Customer Reviews: Note to Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits
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Samara O'Shea's second book is just as outstanding, well-written, insightful and inspiring as her first. While on the surface, it would seem how to journal is obvious, O'Shea's skill is in teasing out the nuances of a form of writing, as well as revealing personal and historical examples that make your own literary efforts in that regard much richer and more profound. Here, again, as in For the Love of Letters, her can-do spirit is clear from the start; in journal writing, there are no musts or shoulds, only possibilities. She dispels immediately with the notion that one must write every day, or that the subject matter must be profound.

Starting with her title, you know this is not going to be a staid, "now pick up your pen" kind of book. That O'Shea even mixes "danger" and "journaling" is a sign of her mindset, one that greatly aids this book, making it an illuminating look at her life and some noted journal keepers, rather than simply a how-to book.

The examples she shares are rich in wordplay and emotional nuance, as is O'Shea's turn of phrase. Her baring of her own journal entries takes bravery, and does its job well, showing not just what she wrote but why she wrote it and the progression of entries over her lifetime.

Divided into chapters focusing on love, heartbreak, faith, blogging, introspection, and sex, Note to Self reveals just how profound are the thoughts that can be revealed when we give ourselves permission to simply let go. Each chapter covers a different type of journal writing, and is guided by O'Shea's own entries, as well as the backstory to them. She tells us briefly bout losing her virginity, and then why she didn't write about it in her journal. On the other hand, hot sex with one man left her eager to rush home to record it in her journal. Her relationship with her journal is a significant one in her life, and it's this sense of intimacy, both via self-knowledge and creating a dialogue, if you will, with your own thoughts, that sustains Note to Self. Her observations about such topics as forgiveness, cheating, and love are profound, and surely aided by the time she has spent exploring them in her journal.

O'Shea shares snippets of diaries by Joyce Carol Oates, Anais Nin, Lewis Carroll, Sylvia Plath, and others (of Plath, O'Shea writes that her poems, lettrs, and journal entries "hold me graciously by the throat.") These additional outlooks add depth to O'Shea's advice and show varying styles of journaling.

This is a feisty, bold, invigorating book. It got me reaching for my journal multiple times as I read, pondering why I so often put it down even as muddled thoughts cry out to be written, even if crudely. O'Shea daringly reveals her fears, mistakes, doubts, triumphs, and personal relationships, and even gets her sister and mother to cough up entries I'm sure they would rather have kept private. By doing so, she further shows what happens when we read someone else's journal, putting ourselves in O'Shea's place upon reading of her mother's despair trying to calm a squalling child (O'Shea).

Readers will be hard-pressed to close O'Shea's book and not long to take pen to paper. I know that's what I did throughout reading the book, and kept picking it up almost as a reminder that the thoughts knocking around in my head deserve the dignity of being preserved in my journal.
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VINE VOICEon November 9, 2009
This isn't a book to gift unless you know your friend is okay with graphic sexual content and drug references. I did enjoy Ms. O'Shea's breezy writing style, but can't use this book in my classroom as I had intended.
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on March 31, 2011
great book. some of the things she writes and talks about are incredible. she holds nothing back when talking about the most personal and intimate details of her life. i appluad. its not often these days when you come across a writer with such honesty, transparency and nerve. plus, you'll learn practical advice that you can instantly apply to improve your life.
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on September 18, 2010
Samara O'Shea has done it again with yet another fun and candid look at the world of writing. This time she gives us her take on journal writing, an art that sems to be fading away in this era of technology. Ms. Oshea kept her fun style of writing and humor that is evident in "For the Love of Letters" and brought it with her on this fun read of a subject many might find a bore, simply because we may not know hwo to do it right. This is a great guide for journal keepers opf every level. From the scotch drinking, leather bound embossed jouranl, smoking jacket wearing professionals to the 100 page, wide ruled, wire bound, sneaker wearing novice, this book is a must read.
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on March 30, 2009
I have been an avid journaler for ten years, but had started to lose the passion for it. Reading Note to Self, renewed my love of journaling and made me remember why I journal.

Samarah's weaving of personal stories and journal entries into the book make it seem more like you are having a conversation with a friend.

It's a wonderful book and I would recommend it to life-long journalers, those who are just starting, or who just like to read books on journaling, as I do.
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on November 11, 2008
I'll admit straight up that I'm completely lazy when it comes to journaling. It takes way too much work for me to explain myself to myself. Usually by the time I'm finished and feel that I've adequately captured my feelings, I'm too drained to hear out my own words. That's why I love movies and books. Someone else is doing all that work. The challenge is to find the right books and movies. That, too, takes great effort, but not as much as writing to myself. So this book was a great find since so much of Samara's words provided the insight that I would have otherwise spent hours excavating. To top it off, the book is very funny.

One of her most attention-grabbing lines is when she mentions how the older she gets the more she meets people who don't know themselves. I can probably add myself to that roster. I'm not a proud cynic like so many I know, but I do have my share of brick and mortar to keep other people's optimism out and my own vulnerable self safely secured inside. But Samara did a real good job seeping through the cracks as she makes an open casket funeral of what she call her "dead" former selves. And it's open casket like all hell. Some of her excerpts from her own journal, or diary or whatever you want to call it, are seeping with sappy adjectives. And yet, she has a show down with embarrassment and wins. Or maybe I'm projecting. In her own words, she says that she thrives on sharing her words. I envy that.

