I had a nice talk with my mom about the art of journaling some time ago, so I thought I would turn it into a blog post.
There are two kinds of rambling. Generally, rambling has no point or purpose. It has no central topic around which the "ramble" rambles. It just sort of goes.... and goes... leading from one thing to another... until.... you reach the end.... which is a completely different subject than the beginning.
This is how I write in my journal. This is how most people write in their journals. Or blogs - there are lots of blogs with purposeless rambling.
Then there is Rambling With A Purpose (RWAP?). The subtitle of this blog is "Reviews, Recommendations, and Ramblings about Books and Literature." I intend the word "ramblings" here to mean RWAP-ing. :-) I like to think of each of my posts as a little essay, each with a particular topic, from which I may deviate only slightly. Take this post, for example. I am currently rambling with a purpose on Rambling With A Purpose.
What I mean is that it has to have structure. An essay has structure - everyone knows that. Introduction, Support, Conclusion. I try to do that with my posts here - though I do give myself more freedom than I would if I were writing a school paper. With journaling, it's the same. A journal entry might not have a defined "thesis" like an essay would; it would have more of a short story feel. But short stories still need to have a purpose.
In my 11th grade English class, I read an excerpt from William Least Heat-Moon's biographical book Blue Highways. In it, he tells of his experiences on a road trip across the States. It was wonderfully written, and I always mean to read the full book - I just haven't gotten around to it. Heat-Moon is a wonderful example of a master of the art of journaling, which is another name for RWAP. The book (or at least the excerpt that I read) is a series of anecdotes, each one separate from the next, and yet somehow neatly flowing from one to the other. Each one is like a really short short story that tells of something generally inconsequential, and yet, somehow, meaningful. Heat-Moon's descriptive powers are spectacular, and this is definitely a contributing factor, but what makes his work so memorable is his way of isolating everyday occurrences and endowing them with importance.
This - the art of making minor occurrences grand and glorious, yet without taking away their simplicity - is the essence of journaling. This is the essence of Rambling With A Purpose.
The fault with so many "tween" books today (and "teen" ones as well) that attempt to portray realistic tween and teen life is that the writing just becomes one big ramble - without any purpose at all. I highly dislike contemporary books marketed particularly to tweens just because of this reason. (And also because they never actually discuss realistic tween life, but that's for another time.)
I do keep a journal, though rather sporadically, and when I was younger, I used to wonder if, when I was a rich and famous writer, anyone would publish my musings. Then I read it, and knew for sure that would never happen. No one would ever read it. It was extraordinarily boring. I decided that must be just because I had an extremely boring and normal life, and left it at that.
But in reality - I do belive it was because I just didn't know how to journal with a purpose. My entries were all purposeless ramblings. I didn't know how to extract from my day those meaningful - yet externally meaningless - occurrences that were the essence of my day. Frankly, I still don't. It takes a really good writer to be able to do that. But I'm definitely trying, and I hope that in time, I will get better.
On a somewhat related note, do any of you keep a journal? If you do, how do you manage to write consistently? It seems like I only write twice or three times a year now! (Hmmm... I better go write an entry after I post this - I think I last wrote in February.)