Category Archives: Journaling / Blogging

Anne Frank

My  wife Jen and I recently saw a University of Arkansas production of Anne Frank, a dramatization of the diary, which prompted us to pick up a copy of the diary itself.

Image result for anne frankSomehow I’ve not read it, ever, except for excerpts here and there in anthologies, but reading it now I see how enthralling it can be both for historical and literary reasons. Frank records the Nazi persecution of the Jews as it spreads from Germany to Holland, where the family fled in 1933, and she confides in her diary as to a friend, her BFF, in fact, for her motive in writing, she says, is to discover and describe just such a friend.

Fabulous that she would begin such an enterprise and push it forward by and for herself! The diary was not discovered till after the war, after the Franks were hustled off to concentration camps. Anne Frank died in the Bergen-Belsen camp; her diary was saved, back in Amsterdam, by a family friend and employee.

Frank called her diary “Kitty” and confided in it, as you would to the best friend you didn’t have and might never have. It’s charming to overhear these confidences, starting with the friendly address of the diary. “Dear Kitty,” Frank wrote, again and again, telling of her fears and joys and terrors.

I’m reading the diary now and should like to use it as something of a model for the young students I am tutoring, who are writing journals. Frank, after all, deliberately supersedes the idea of recording only “a series of bald facts … like most people do.” She has more important things on her mind — political, psychological, and yes, erotic, things to consider, as any adolescent would have on her mind but few would commit to paper like this. Frank not only writes down her thoughts, she uses writing as a means to transcend the painful and the lonely here and now.

Sound familiar, writers?

Journaling

So I have asked my tutees, or students, to keep journals — and I figure I’d better do so too. Better resume my journaling, or blogging, that is, for the sake of the practice if not perfection it might lead to.

In fact, if practice makes perfect, that’s certainly not the aim of journaling. It’s, rather, the achievement of fluidity or fluency, making a daily habit of writing as if you were water flowing and could no more help flowing than a river can.

This journaling is a habit I used to keep back in the day — way back in the day, say, as long ago as 45 years, when I was starting out teaching English in Detroit (Wayne State University). I can plunge now into my closet and find dusty journals from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. To me these records have historical and sentimental value, and may have utilitarian properties too, as I’ve thought often enough of mining them for story (fiction) or art (collage) ideas.

The downside of keeping a purely private journal is obviously that it’s private — written in the dark with no audience besides yourself and your carping conscience or niggling vanity. And we all know that performing in the dark, however much practice squints toward perfection, soon palls.

Journaling is fluidity, fluency, yes. Practice makes if not perfect then flowing and going toward some sort of outcome and delta. Writing becomes not something to shirk or avoid, but precisely to pursue, no matter how much in the dark you may find yourself, no matter how trickling the effort may seem some days.

And if my tutees must do it — go, and go with the flow — so must I.