Who am I, what do I believe, and what is it I want to do? These and similar questions are top of mind these days, in part because I had the privilege to proofread newly released Week by Week, A Year’s Worth of Journaling Prompts and Meditations written by Amber Lea Starfire. The book is a collection of writing prompts and musings by the author that are designed to encourage and enhance self-awareness and healing through journaling. The book is arranged into weekly themes with daily prompts to inspire journal writers to deeply explore themselves and their relationship with the world. The themes include: Spirituality, Family & Relationships, Authenticity, Obstacles & Opportunities and more.
My opportunity to read Week by Week came right after I’d finished Julia Cameron’s The Writing Diet: Write yourself Right-Size and was beginning to enjoy writing my “morning pages.” Digging down into my mind with a pen had at first seemed self-indulgent, but by the time I’d worked through that first book, I’d begun to feel more comfortable with the process, and I had begun to see how I could use my insight into my motivations and behavior as tools to help me deepen my fictional characters. Then I was rear-ended, and it was no fender bender. Only by the mysterious movement of the Universe was I not seriously injured. That got me really thinking! And along came Week by Week.
I’ve learned another use for journaling—calming the mind. Writing on the topics in the book kept me going. I wrote about my physical experience, my luck. I wrote myself out of a big case of the jitters. A friend called it PTSD. I agree, I was traumatized by being hit by a car hurtling along at 50 mph. I’m still clenching the steering wheel and thinking don’t hit me, don’t hit me everytime I slow don, but I’m back in the saddle. I meditated on Amber Lea Starfire’s meditations. I started to heal my trauma, and I noticed I started to heal old wounds, too. Everyone said journaling is a great thing to do, and now I’m a convert!
It’s synchronicity how things that are on my mind crop up in one or both of my books of prompts. (I’m also using Julia Cameron’s The Right to
Write, An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, Penguin Putnam Inc. 1998) My current writing project, a memoir of the time I lived in Mexico, has me stymied. The writing is getting tricky now, because I’m going to have to reveal my “dark side”—my bad behavior, my insecurities—I’m going to have to expose my inner secrets. I’ve noticed that I’m working hard to avoid revealing myself and my writing is taking on a false tone. I might as well quit writing the book if I can’t be honest—or write a novel!
So the topic of honesty in memoir (and in life in general) has been coming up for me in my journaling. Today I randomly opened Week by Week to “Honesty.” The prompts got me thinking about my time in Mexico, and I realize that I may not know myself, or my motivation from that time. I may be hiding the truth even from myself. Amber Lea calls this pockets of deceit and I feel like that’s all my pockets are filled with. She posits that the truth is getting to an absence of deceit. Truth, she claims is simple and unpretentious— an attitude not just a standard.
My journal entry today: To write Saints and Skeletons I have to be unpretentious. It’s the only way. I must say, “I engineered the entire fiasco because I was so empty inside, so insecure, that I needed to manipulate this guy to be with me. I hooked him in with the glamour of adventure and romance. I bought his attention. It was easy. He was weak, lacking in moral fiber, greedy and lost and like a jerky, exaggerated Mambo, we each knew our steps and we danced it down and dirty in perfect syncopation. I lured, he followed. He pulled back, I manipulated….” This memoir is going to require that I assess my own honesty, emotional, intellectual and moral.
Lucky for me I’ve got Week by Week to prompt and guide me past the shadows obscuring my emotions. In my journal, I’ll find the truth, admit to it and when I get to those difficult chapters in Saints and Skeletons, I’ll be able to adhere to the facts. I’ll be able to (metaphorically) stand up and claim myself. No excuses. No regrets. “Here I am, Readers. I dare you not to love me!”
Here’s prompt #4 under Honesty in Week by Week : Write about the facade or mask you wear in the world—your public face. If the public could really know you, what would they know about you? If you’re in my classyour assignment is to keep a journal for the duration of the session. Write each day. Start by writing to Amber Lea Starfire’s prompt. When you have exhausted your thoughts on your “public face,” take what you learned about yourself and write a poem, essay, short story, or use your understanding to create a short scene in your novel. Plan on reading your piece at the next class.