Lately I’ve been reviewing old journals written at various times in my life. I’m quilting together a new novel and finding amazing little pieces that are just what I need to tickle my memory. What a treasure trove. And to think I was considering just tossing them.

There’s the one from my first writing group. That phrase calls up a critique group, but this one was a journal writing group. We were fledgling poets, fiction writers, and academics meeting in a yellow house in Seattle. We each picked a prompt, wrote about it during the week, then read to each other. I have a hyper-active critic, so I made a rule during this period in my life that I couldn’t cross things out. Because, really, my drafts looked like a redacted CIA document more than anything. That one thing helped my writing more than anything. Words flowed. Some good, some indifferent, some downright terrible. But words flowed. I learned how to just keep going.

In this journal I found the first draft of my first published short story, a list of what was in all the drawers in my childhood house (which people loved for some unknown reason), and a tribute to Beatle John Lennon who’d just been shot. I’d studied with the same meditation teacher as the Beatles, and the piece took me there and to that first record Maharishi made (yes, vinyl) that talked about Transcendental Meditation. I listened to it very seriously at 16.

Another journal was from Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal Program which I attended twice. Progoff divides up lives into several categories—daily pages, dialogues with the self, dreams to name a few. This process helped me dig into myself in interesting ways. It honed my writing as I dug.

Then there were notes and writing exercises from two summers at Women’s Voices in Santa Cruz where I studied with the likes of Valerie Miner, Gloria Anzaldúa, Judy Grahn, Andre Lorde, even Adrienne Rich. A poem I wrote there was published in Rich’s journal Sinister Wisdom. I love that title. Did I realize I was in heaven, that this glorious time would pass? No, I thought this was how life would always be.

Do you still keep a journal or has it gone by the wayside as deadlines loom?


Author: Theresa Crater

Award-winning author Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her visionary fiction. In The Star Family, a Gothic mansion holds a secret spiritual group and a 400-year-old ritual that must be completed to save the day. The shadow government search for ancient Atlantean weapons in the fabled Hall of Records in Under the Stone Paw and fight to control ancient crystals sunk beneath the sea in Beneath the Hallowed Hill. Other novels include School of Hard Knocks and God in a Box, both exploring women in historical context. Her short stories explore ancient myth brought into the present day. The most recent include “The Judgment of Osiris” and “Bringing the Waters.” Theresa has also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches meditation, as well as creative writing and British lit.

9 thoughts on “Collecting—Memories”

  1. I’ve never been good at journaling. My aunt always gave them to me, and I tried, I really did – but honestly, I was never that interested in my thoughts, so why would anyone else be? The one journal I wish I’d kept up was the one I started when my son was born, but as a working mom with two small children, I just couldn’t find the time and energy to do it.


  2. My journals are so erratic. I wish I’d kept them up better, because you’re right–they’re treasures later on! Now, I keep travel journals. Sometimes I only make a note of names of places, but even that is helpful to recapture details in my mind.


  3. I have journal envy! I tried a few times, during various phases of life, but I kept putting too many rules around the writing (must write every day!) and I couldn’t sustain it. I wonder how much my writing would have grown, and how many more interesting things I’d have to write about if I’d kept up with it. Munchkin journals often, and we encourage it. She writes great stuff! Thanks, Theresa–great post.


  4. I still have my journals from my teen years. I remember thinking one day I could publish them: Diaries of a Ditz, I think was what I was going to call them. Very Hello God, It’s Me, Margaret type stuff. Heavy.


  5. ” I have a hyper-active critic, so I made a rule during this period in my life that I couldn’t cross things out. Because, really, my drafts looked like a redacted CIA document more than anything.” = ha ha! But that’s a great rule.

    I journaled for a very long time, very regularly, but stopped a few years ago. I really miss it.


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