Putting the pen to pad

Putting the pen to pad

7 Reasons Why I Keep A Journal

By Jorge Antonio Vallejos

I’ve been keeping a journal for years.

When I started my journal it was to get into the practice of writing.  I would sit and write whatever came to mind: Free Writing.

I still do that.

But over the years my journaling has grown into different forms of writing.  And I have started journaling for more reasons than being a disciplined writer.  For example, I recently posted one of my journal entries about a friend who past on: Remembering Rich, One Of The Good Guys.  Here are seven reasons why I journal.

1. To write

To be a writer you have to write.

I don’t subscribe to the idea of writing when “inspired” or writing “when I have time”.

Writers write.  And we write often.  Usually everyday.

2. To work things out

Keeping a journal lets me meditate on paper.  Meditate as in explore what is going on in my head.  I often free write and just let my pen go wild.  But lots of my journal entries are thoughts, feelings, ideas, and life experiences being worked out.

Journaling can be a release sometimes.  It’s exhaling on paper.  I get it all out!

3. To do writing exercises

Much of my writing happens in coffee shops.  True to my name, I drink black coffee and write.  And I often describe my surroundings.  I write about conversations happening around me so as to study human dialogue; I describe the sounds, smells, and actions that happen in the two to three hour span that I am at the coffee shop; I look at someone and write what they are wearing, how they are standing or sitting, and how they look.  The list goes on and on.

4. To fertilize a poem

My poem No Les Da Verguenza?, a prose poem about my mother and my aunt and their experiences as women of colour in the hotel and restaurant industry (cleaner and waitress), started as thoughts in my journal.  I journaled about their experiences (the ones they shared with me over the years), and figured out what I wanted to put in the poem.

After showing a fellow poet the poem in progress he said, “Something is missing.”

I went back to my journal to figure out the missing part of the poem.  The third paragraph of the now published poem (OUR TIMES Magazine April 2009) came straight out of that journal session.

5. To plan an article

Three years ago I wrote a controversial article, Are Aboriginal Women and Women of Colour Bench Warmers?, critiquing popular activist groups in Toronto who were tokenizing Indigenous peoples, and using Indigenous women as backup speakers when men could not make it.

Horrible!  Fucked up!  Colonial!

In this case it was one of my longtime mentors Lee Maracle.

After getting privileged information from a reliable source I journaled about whether I should write the article or not.  “Or not” got thrown out the window!  I wrote all my points down in my journal, and I wrote about why I should write the article and how it could hopefully get the movement to stop its racist and sexist practices.

It was later published, and poorly edited, by Canadian Dimensions Magazine.

6. To record life experiences for possible memoir essays

Life has many special moments.  And I don’t want to forget them.  So, pen hits pad.

After getting an impromptu cooking lesson from Lee Maracle in the kitchen of First Nations House University of Toronto I ran to the seminar room to record what happened.

With coffee at my side I remembered and wrote about the teaching.  I described the setting, the ingredients, the laughter, the words, the entire experience.

My intention was to have this memory with me for life.  A few months later I found a call for submissions to an anthology called Crave It: Writers and Artists Do Food by Red Claw Press.  I hit up a tea shop (Yes, I also drink tea!) with my journal, read and re-read my entry about Lee teaching me how to make bannock and wrote The Bannock Teaching.

It was later accepted for publication!

7. To challenge myself and to record my falls and my growth

Life has its up and downs.  I record it all: the good, the bad, the ugly.  Like every human I am all three at various points throughout my life.  My journal helps me be true to myself; to acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses; and to grow as a person and writer.

Get a journal.  Sit.  Write.  And do it all over again.  Writers write.


About Black Coffee Poet

Black Coffee Poet is a mixed race poet, essayist, and journalist who focuses on Social Justice, Indigenous Rights, STOPPING Violence Against Women, Film, and Literature.
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  1. D says:

    This is really great, you’ve inspired me to get out my journal this morning 🙂

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