Several days last week, I was able to blog my morning journal pages, having had some topic or theme in mind during my morning dog-walk, then exploring it in my journal. It’s easy to post to my blog when all I have to do is type up, with minor revisions, whatever I scribbled in my journal that morning. But some mornings my thoughts aren’t that organized–some mornings, I walk the dog without having any one thing On My Mind, so I end up filling my journal pages with scribbled nonsense that’s of interest to no one but me–just the trivial minutiae of this and that.
It strikes me that just as I’ve always liked keeping a journal, I’m always interested in reading others’ journals. May Sarton is one of my favorite writers not because I’ve read much of her poetry or fiction; she’s one of my favorite writers because I love her journals. Journaling is a loose, more comfortable genre than sometimes-prissy poetry or the formal rigors of nonfiction. If personal essays are the literary equivalent of jeans and a T-shirt, journal entries are like a well-worn bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. In a writer’s journal, you can see her or his mind at leisure and lounging. What kind of logical leaps does an active mind make when nobody but the trusted page is looking? What kind of thoughts does an insightful thinker harbor before revision has tidied things up?
I often find myself wanting to re-read Sarton’s journals, her prose being so delicious, and on my intellectual bucket list, I’d like to someday read Henry David Thoreau’s and Virginia Woolf’s complete journals cover-to-cover. We read excerpts from Thoreau’s 1851 journal in my Thinking & Writing class, and these snippets always leave me craving more. When I see the way a practiced journal-keeper wraps her or his mind around a sentence, I wonder why the world even needs poetry, the rhythms of prose seeming more than ample enough for anything the mind or heart could ever wish to convey.