about it later this week.

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  1. Thanks, Kat, for the link to my article. Whenever a writer tells me, “Oh, but I don’t journal,” I want to know: Why not? There’s a misconception that journaling is all about navel-gazing. Well, it can be that (I’ve certainly done my share), but it can be so much more, as your experience attests.

    I wish I’d been more detailed in the past when I recorded events in my life, which is why I created those seven steps: Now, I write not only for today, but for the future as well.

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    1. You’re quite welcome, Amber. It’s a shame when writers don’t journal. If anything, it instills a daily practice of writing, whether is publishable, book related, etc. or not. It’s such a valuable resource for all types of writing, I can’t imagine NOT doing it! Your tips and thoughts on journaling are so valuable. Thank you for sharing them!

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