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Journaling on Location

We already know it’s important to date your journal entries. But documenting your location is also a valuable step toward creating a full picture of your “day in the life.” Here are some ideas for incorporating your whereabouts in your journal entries to create a clear big picture snapshot.

Wish You Were Here

A journal entry is like a postcard to ourselves. The location is just as important in capturing the slice of time as what is going through your head. You wouldn’t send someone a postcard from Paris, blank except for the phrase, “Wish you were here.” Um, wish you were where?!

We are always somewhere. When and where is why we write – to create that perfect postcard to ourselves. To make a tiny imprint of this time and place.

Where Am I?

Consistently documenting your location as you begin a journal entry can be an excellent way to get the hand moving. For those of you who ask, What should I write about? this tool is a fantastic start.

Just ask yourself, “Where am I?” If you’re hitting that blank page like a brick wall, detailing where you are (and why) is a great way to get warmed up.

Where you are is the beginning of any story you want to tell, even if you don’t think the story itself has much to do with place. This is because, when documenting your location, it’s natural to share your feelings about where you are. Or, more interestingly, why you are there.

“I am here, again.”

“I am here — finally!”

“I am here, as usual! :)”

“I am here, unfortunately.”

“I don’t know why, but I’m here.”

If you’re feeling stuck, starting with a similar phrase can get the hand moving, freeing up the journaling process so you can continue writing more easily.

Staking out your space

I’ve written about my recommendations for finding a place to journal. I’ve also said that having a perfect place isn’t as important as you’d think.

The variety of locations I’ve journaled is extensive. And I don’t mean Destinations — like Bali, Boca or Beirut. (Since I’m a nester and a homebody, I’m not very well traveled. I do confess to frequenting Boca, but we’ll blame that on my parents.)

By location, I mean the bathroom stall of Friendly’s restaurant in Branford, CT. The front seat of my 1985 VW Golf. The A train, the Red Line, the commuter rail. My overgrown city garden. The roof of my houseboat.

Combining location (roof of houseboat) with date (late June) sets the stage for the deep entry I’m committing to paper. A failed undertaking, a failed relationship, and the small death of a big dream.

nbas

As I begin to re-read that entry, I will clearly remember what it felt like to sit on the roof of that boat overlooking the sunset water, feeling the gentle rock, watching the sailboats glide by. The words will have more significance. My moment in time will be captured more clearly.

When location speaks for itself

If you get creative with your writing materials, you don’t need to say where you are. Your journal entry can speak for itself.

Although Blueline notebooks contain my preferred choice of paper, on occasions I am forced to document my days elsewhere. I am almost never without my journal. But on the occasions when I don’t have it with me, or if it wouldn’t be appropriate to pull it out and start writing, I’ve made do with a surprising assortment of alternatives.

This bluebook is from a high school final exam. Since we weren’t allowed to bring in other materials during the test, I took an extra bluebook so I could write when I finished my exam. (Essay tests were not exactly a challenge for me. Algebra, on the other hand…)

bluebook

My first job out of college was as an administrative assistant at Fleet Bank. At the time I favored huge Clairefontaine notebooks, which were not easily concealed at the reception desk. I began writing on company letterhead, incognito.

Company stationery captures my first job out of college as an administrative assistant at Fleet Bank.
Company stationery captures my first job out of college as an administrative assistant at Fleet Bank.

While working as a grocery store cashier, I wasn’t allowed to journal at my register, per se. But being 15, everything was extremely important, and I couldn’t possible let a day pass undocumented. Especially when I had a raging crush on my co-worker and I’d write to pass the hours until his shift started.

These rain checks will do just fine. There’s a huge stack of them at each register.

Dear diary, please let Terry be working today.
Dear diary, please let Terry be working today.

Actually, the blank backs of these register cash-out slips ended up working much better, being narrower and longer and therefore easier to conceal while scribbling madly on my fruit scale. I have an enormous stack of them from my brief employment at the IGA Supermarket.

Cash out, check in.
Cash out, check in.
And many years later while (angrily) awaiting friends in a bar, a stack of clever Brew Moon coasters served as parchment.

Words and pints.
Words and pints.

coaster-02

The best part about these occasional deviations from the normal bound journal is that they truly capture the “where” of that day. I can write, “Oh hai, I’m at Brew Moon in Harvard Sq.” Or I can just start writing on a coaster stained with microbrew, and know years later when I hold it in my hand I’ll be closer to that night than any flat white sheet could get me.

This exhibit hopefully re-inforces my belief that you can write anywhere. While it’s comforting to have a perfect spot to journal, it’s not necessary. Don’t let lack of a pristine location keep you from journaling. (If I can write on a bus station toilet and live to tell about it, you can make do with whatever is at your disposal.) If you need to write, you’ll find a way. Just apply a little bit of what my family calls “Yankee Ingenuity.”

I also hope you are inspired to start making a note of your location when you begin writing. In my book, it’s nearly as important as dating your journal entries.

» How about you? Do you include your location when you journal? Have you used “found” stationery to claim your space? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

5 comments

  1. I wanted to give a shout out to Nels, who posted a comment on the Save the Date post with a photo of his journal entry header where he also writes the location. Nice work! 🙂

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nels/7230491940/

  2. Hi Kristin,

    Yes, I date and locate on my journal entries. That was the one “rule” I was given for journaling. And it was more of a guideline than a rule. LOL!

    I had the occasion to work at a Del Monte canning factory when I was in high school. We used the backs of the canning labels to write on. I unfortunately lost them years ago but I’d be willing to bet that we had at least a dozen different “brand names” to chose from.

  3. I love the idea of using nearby papers and things to write on. Very cool. I always include location 🙂

  4. I have learned on my own that you can journal anywhere. I too, have a stack of journal entries written on rain checks while being at a cash register. Haha I feel like I bonded with you over that fact. 🙂 I appreciate the reminder though, since over the years I have gotten less adventurous with my journaling location. So thank you not only for this blog post, but for linking to some good ones that I must have missed along the way! Have a great day. Then write about it.

  5. I have always written on whatever was available at the time. I think that makes it much more interesting. I have always felt that shows the desire to record and document is very strong. Journaling clears the soul and gives one peace of mind.

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