The Journal Newsletter
- Tips & Tricks
- Writing Prompts
- Article: Stalking the Ideal Journal
- Submission Information
Welcome to The Journal Newsletter!
Jae Malone describes how she uses poetry and prose descriptions of her daily life to improve her personal journaling in this month’s article, “Stalking the Ideal Journal”.
Our tip this month is about changing the default font in The Journal, and also serves as a quick introduction to the topic of “text styles”. And Susan has contributed a new set of writing exercises.
Thank you for supporting DavidRM Software’s The Journal!
TIP: Setting the Default Font (Text Style)
There are actually two levels of “default font” in The Journal: the user default font, and the category default font. In both cases, the default font is actually part of a “text style”. A “text style” defines the font, colors, and even paragraph settings for a block of text.
The default user text style defines the font and background color used in newly created categories, as well as those categories still tied to the default settings.
The default category text style can either be the default user text style, or you can override that to give the category a unique text style. The default category text style is used in all new entries.
To change the default user text style:
- Click on the Options menu, and choose “User Preferences…”
- Bring up the “Styles” tab.
- Click on “Edit Default User Text Style”.
You will be able to change the font face, point size, and style (bold, italics, etc.).
To change the default text style for a category:
- Bring up the category tab.
- Click on the Category menu (or right-click the category tab), and choose “Category Properties…”
- Bring up the “Entry Text Style” tab.
- Click on “Edit Font and Text Settings”.
Like the user default text settings, you will be able to change the font face, point size, and style (bold, italics, etc.). You will also be able to change the paragraph settings (alignment, indentation, spacing, etc.).
To force a category to revert to the default user text style, click on “Default Settings”.
Next month, we’ll cover text styles in more detail.
by Susan Michael
Free Writing Exercise – Write for 20 minutes (without editing) in any style: using, “turning into silence”.
Poetry Exercise – Write a poem concerning the “absence” of something. Consider the absence as a positive, or a negative.
Prose Exercise – Close your eyes and think of a specific place, such as a grocery store or a bakery. Think about what it looks like early in the morning. Write about the people who work there. Visit the same place at different times of the day.
Journaling Exercise – Do you consider opportunity as something that comes to you, or something that you create for yourself? What are some opportunities that you can act upon? Try to come up with three opportunities that will correlate with your creative goals. Are there areas that you could create opportunity for someone else? It may be helpful to start the exercise with asking what you need, then brainstorming an opportunity list.
Memoir Prompt – “Who’s Aunt Sally?” Create a family directory, or a family tree which includes information about each person’s life. A short paragraph listing occupation, interests, and relation to you can be sufficient. Or you could create a “questionnaire” for family members to fill out. Questionnaires could relate to specific events, people, themes, and be shared at family gatherings.
About the author: Susan Michael has facilitated several writing groups, and has lead writing & creativity workshops for the Arts & Humanities Council in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Stalking the Ideal Journal
by Jae Malone
Journals. If I had a buck for every one I’ve started, I’d be a wealthy woman. Beginning a new journal is probably the cheapest, quickest, least stressful way I know to “reset the energy.” Keeping one puts me in a slightly different relationship to self and experience than when I’m not keeping one. Every journal I begin brings another opportunity to actually follow through with something. That’s important. In spite of the rush I get from that clean, new notebook or virgin software, I really do want to journal in a sustained way. Every time, I tell myself I WILL keep it up! (Oh yeah.)
I can’t tell you how many approaches to journaling I’ve taken.
- I’ve written free form.
- I’ve structured my journal in the form of letters.
- I’ve done Ira Progoff.
- I’ve drawn a Tarot card in the morning and focused my evening journal entry around how it related to my day.
- I’ve worked with exercises and prompts.
- I’ve written for a certain length of time or number of pages without allowing my hand to stop.
- I’ve created little forms that asked for things like high point, low point, insight, kindness, accomplishment, and what do I want to forgive myself for.
The biggest overall problem I’ve had with my journals is the tendency to keep them much better when I’m depressed. They tend to get melodramatic and sloppy and then end up embarrassing me when I read them later. They also tend to get redundant with what I’ve said in email. When I have a deep correspondence going with someone, it tends to drain away a lot of that journal-keeping energy.
