Writing Like Lightning ~ On Keeping A Journal On The Computer and Finding Oneself Again…

I tried. I really did. In the last post I wrote about beginning to journal again after destroying a lifetime of journals. After many failed attempts to start again. And finally I found a great little notebook at the Dollar Store that I loved. And I had my favorite pen. And it felt good to take off with that pen across the vast expanse of the notebook page and write and dream my way into a whole new era of journalling. At least, for a day or two it felt that way. And then it didn’t. My nearly 63 year old hand got tired. My thoughts, used to racing fast and being kept up with on a keyboard where we galloped along in tandem, stumbled along and got lost as my hand tried to keep up. It all came to a screeching halt and an “Oh Hell No!” when I realized, two days in, that my days of journalling by hand were over. I didn’t know if I could journal at all. It felt like cheating to do it on the computer, but after hemming and hawing and looking into several possibilities that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Now, mind you — and I grin when I say this — I am doing it “Old School.” I am not using a fancy program or software on or offline. I am using Microsoft Word which in most people’s opinion is too clunky and cumbersome to use for a journal and many people don’t use it for writing anymore. A number of people suggested websites that you can use to create a journal, and there are programs like Evernote which people seem to swear by, and all manner of other things, but for me, well, I went from typing on a typewriter to using Microsoft Word on a computer over 30 years ago. I have used it to write books and articles, to create small press publications and zines, and more, and it is just like slipping into an old comfortable pair of shoes. I “save” frequently and back it up on Drop Box and that’s all I need. And there’s more.

I used to carry my journal with me everywhere I went, and I don’t just mean when I left the house. I carried it from room to room. I captured everything in the journal. It was a very detailed accounting of my life in nearly every way. Now I spend most of my day in my studio in front of the computer. What I have done is design a journal — the cover page is the image at the top of this post — and I leave the document open on the desktop. I write several times a day, sometimes a few pages, sometimes a paragraph, or a quick note. The first day was clunky to be sure. I felt nervous and uncertain of myself. But this morning I was so anxious to get to the journal that as soon as I sat down here with my coffee I was writing in the journal, before doing anything online. No e-mail, no Facebook, no Instagram, I just started writing in the journal and I was writing like lightning. It is just exactly as I said above, my thoughts are galloping along in tandem with my hands on the keyboard and we are flying! And it feels so good. I love to type, I can do it with my eyes closed, and I don’t lose my train of thought, just tally ho and away I go!

And I can make the pages colored and use colored borders and add pictures, artwork, photos, anything I want. Everything I could put in my old journals and more. And I use tons of different fonts and colors of text. Titles one color, dates another, and times another. I record the time every time I go back to write again. And because the journal has always been the foundation for every other kind of writing that I do since it is in Word on the computer I can copy and paste sections if I want or need to into a blog post, the book I’m working on, or other kinds of writing I’m doing. And there’s even more.

Many moons ago I studied with Natalie Goldberg, twice. It was the early days after Writing Down The Bones had come out. One thing she said stuck with me. She said, “Writing does writing.” You have to engage in the physical act of writing and it spurs you on to do other writing. This morning after a nice long session of writing in the journal I was so on fire, so loving just the feel of typing words on the page that I opened up the document for the book I’m writing, “How To Be A Joyful Old Lady ~ Notes For Those Who Struggle” (Working Title) and set to writing there. And all day long I have kept both documents open, the journal, and the book. And after I had moved online to make my daily rounds as I got a thought, or was inspired or fired up about something I hopped over into one of the documents and wrote. I was in the journal and in the book several times. It was the most writing I’ve done on any day in a very long time and it felt natural, it felt good, it felt right.

And in the middle of it all I was struck by something so big, so profound, for me, that I just stopped and sat in awe. It was like one of those corny shows where someone says, “She’s BA-ACK!” I am back. For the first time since the fire over three years ago where I lost not only my possessions, my 4 beloved parrots, my business, my financial security, the dreams I had been building since 1999, I lost myself, I lost all sense of myself, I lost the woman who wrote books — nevermind that they didn’t sell, I could write them, but after the fire, other than a blog post, I couldn’t write a thing. I couldn’t journal, I started countless books and trailed off to nothing, I didn’t know who I was or what I should be doing or how I should be doing it. I was so lost I didn’t think I could ever be found again. I have suffered debilitating anxiety and depression and barely had the will to live. My life has been defined by my writing since I was 9 years old. In a childhood of abuse writing saved my life and it has saved me over and over again and when I couldn’t write I couldn’t understand how to be in the world. Today I was journalling and working on the book, back and forth, fast and faster, almost laughing with glee. And it startled me, and then it felt so right, I almost went down on my knees in gratitude, I was home.

So yes, Microsoft Word. It doesn’t feel clunky to me, it feels just right, and if I want to create different types of journals — that hasn’t really been my way but people have mentioned that they like Evernote or Scrivener for being able to create several types of journals — I can just create different folders for them. I am actually blissy I am so happy. It’s been a long time coming.

There is no one right way to keep a journal. The way that is right for you is the way that is right. I have found what works for me, now, on the cusp of 63. It’s a whole new way of doing things at a pivotal point in my life, as I build the life that will take me into the final chapters, and now that I’ve found the foundation again I can’t wait to see what will follow. Hot damn diggity dog! Onward and upward and away I go…