A few weeks ago, an old friend of mine came to visit. She moved to North Carolina ten years ago; we’ve kept in touch by email and Facebook and random texts at odd times. When she walked into my office and saw my shelves full of scrapbooks, she said, "Wow. That is a lot of scrapbook layouts."
She wasn’t making fun of me—she’s a scrapbooker, too—but her observation made me stop and think of the sheer numbers of layouts we have the chance to create. Every single one is a chance to use lovely supplies and to make something visually appealing. But each layout is also an opportunity to say something significant.
Every time we write journaling, we probably write about what happened: we went, we saw, we did. And that is good, of course. What happened is important. But what we feel about what happened—sometimes that is the crux.
Of course, some layouts only really need the "what happened" kind of details. But sometimes you want to dig in a little bit more, and that’s what we’re looking at today: journaling that goes deeper than the surface details.
Quantity isn’t the issue here. You can write something significant that’s short. It’s the real, memorable bit of something that you’re trying to get at. Here’s an example.
Consider this journaling: Today at Grandma’s start-of-summer party, we had an impromptu photo shoot. All the grandkids were there, so it was fun to get everyone in the picture, even if there were a few goofy faces.
Absolutely nothing wrong with that—it gets the who, what, when, and some of the why. But if you look beyond the surface (remember: not what happened, but what you feel about what happened) you might write something like this:
Looking through the lens at 18 grandkids and 2 grandparents, I couldn't help but really see: the similarities, the differences, the gentle happiness on Grandma and Grandpa’s faces. You might not always get along or see things in the same way, but you are all from the same tribe, and having all these people in your life with the same history? Well, it is a hedge against loneliness.
Writing this kind of journaling sometimes just happens. (Don’t you love those moments?) But sometimes you have to push yourself a little bit. When you want to dig deeper, you have to think about the topic from a different angle or ask yourself different questions. Here are some ideas that will help you shape those deeper thoughts:
- What does this event or experience illustrate about your family, traditions, perspectives, or general way of living?
- How did the experience change you? Did you learn something about the subject, realize a truth about yourself, or see something in a different way?
- Can you draw connections between this current moment and something in the past, or between this person and someone else, between a place and a memory, an activity and a personality?
- What about the experience did you love, or want to always remember? Or, from the opposite perspective, how do you wish it had been different, or what was difficult?
- What inspired you to take this specific photo? Or what sort of picture do you wish you had about this subject?
- What did the event or experience cause you to hope, feel, or remember?
- Is there a color, scent, or flavor of which the experience or event is particularly evocative?
- How does some characteristic of the subject—age, knowledge, skill, history, habits—change the way he or she experienced the event?
- Why is this event or experience important?
With those ideas in mind, here are three journaling challenges to try some time this month:
1. Write about a sport, but not from the perspective of an individual game.
Celeste focuses on the little details that make up the season:
and here, I focused on what I hope my son learns from basketball:
2. Write about a day you loved.
Alexandra wrote this journaling about the day her first baby was born, and I think she captures exactly what that moment feels like:
Celeste journaled about a specific day on a trip, one that didn't go as expected but still held some great moments:
In my layout, I tried to explain why I loved this particular wintery day:
3. Write about a connection between a recent experience and one from your childhood or adolescence.
I bump into this kind of connection quite often now that I have teenagers. Here's one that's a little bit raw, but honest, too:
Make sure to share your layouts with us!