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Note to Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits Hardcover – July 22, 2008
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O’Shea approaches journal writing as a therapeutic tool and an aid to helping journal keepers discover new strengths and develop others, find previously unsuspected dimensions and depths of their personalities, and uncover and confront painful realities. This self-discovery combines depth with breadth, so as the writer records both life’s mundane minutiae and family-altering crises, he or she acquires knowledge of the most valuable kind from dreams and candid accounts of personal crimes and misdemeanors. O’Shea includes her own journal entries in each chapter, covering different eras in her life, and provides writing tips and journaling exercises developed to empower the act of externalizing thoughts, feelings, and, ultimately, oneself. She also includes instructive passages from the journals of notable writers, such as Louisa May Alcott, who records her winter’s earnings in 1855: $120, which includes $20 for her stories—“if I am ever paid.” A listing of sources rounds out this interesting addition to journaling aids that emphasizes “it’s not the rereading where one finds solace but in the writing itself.” --Whitney Scott
About the Author
Samara O'Shea is the author of For the Love of Letters: A 21st-Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing as well as a blogger for The Huffington Post.
Top customer reviews
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.
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.