Wednesday, January 7, 2015
A Journal for Father and Son
I remember reading (somewhere in a book review, I believe) that John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, was the original tweeter. Not that they had Twitter, or even computers, back then, but he kept a journal that was notable, even by the standards of the time, for its sparse entries.
For example, in the section of his journal dealing with the period of an ocean voyage — high drama in those times — the entry for a given day might read simply, “High winds, rough seas today.” That sort of thing.
Several years ago, I tried keeping a journal and stayed with it for close to a year before drifting away from the project and eventually abandoning it. One of the reasons for letting it go was that I was having a hard time getting beyond descriptions of the minutiae of any given day, and my days, frankly, aren’t that exciting for the most part. In short, my writing suffered from John Quincy Adams disease.
Writing Fiction Makes a Difference
During the period of my journal-keeping, I wasn’t writing fiction, and now that I am — with two mystery novels published on Amazon and a third on the way — I decided a few weeks ago to give the personal journal another try. I went to the local stationery store, bought a Moleskine journal, lined up my fountain pens, and set to the task.
Part of the impetus for this was that our son, Nick, was home for Christmas from the Army. He spent two and a half weeks with us before heading back to Fort Campbell, KY, from whence he is expected to be deployed overseas within a couple of months.
We may not see him again until next Christmas, and possibly not even then, so I wanted to write down not only what we were doing during our time together, but also my impressions of him and his situation. I don’t know if my fiction-writing experience was the reason or not, but I felt that this time around the journal was going better and becoming much more than a simple document of the day’s activities. I feel pretty good about the results so far and plan to keep going with it.
Passing on the Tradition
Keeping a journal is a worthwhile activity for anyone, and particularly for a writer. There’s something about writing things down by hand that engraves them in your mind in a way that typing them into a computer just doesn’t do. And for a writer, it’s a good way of recording material — the details and observations that could end up being incorporated into a story or novel.
Nick is observant and a fairly capable writer, though I can’t see him ever doing it for a living. Nevertheless, it occurred to me as I was starting my journal, that perhaps I should encourage him to do the same when he goes overseas. So as an extra present for Christmas, I bought him his own Moleskine journal and a good gel pen, wrapping them up along with a note suggesting that he write down his impressions while abroad.
I don’t know if he’ll do that; he is, after all, 24 and under no compunction to heed his father’s advice. But if he does decide to keep the journal, I have little doubt that as the years go by, he’ll be glad he did.