My last confession here, and to the credit of this book, is that I sat and read nearly the whole thing at the bookstore. But I bought it anyway to give to me mudder. And I intend to get another copy to give myself, just in case her truth syrum kicks in and gets my fingers off of this darn Amazon review thingie and back on my digital journal.
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on September 18, 2008
Considering how valuable I find "For the Love of Letters", I couldn't wait to read "Note to Self" because I was eager to find out what more I could learn to better myself. The book is destined as a staple reference which empowers readers to refine their identity through journaling. After reading "Note to Self," I sincerely appreciate Samara O'Shea's honesty, the time she devotes to formulate her thoughts, and apply her revelations from journaling to strengthen her identity.

In each chapter, Ms. O'Shea discusses different ways to express oneself. Examples from her journal enhance the illustrations of her teachings, while being personable to the reader. As I read the book, I found her very courageous for revealing some of the most intimate moments in her life. I feel like there was a lot of pride to swallow discussing instances which may have been painful to her or the person she is writing about in her journal, especially when her former boyfriend came across her confession about spending time with another man. On a positive note, I believe a public acknowledgement is a way of conquering her hardships, as well as a way to sincerely reconcile with those who were affected, which I find very admirable.

Growing in a single parent family and being such a cautious introvert, I feel like I have so much that I missed in my life after reading "Note to Self." I began by exploring my sexuality as well as my career goals through journaling while in exile from Hurricane Gustav, and can't wait to harness many additional teachings from "Note to Self." Both are examples of some of the topics of discussion. Ms. O'Shea begins her introduction with a quote from Anaïs Nin: "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection." Ms. Nin's quote parallels what Ms. O'Shea writes in the chapter on intimacy: "If the sex is good, I very much enjoy having it twice - in person and on paper." I will be brave and admit that I second her testament. Journaling about my last intimate experience felt wonderful and even more vivid as I reflected and inked my thoughts on paper. Wow is an understatement to this particular experience.

I enjoyed excerpts of journal citations from various historical celebrities, placed in the context of each of the chapters. After reading "For the Love of Letters," I felt like I have a lot of catching up to do on the literary classics. I admit to being illiterate to classic literature. With the release of "Note to Self," I feel like I have been put to shame for coming to the realization of how much more illiterate I am, and will strive to close the gap by incorporating some classic literature into my reading list. I can never thank Ms. Samara O'Shea enough for inspiring me to journal, and refine my personality to evolve into a better person.
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on August 14, 2008
Samara O'Shea has written THE BOOK on journaling. She shows us how journaling fits into our life and gives us a hand with the slings and arrows of living.
She deals with the "reasons" we give for not journal writing like: I'm not a writer. Her response: "If you are a thinker, you are a writer. Writing is simply thoughts making their way to paper...if a thought is begging to breathe the fresh air then it's best to open the door and let it out."
She shows us there is only one right way to journal -- our way. It's our choice as to whether we write every day, alternate Tuesdays, once in a blue moon or whenever. She says she "writes what she wants when she wants."
In NOTE TO SELF, we learn from journals of Tennessee Williams, Lewis Carroll and John Wilkes Booth (yes, Virginia, journaling is a guy thing!).
I loved all the honest and insightful chapters and my favorite today is Chapter 5 -Sense of Self, which opens with a William Shakespeare quote, "Self-love is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting". That's why I love Journaling: I discover more and more and more about myself, experience my true/real self and build a healthy, compassionate, forgiving relationship with myself. The more I journal, the smarter I become about my world.
I kept a childhood diary and adult journal sporadically, but have been into a serious journaling routine for about 10 years. Journaling does everything that Samara says it does--helping me with everything from achieving goals to sorting out my sexuality.
As a writing therapist, I have and will recommend NOTE TO SELF to all my clients and subscribers and have stolen some of Samara's suggestions for my own journaling and for my workshops.
Well done indeed, Samara!
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on October 4, 2008
So when first looking at this book in Anthropologie I thought "I dont need this, I know how to journal". Yet, the more I began to flip through it, the harder it became to not buy it. I read it in a very short period of time considering that I had to stop to write in my journal after each chapter or so.
It really brought my journalling to a new level.
I used to journal only when I was emotionally troubled or was trying to work through something in my life.
Now, I carry my journal everywhere with me. I write in it almost everyday, its become my strongest companion.

I really suggest buying this for anyone.
She has solid advice and insight into life that it is worth a read, even if you dont have a journal or plan on starting one.
Also, many times, it felt like I was peering into her soul and through that seeing my own.

I have highlighted through this book and I plan on rereading it multiple times.

A must in any collection.
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on January 7, 2009
Who starts to journal at the ripe old age of 51? Who else.

I picked up this book to be inspired to start journaling ... and the book exceeded my expectations. The the book has great tips, examples and lessons learned ... it is extremely effective.

I was inspired to start a journal and I am becoming more aware of what's going in my life; how and why I feel what I do. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Thanks, Samara, for sharing yourself and creating this book.
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