Not just a notebook: The Journal as the beating heart of the writer’s practice

by Tzivia Gover

Its cover, the color of tangerines, is pocked with rows of mechanically precise dots. The small brick of a book is girdled with a taut elastic, and when I cinch it closed, it snaps with satisfaction. I slide it into the drawer of my bedside table after recording my dreams in the morning. There it slumbers until it is time for me to slip into bed again at the end of the day. Then, I prop my notebook on my knees, push aside the satin ribbon that holds my place, kiss my pen tip to the next blank line—and write again.

Sometimes I think I may be a little bit too much in love with my journals and notebooks. A friend recently told me that I probably have the most documented life of anyone she knows.

That may be true. But it’s not just a matter of documenting. It’s a matter of wanting to not just experience life, but to make some kind of meaning of it.

I began keeping a diary at 12 years old. My models were (more or less in sequence) Harriet the Spy, Anne Frank, Doris Lessing, Sylvia Plath, Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf and Joan Didion. Not surprisingly then, I take my journals seriously. In them, I have recorded hurts, harms, angst, and epiphanies. At times the contents were so heavy, especially in my teens and twenties, that I’m surprised the shelves they are now stacked on don’t sag and crash to the ground.

But I don’t regret any of it. The soul-wrenching record in those volumes has been alchemized into poetry; my grievances and the healing of them constellate a darkness that pulsates with comet-tails of light. As I’ve worked through the complex territory of inner healing, my journals, and my writing have shifted as well. The angst is still a close companion—but so are joy, gratitude, and wonder.

And yes, I’m more than a little bit in love—with all of it.

–Tzivia Gover

If you’re looking for inspiration, structure or guidance to enliven your journaling practice, there are a few spaces open in Tzivia’s weekly workshop, The Art of Keeping a Notebook, which starts April 13.  

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