Sunday, August 15, 2010

Journaling: All about asking stupid questions

For all that I've blogged, I have rarely written about writing--funny, because I am an English teacher, and I love to teach writing. Still, I don't want to come off as preaching, and people have an abnormal fear of English teachers--seriously, how many people apologize to any dentist they meet in a casual setting that they don't floss everyday? Yet people apologize to me about their grammar the second they know I teach English. Bah!

As an English teacher who scraps, it makes me flinch when I hear people say they hate to journal, they don't journal at all, they never do much writing on the page at all. This wounds me--what are stories without words? True, we can communicate something with just images and products, but not always. So today's post is to help those people feel more comfortable in writing their stories down.

First, we write to create meaning out of our lives. That means we have to think about it a little first and give ourselves permission to ask stupid questions to figure out the meaning of the stories we're trying to convey.

What do I mean by asking stupid questions? Here's an example with a photo I want to scrap:

I love the photo, so I want to scrap it. I don't, however, want to scrap a photo-only page. The first step in figuring out the story is to ask myself a question:

Why do I want to scrap this picture?

Here's where I give myself permission to give stupid answers. The answer, of course, is I love this picture! That is not a story, though. So I need to ask more probing questions to get past stupid:

Why do I love this picture?

Because it's a good picture. (Still stupid.)

Why is it a good picture?

I love the angle--he's so high up, higher than I ever thought he could or would go. The light is behind him, sort of a brightness to the scene. (This is better--more specific--but I don't want to create a page about photography, so I still need to probe to get at the meaning of the page.)

Why is it important that he's so high, that I didn't know about it, that he's up there by the light?

Now I can feel the meaning kicking in--those details are important because it feels symbolic--for the rest of his life he will move ahead and do things, achieving things, taking risks, trying new things--and I won't know all of them. With luck, some of my parenting lessons will stick, and the closer he gets to as high as he can go metaphorically, the more successful and fulfilled he will be.

So after asking myself questions about why I want to scrap a picture, I know the purpose of the layout, so I will be able to pull products and journal meaningfully--not a lot, mind you. Meaningful journaling doesn't have to be long. It just has to be thoughtful, and I think this will be.


BabyBokChoy said...

First of all, my grammar is good and I don't apologize for it, LOL. then... LOVE LOVE LOVE this post, so so meaningful!! Thanks for sharing your thought process and helping us ask stupid questions, lol.

Diana said...

OK I'm going to try this next time I'm stuck for journaling.
I can't wait to see what your journaling will be for this page!

Sagecat said...

I really appreciate this entry about journaling. As a retired teacher with a science background, I always scrap chronologically, with the date perfectly placed! This is a great prompt to add more thoughtfulness to my pages.