Well, yesterday I finished working through the exercises in A Year in the Life. The final exercise was the last of four “self-reflection weeks” in which I gave myself feedback on my journaling. (You can see how the schizophrenic relationship with myself as both employer and employee began here.) I also just backdated last week’s entry about what I’m looking forward to now that this year of journaling is complete. Finally, you can read my overall review of the book I’ve been working from here.
This time, I let Ms. VenOsdel give her review first.
Well, here we are at the end of your one-year assignment. How has the experience been for you? Do you have ideas about what you will do next?
I really appreciate your dedication–you managed to come here every week for the whole last year. You’ve journaled through a second year of marriage, through a new job, new schedule, and new book. You’ve written in hotel rooms, trains, airplanes, and other people’s houses. In the last quarter, you’ve gone way beyond the call of duty by doing Morning Pages three or more times per week. I’ve really appreciated the way these morning pages recorded my day-to-day thoughts and life, while your weekend writing led you to explore places you probably wouldn’t have gone on your own.
I’m going to dissolve our formal relationship because I know you will continue to journal regularly, and I also know you are eager to try something new. I can’t wait to see what you do next!
Dear Ms. VenOsdel,
I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am so glad to be here! At the beginning I was really excited about my weekly journaling because it was a break from the more structured writing I was doing for the rest of the week. Now that I write Morning Pages, promotional pieces for Rumpled, and three blogs, this has come to feel like a bit more of a chore. I really like that the prompts often got me to write about memories that wouldn’t have surfaced in other ways, and the best entries were those in which the prompt allowed me to use one access point to tell a whole story. The things I was drawn to writing about for each prompt hinted at what may have been pre-occupying me at the time, but when those were the only entries I made in the whole week–as they often were–they didn’t give me the freedom to write about the day-to-day moments or preoccupations I was experiencing.
Many of the prompts really fell flat for me, especially those near the beginning. And I agree with the critique that, as a whole, I’m not sure these exercises have produced anything near a cohesive body of work. Still, they did produce something, which is all I can really expect. I look forward to paging through them and culling out those that will be useful in my spiritual writing group.
I remember starting these exercises on a park bench last spring, how I used to walk Syrus there every Friday to do this writing, how I wrote outside a lot in the beginning. And I felt a little dismayed that it would be a full year before I started another writing book. But that year has finally passed, and you are right that I am so ready to move on to the next thing.
A part of me wishes I had kept all these entries in their own place so I could easily see them as a whole. At the time, it just felt right to use my regular journals, since the whole purpose was to get myself to journal regularly. I’m going to do the exercises in The Right to Write next, and I find myself asking whether they should have a book of their own. If I’m going to keep doing this sort of thing, should I have something of a “writer’s notebook” to do it in? The appeal of that conflicts with the appeal of having much of my life all in the same place–because it is part of a whole, full of intersection.
Still, the idea of a separate “writer’s notebook” is appealing to me. A writing prompt does inspire different output than merely journaling does. But for journaling that was often as personal as these were, the journal just seemed the right place. And although I’d like to look at them all as a whole, it also makes me feel sort of sad to see them fragmented from the rest of my life. So maybe I did make the right choice.
Should I start a writer’s journal for my next endeavor? I think I probably will, especially since those exercises are so much more “writer” focused, while these were memory and reflection focused. I’ll just have to leave it to my future chroniclers to make sense of it all!
I have enjoyed this work, but I’m also glad to be done. Thanks for giving me this opportunity–but it looks like you will be writing your own entries from now on!