When I was in fourth grade, my favorite book was a skinny paperback of poetry and prose written by a fictional girl named Kate Bloomfield. I thought that I was her and that Jean Little, the real author, somehow stole my fourth grade genius and captured it on paper. My copy of Hey World Here I am was bent in the corners and at the spine so many times that it fell open to my favorite parts and the cover was criss-crossed with white lines. One of my favorite entries (I can't figure out what else to call them) was Kate's musings on journals.

"Real writers keep journals. I've had four. When Mother told my sister Marilyn that I loved to write, she sent me a journal for my birthday. It was squarish and fat, with small organized pages.... A flimsy padlock, which would break if you looked at it, was supposed to keep it secret. Every page had two skimpy sections with a date at the top of each. There was space enough for maybe three sentences if your handwriting was small. My handwriting scrawls. Besides my life is too big to fit into those squinched-up pages. I gave it to my friend Lindsay Ross. She loves it. She has a smaller life. And tidy writing....
Then our teacher handed out "journals" which we had to write in every day for one month. She said she wouldn't mark them but she would read them over....But of course, you could only put down stuff that you wouldn't mind her knowing. My private life is not her affair. When I got it back, though, and saw she had written Excellent! on it, I felt like a fraud.
Then Dad gave me a journal. It is elegant. The pages are creamy and feel like the best art paper when you stroke them. .... I love it. Maybe , someday, my life will be elegant enough to match it. I hope so. I am saving it carefully just in case.
My fourth journal I bought for myself it is a hardcover book meant for writing lecture notes in. It has lots of room on every page. Some days I write six or seven full pages about what I am feeling and thinking....Other days I don't pick it up or, if I do, I just write something like "Another day lived through!"...
Getting a journal is like buying shoes. You have to find the one that fits. And you are the only one who can tell if it pinches."

Sorry that was so long. It turns out I still love that essay, and it hurt to cut too much of it. I guess this is my roundabout way of saying that I am not sure what the point of an online journal is. I can't think of anything less personal or personalized than the Internet, no matter how much time you spend changing the colors on the template of your blog.

So why am I doing this? For one, I just restricted access so that right now only I can see it. It's an experiment to see if it gets me to write more. But I'm a newsprint kinda gal. Which means I like to hold my newspapers in my hands, read books while turning real live pages and write on paper with a pen or a pencil.

One of my friends laughed at me because she says that whenever I want to treat myself to something I buy a journal. It's true. But I am not alone. Mary Gordon, who swears by writing first drafts out by hand, and who is one of my mentors, teachers, and heroes says that she buys a journal every time she goes to another country. I know that sometimes she buys souvenirs as well, but often the journals are her souvenirs.

Makes sense. There is a journal that sits in my bookshelf unopened and blank despite it being perfect, because of the memories I associate with it. It was a present from a boy who had a crush on me for five years. This was at about year four of the crush -- before I evidently broke his heart by telling him I was not attracted to him-- and he inscribed the journal with something silly, something about always planning at the last minute (I had forgotten to invite him to my birthday party until 20 minutes before it started, and he still showed up with a gift). I can't bring myself to write in a journal that someone I never liked very much chose just for me. It seems wrong. And, as a friend asked "who inscribes a journal?" Who buys a journal for someone else?" Lots of people buy them apparently. It is THE gift for girls who like to write. I had the ones that locked (at my prime diary writing time I even had an entry that read "Dear Diary, I am reading a book about a girl who lived in an annex and kept a diary. She was famous because of her diary. Maybe one day we will be famous too." I couldn't finish the Diary of Anne Frank then, I was too young and had recurring nightmares of being chased by Nazis. Seems I was a bit of a morbid kid) I had a slew of travel journals bought both by me and others (Those were the more successful presents. At the same birthday party mentioned above, a girl I was not very close with gave me a cream journal of hand made paper. That was the only journal I almost filled to the end. I kept it blank for almost a year before bringing it with me to Poland where I recorded experiencing brand new Holocaust horrors and reflections and tried to force myself to not go to sleep until I wrote it all out.) My favorites when I was little included one that had a picture of Mary opening the garden door and said "Secret Garden Journal" on the cover, one that was blue with gold cat's eyes and ears on it, and a Lisa Frank notebook that I choose myself. I never get to the end of journals. I give up halfway through sometimes a few pages in. When I got older, I insisted on buying them for myself (with the travel journal exceptions) and they were inevitably plain. Often spiral bound. I kept one through most of high school. It had a cardboard cover that I wrote quotes on with metallic pens. I am pretty sure Jean Little featured on it along with the likes of Steinbeck and Thoreau. But still, I can't get through them. Now I am the owner of at least four moleskin notebooks, only one of which -- a reporters notebook that I treasure as a gift but will most likely leave blank or keep in my purse for emergencies--- was a gift. The rest I buy myself. Moleskins make me think of snobby artsy writers, but the truth is they are perfect. Slim with hard backs and elastic bands to keep them closed. They come in pocket size, though my newest one is a bit bigger -- a size I found is better for writing fiction because turning the pages that often makes me forget a narrative-- and in black they are unobtrusive and let me decide what's important about them and don't look too tempting for prying eyes. Maybe I will be able to fill the newest one all the way to the end.

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Written Pyramids is a blog written by a journalist living and working in Washington D.C.

I have left my real name off of the blog so as not to imply that the blog is somehow linked with the journalism I get paid to do. (Still, I never write about my beat on this blog, and rarely express opinions about the day's news regardless of its relationship to my beat).

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