Personal journaling is a matter of tricks and treats. The longer you journal, the more tricks you learn and the more treats you learn to store away in your journal.
My journal started as a one-volume notebook and is now 140 notebooks. It is more than a journal. It is a workbook, photo album and a storage place for all the little daily souvenirs of life I collect as I go along.
For example, the day I am writing this, the Times Free Press has a nice story on my triplet nephews, Jarred, Jordan and Justin -- three of the coolest 12-year-old dudes you will ever meet. You know that goes straight into my journal.
A journal encourages my natural foraging instinct. I am always hunting information about things I want to learn about. I'll go off on a tangent about Christian Science or Buddhism and study it intensively for years, then go on to other things. I have never studied anything without coming away with some fantastic souvenirs and perspectives. Even Scientology.
I waded through L. Ron Hubbard's tome titled "Dianetics," and the only memorable thing I got out of it was the word "engram." An "engram" is a powerful emotional experience that results in a deep psychological stamping. Many engrams become triggers and explode in our face if we do not become aware of them. The acts of becoming aware are our protections.
I am now producing a CD titled "Heroes and Engrams." It honors the dozen or so people who deeply stamped me when I took up songwriting and performing. People like my Uncle Van, Redbird Clingan, Martha Carson, an old blind man named Pete Cassell who had a local radio show when I was a young boy, the Carter Family, Floyd Tillman, Hank Williams, Billy Joe Moore, Rex Griffin from Gadsden, Ala., Carl Story and a couple of old black blues men, Cousin Joe and Noble "Thin Man" Watts.
I just picked up a journaling trick from my study of Buddhism. It is linked-verse Japanese poetry called "renga." If I do a line a day for a year, I will have a 365-line poem with little word pictures from my daily life and experiences. It will contain pieces of my spiritual practices, music, friends, birds and everything that matters to me.
I remember when I went on a long mandala trip with my journaling. Mandalas are icons from your life, like pictures of your friends and places that are special to you, and all kinds of artistic or photographic depictions.
Every day for at least a year, I included a mandala at the top of my journal work for that day. It's tricks like this that make journaling such a rich experience.
There's no right and wrong way of journaling. The right way is to find a way that fits you and your interests. The right way is your way. But to keep you interested, you will find yourself wanting to experiment with all kinds of techniques and variations. Each one will yield its own rewards.
Whatever time you set aside to work in your journal each day will become so exciting to you that you can hardly wait to get to it. You will experiment with dozens of tricks and spade into the rich soil of your journal a constant stream of treats.
E-mail Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.