The Chaos of Experience

The storage bin sits on the top shelf, at the back of the closet. Impossible to reach unless you dismantle the row of boxes beside it, navigate on tip-toes the winemaking equipment below. My journals.

2015-06-07 17.04.02


I quit journaling several years ago. Around the time I began blogging. No coincidence, that. After thirty-three years—my first journal was a Christmas gift when I was seven, a small blue, faux-leather book with a lock and tiny key, and gold lettering on the front: My Diary—I realized my words were going nowhere. I felt trapped by the private page.


Blogging became a way to hold myself accountable, even in those early days when I had no audience. As long as there was a chance someone would read my words, I sat up little straighter as I wrote, I paid attention to my digital penmanship. I chose my words carefully, not out of self-preservation or self-censorship, but to create a small work of art on the page, rather than a mud pie of emotion.


And it worked. That’s the beauty of it. My gambit paid off. Taking my writing outside my head and throwing it to the intersphere allowed me to step out of my own mind and into others’ perspectives. That’s how characters are born. That’s how conflicts are discovered. From the blog posts came the desire to write more. From the desire came the practice. And from the practice came the stories and the novels.


But now. The words. There are so many. The more I write, the more the words crowd around my mind’s exit, pushing and shoving in an attempt at simultaneous escape. Not all are fit for public consumption, but they need to go somewhere.


It’s time to begin journaling again.


I’m aching for the private, blank page. For the feel of a pen. The possibility of paper. I think and feel differently about my words when I engage in the physical act of writing. It’s why I do all character sketches, theme building, initial plotting and later, the working out of plot holes, by hand. I need to feel my way through a story before I can make sense of the parts I see.


I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone, John Cheever once said, and until recently I would have agreed with him. But now I need to save some words for myself.


“Writing, then, was a substitute for myself: if you don’t love me, love my writing & love me for my writing. It is also much more: a way of ordering and reordering the chaos of experience.”

― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

11 thoughts on “The Chaos of Experience

  1. There is something very special about Journalling. I have journaled on and off for years but the last couple of years life had overwhelmed me and I didn’t want to face the realities of real life – thank goodness for fiction in these times.
    A friend also got me back into fountain pens. There is an added beauty to Journalling with a fountain pen for me. It feels like it grounds me to the writers of the past and the centuries of great stories. It inspires and motivates me.
    But the last few months I gave made a concerted effort to get back to Journalling.
    I have also started a fiction journal in my Hobonichi where I work through my fiction.
    Enjoy your Journalling Julie. 🙂
    – Kim


    • Oh, I LOVE fountain pens. I got hooked on them in France. You’re so right- there is something about the way the ink flows, the particular whisper of a fountain pen on paper that gets into my writing soul.
      I just looked at the Hobonichi website. Oh my. Gorgeous. I could get into so much trouble.

      I’m so glad you’ve started journaling again, Kim. I’ve felt the same- there have been times that I just haven’t been able to go to the places a journal would have taken me. But when it’s right, those pages are always waiting, ready to take me back.
      xoxo Julie

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh let me tell you the Hobonichi site is a rabbit hole…..
        I have the Hobonichi Cousin (I blogged about it this month) specifically for my writing life. I wanted something that was both a planner and journal as well as something beautifully simple and minimalist…of course the fact that is fountain pen friendly with the magical Tomoe River Paper…just perfect.

        As for life Journalling, I tumbled into the “Traveller Notebook” addiction…I specifically got a beautifully distressed, scarred leather traveller notebook (you can see on my blog) to remind me that the page is a safe place, safe enough to take both my scars and my joys. It feels good to be Journalling again. It feels healing like the first raindrops after being lost in a desert for a long time.

        What are you using as a journal Julie?
        What’s your go-to fountain pen?


      • Kim,

        My idea of heaven is a kind of a stationer’s shop! I just responded to a post on your gorgeous website, but remembered that I wanted to share the Bullet Journal system with you. I haven’t started this yet- September is my goal date for starting a new planning system, but a few friends are converts to the Bullet. Are you familiar with it? I need to make time to compare this with the Hobonichi. I’m just fascinated by the whole thing. So much righteous health and beauty in committing to these concrete systems of organizing goals, plans, musts, shoulds.

        My fountain pen needs some work- I buy packets of cheap plastic ones whenever I’m in France. I’m so hard on pens and I lose them, always. I’m not to be trusted with anything nice!!

        I am so glad for your healing through writing. I wish you continued peace and relief from pain. Warmest hugs, Julie

        Liked by 1 person

      • Julie,

        Then I know we’ll meet up in the same heaven one day! 😉

        Yes I have heard of the bullet journal method. I think the Hobonichi is the perfect complement to that style of journaling.

        Yes, I am craving simplicity and beauty right now. I am especially trying to “use” my time on my good days and not “abuse / waste” it.

        Thank you so much for your healing thoughts my sweet friend. They are definitely appreciated.

        Hugs across the miles 🙂

        Ps* Thank you for popping across to my website.
        Happy to be coming up for air on the blogosphere again and to reconnect with you! 🙂

        🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Recently I find I am alternating between a writing practice journal where I free write for about 20 minutes after time spent in sitting meditation. This is followed up by an hour or 2 of focused writing on a project, which in turn is supplemented by writing about what I’m writing in my writer’s diary. Apart from the free writing, everything else takes place on my lap top. And yes, the trajectory of your writing journey sounds very familiar – I too find that there is a world of difference in my focus when I write for private consumption alone and when I write for a potential audience. It is too easy for my private writing to fall into moaning and whining; very quickly I bore myself! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is such a beautiful approach, Edith! I love that. And one of the things I want to focus more on, thanks to Louise DeSalvo’s The Art of Slow Writing, is to write about writing, as you are doing. I need to take more time to explore the process and how I feel about what I’m doing, where it’s taking me and where it is not. You’ve inspired me!


  3. I love those John Cheever and Sylvia Plath quotes!

    I’m sure there’s a place for your words in journaling and blogging (and…novel-ing!!). 🙂 Hope you enjoy some private journaling time…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I’m learning that I’ll pick up the journal when I need to, rather than forcing myself into it, if that makes sense. The outlet, the possibility, the release is what I need. Thank you, Andria!!


  4. Hi Julie. The photo of your journals looked so much like my own I had to do a doubletake—-then I remembered: I don’t have a single bin! lol! Are you able to maintain a separate type of journal (a working notebook?) for your writing projects?


    • They add up over the years, don’t they? All those hopes and broken hearts and dreams and angers. I’m scared to open that bin: contents may have shifted!

      I keep a running notebook for my works-in-progress (what does Louise DeSalvo call it? The Process Journal!) that I use to work out my writing issues. That’s completely separate from my (new!) private journal. I just have so many blank books around the house- half-started journals, process notebooks that have more than one work in them, or works spread out between different notebooks. Notebooks for marketing and promotion, notebooks for writing classes. It’s a bit chaotic, which isn’t like me at all, but maybe that’s the point. Maybe I need to allow myself to cover a lot of ground!

      Or maybe I just have a notebook addiction! 🙂

      How about you? What do you do for a journal vs. working notebooks?

      Liked by 1 person

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