There are two journaling exercises, however, that I’ve found relatively easy to sustain.
One is poetry. Often before I go to bed, I sit down and attempt to capture one experience from the day in poetic form. For example, here’s one about buying a pair of sneakers:
Cheap they were, and purple trimmed,
the blood stains invisible.
Pragmatism easily divisible from principle,
there was a time when I’d have first
staggered through snow,
or at least gone running in what I had.
It doesn’t make me a bad person,
but merely one who orders defeat
off the menu.
Here’s one more. On the night I wrote it, we’d gone in town to an Indian restaurant, and there was a homeless man in the middle of the street. This is pretty much how it went:
in front of the restaurant,
not staggering, not crawling,
but slithering across the street
on his belly,
an inch at a time,
and ranting about being
with the government.
The heart looked
and saw somebody’s baby,
soft-skinned and cooing,
though nothing in life will ever
suckle him again.
He was a ragged, raging, ruined
one-eyed sack of grief and bone.
I stepped into the traffic and
held out my arms.
did I realize
I probably didn’t do him
We are, however, not all poets; and sometimes even those of us who are can’t find the groove. It was from one of those grooveless nights that there sprang the idea of a fiction journal. An alternative to writing a poem is taking one slice of the day and writing it as if it were a paragraph in a novel.
In addition to providing a fairly deep (though narrow) journal entry, this practice is a wonderful way to hone writing skills. My novel-journal entries often become the inspiration for poems, and I’m sure people who write short stories and other things will find such a journal equally rich in ideas.
You can describe a physical reality, such as what it’s like to cook dinner in your kitchen or have coffee with your neighbor. It’s the kind of detail I hardly ever included in more standard journaling because, from that perspective, it’s too taken-for-granted to mention.
You can describe inner realities – fantasies or insights.
You can write your own truth or someone else’s. Perhaps you had a fight with your mother. Your paragraph can be about your experience of it or about what you imagine hers was.
You can write a review of a book you are reading or a paragraph of political commentary inspired by something you heard on the news as if it were being observed by a character in a story.
You can practice dialogue, description, stream of consciousness, and speaking in different voices. You can write in first person or third person. You can write humor or erotica. You can play with different styles. There are no limits, and every night it can be different.
Like with the poems, there’s no continuity problem, and while I can write as much as I want, I’m only requiring of myself one small paragraph. That sometimes shakes down to only a couple of sentences, and yet they are sentences that must be crafted in a “literary” way. This gets rid of a lot of the self-indulgent drivel that makes me want to cringe when I read my journals later on. Even when I’m dealing with depression or anger, the form pushes me to do it with perspective and creativity. Other than the poems, it’s the only journaling method that I actually enjoy reading later-a major issue for someone who once threw twenty-five years worth of journal beginnings into a bonfire.
Here are some samples from my fiction journal:
* * *
“I wish I could tell you how many times I wanted to take you in my arms and hold you,” he said, “but I didn’t want to risk the friendship.”
The breeze touched her cheek and moved on. Looking down at him, who would not again in this lifetime know love, she wondered about his last time and if he’d known it would be his last time. Some people seem old to the marrow, but he was so clearly a virile young man trapped within flesh that betrayed him. She touched his hand and smiled realizing in another place and time she could have loved him in that way.
* * *
Her feet, small and plumpish, had a youthful look some other parts lacked. Funny, after all this time, to see them there, propped on the side of her mother’s tub, as they had been day after day, year after year, from seven until eighteen. This snapshot of feet and naked thighs, at once intimate and invisible, was probably more familiar than her face. Did anyone else ever think about the changing landscape of the toilet’s-eye view of the self?
* * *
Oh shit! The unmistakable paddle of feet down the hall. Too late. She was caught, and bare-ass-naked in the bargain. There was just enough time for a cringe. Well, it was her body, wasn’t it? And something that everyone did. If she caught a daughter at this shameful deed, she’d walk straight by and pretend she hadn’t seen, but such was not the way of her mother. The boom fell like thunder:
“I thought you said you didn’t do that? So tell me. How much do you weigh?”
– – – – –
About the author: Jae Malone is a poet and freelance editor, who has recently moved back home to Connecticut to care for her ailing mother.
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