Having an acute sense of self is about balance. You have to be kind to yourself, but not so lenient that you can’t be occasionally critical and enact self-discipline–and not so critical that you spend too much time degrading yourself . . . Knowing your physical and emotional strengths and weaknesses and being able to accept them is key to the well-lived life.
–Samara O’Shea, Sense of Self
I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up Note To Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Samara O’Shea. At the time I was in a writing slump; overwhelmed and stressed out from my everyday life, I knew it was because it had been weeks since I last wrote in my journal. Enter O’Shea with her second book.
Note to Self is a guidebook for anyone interested in keeping a journal. With chapters like “Sense of Self,” which the above quote was taken from, “Romance on Record”, writing about the relationships that went right (or wrong), or “Intimate Details” about being honest with yourself when writing, O’ Shea did a great job in bringing almost every area of journal writing to readers. You also get the understanding for O’ Shea that journal writing isn’t just a hobby but a passion.
I’m a journal writer who paints, draws, and put photographs and other momentos in my journal. O’ Shea didn’t really address the creative side of using art in your journals like Keri Smith does in her books, Wreck this Journal or How To Be an Explorer of the World. If you’re a journal writer who not only documents their life with words, this journal might not help you with that aspect of journaling but it is a great read.
Some of the things O’ Shea discussed that I really agreed with were:
- The use of quotes in your journal. Nothing brings you more inspiration and peace during hard times like other people’s words.
- Pose a question. Asking yourself questions helps to get the ball going when you’re feeling stuck in your life.
- Set literal goals. When you place your goals in your journals they are always there to remind you and keep you going.
Another great thing about the book is that O’ Shea also uses a ton of excerpts from her own journals and the journals of others like Anne Frank, Samuel Pepys, Thomas Paine, John Wilkes Booth, and many others. She even brings up the famous young protagonist from Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I finished reading this book last month and still I refuse to take the post-its out until the day this book is due at the library. One more quote I would like to share:
This, more than anything, is what a journal leads to — finding your sense of self. . . You may think you’re living one way, but your writing says otherwise. Some of my math teachers were kind enough to give points for the work even if the answer ended up being wrong, so I say that’s how we go about doing this, too. Write out the work in the equation of yourself, and don’t worry about the definitive answer just yet. It’s a lifelong process, and herein lies the benefit of aging — knowing yourself all the more.
Read for The Year of Readers Challenge, A to Z Challenge, and A Novel Group Mini-Challenge #3