Friday, December 20, 2019

The Prescription of Writing

When life begins feeling rudderless, I've found grounding through an old tradition: journaling. Especially with the upheaval of recent family changes, it's been a comfort to preserve thoughts and feelings, no matter how fleeting—not just to record them, but to find the best way to communicate them.

As much as I love having found old letters and diaries related to my ancestors—and as much as I bemoan not having more than just a few slim notebooks of my own mother's scribblings—I have been entirely remiss in not keeping a more regular habit of journaling the thoughts and events in my own life. Assuming there is anyone looking back from their vantage point of the next century, those future great-grandchildren would find precious little to help them piece together the lives of my generation's cohort.

Taking pen in hand and applying those remembrances to paper is far different than blogging one's thoughts in digital format. While it is true that paper does disintegrate over time, online records are as fleeting as the electrical impulses that carry them—and as fickle as the ownership of their dot-com hosts. I've even read one author's musings that the tools we use in our writing influence the style of our output. Consider Hemingway's staccato delivery—both in terseness and manual typewriter production. The fluidity of longhand expression on a writing pad may do more for the psychology resident in the prose than we think.

And so, I find a prescription for writing—the old fashioned way, in my journal—to be a habit I'd be happy to reacquaint myself with at this juncture in life. After all, it seems quite disconcerting to realize that, but for one lone cousin, that generation in our family—and all their memories—is all but gone for good. To be sure, writing about them won't bring them back, but it will go a long way toward enabling the next generation to pass along their remembrance to our family's future generations.


  1. I have found the thought of people reading my journals after I am be a bit inhibitive. Sometimes I keep parallel journals - one to be discarded while I still can :-)

    But believe me, I appreciate your point and think it is absolutely true. We SHOULD leave writings that tell about our daily lives and the things we learn along the way. And I also love your point about longhand (not that future generations will be able to read longhand).

    1. Interesting point about future generations not being able to read longhand, Lisa. Where there's a will, though, there's a way. I can't help but think of the old German script. As long as there are people out there willing to learn, someone will still be able to read it.

      And there is just something different about capturing one's thoughts in longhand. Perhaps it's that it slows you down enough to think before blurting out something you'd later regret...

  2. I keep the emails between my SIL and myself - have for years. She covers so much of their lives I know it will be enjoyed in generations to come.

    1. What a great idea, Susie Q! I've done something similar, though not as tech-minded: I keep those family newsletters which sometimes accompany Christmas cards at this time of the year. I have them from years back. Someday, I'll get around to compiling them in a family-tree-friendly format. Someday...


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