Old Journals, New Inspiration


I think we can all agree it’s been a strange and difficult year. For a highly sensitive person and INFJ like me, there were times when I wondered if I’d get through it. And it’s not over yet. But I think that what I once considered my flaws are now my strengths.

It surprises me to this day that I’ve managed to be as creatively productive as I’ve been. Sure, there were weeks when all I did was scroll through Instagram or read other writer’s blogs and sit on my back patio and watch the cardinals and sparrows fight over the bird feeder. I knew I wanted to write my own blog posts. I knew I wanted to finish polishing my novella for publication, and I wanted to work on something new.

Somehow, I found my way, and with the help and inspiration of my creative friends and support from my patient husband, I published some blog posts. I became more active on social media and stayed in close contact with what I consider “my people.” And I finished my novella and found the courage to release it in September. I’m also almost finished with another novella, and I decided to challenge myself again this year and participate in NaNoWriMo.

For the thirty day writing challenge this year, I wanted to do something different. I’ve been writing fiction for a long time, but I’ve always loved memoir and creative non-fiction. This year I was not only inspired by some incredibly talented writers, but also by perusing my old journals. I was a prolific journal writer when I was younger. I received at least two journals as gifts every year, and I kept them with me and wrote whenever I had a chance. I was addicted to journal-writing. I wrote diary-like entries, poetry, essays, and began both novels and plays. And, through the years, I would go to them for inspiration or maybe a laugh or two. (Our writing changes as we age, and man, some of the stuff I wrote is unbelievable–and not always in a good way). 🙂

A few months ago, I decided to go through all of my dozens of journals and see if there was anything in them worthy of another chance. I can honestly say that a few of them are in the to-be-burned pile, while others received my full attention. There were some interesting poems, some snippets of possible future characters and some heartfelt essays that I kind of remember writing, but after twenty years or so, it’s a bit foggy.

But I enjoyed my non-fiction pieces. They transported me back to a different time, a different me. I was intrigued. I wanted to see what I could come up with now, and I decided that for NaNoWriMo this year I would write memoir/creative non-fiction. Well, I’m almost at the end of the challenge, and it’s turned into separate essays or, as one of my writing teachers called them–biographical sketches. Whatever the name, they’ve been both fun and demanding to write. I find myself writing fast, trying to get everything I remember down at once, and other times, I finish a piece and have to stop to wipe my eyes and blow my nose. I’m remembering all of it–family, friends, love, pain, grief, laughter, hope and lots of tears.

I hope when I read these essays after NaNo is over, I can take something from them and create something bigger. I have no idea what it’ll be yet. I originally wanted to write an animal memoir because I have many amazing stories to tell. But who knows what will reach out and grab my heart. I don’t know which person or animal will demand that I tell their story.

I’d like to share something I wrote in my 1998 journal (pictured above). I wrote it on February 2, 1998 and I was working at Beltsville Veterinary Hospital at the time.

Shasta Collins died today. Actually, she was put to sleep, delivered to her maker where she can be wildly young, healthy and happy once again. I don’t know for sure that she’s no longer here, but even if the doctor didn’t inject Shasta today, death will come soon. 

Fourteen years old, she still had a perfectly healthy appetite. I spent time next to her last night because I’ve been seeing her for a long time, and I’ve always liked her. She is so sweet and her her age hasn’t marred her beauty–only changed it. Her white face is glorious, her coat appears to have been powdered in different sections. I think she loved me sitting with her, stroking her affectionately. I gave her several treats, which she ate ravenously, and then she looked at me, begging for more. I would have given her anything, knowing her time here was almost over. 

I’ll remember Shasta as one of my favorite dogs. For once, I can say I love my job because I can interact, love and really know the animals. Each one has managed to crawl inside my heart and helped me love a little bit more. I will find it difficult to quit for this reason alone. I will take with me not the experience I’ve had with all the cold and rude people, nor the knowledge I’ve gained during my almost six-year stay, but the faces and love of every animal that has touched me in some way. 

Shasta’s soulful eyes, a touch cloudy with age, still look at me. I don’t think I’ll ever go anywhere without seeing them looking at me, watching me, waiting for her next treat. 

Entries like this one have inspired me to remember more of my past. More beautiful animals who came into my life and made a difference. And people who have come and gone or stayed with me to this day. I find that the more I remember and the more I write about my past, the more I can understand about myself, heal, feel proud and let go when necessary.

Embrace every memory, good and bad, and embrace exactly who you are right now. That’s what I’m reaching for.

Happy reading and writing.

6 thoughts on “Old Journals, New Inspiration

  1. This was an excellent post, Patricia! You’re inspiring me to want to look through some of my older journal entries (which I usually don’t like to do). It would be awesome if you wrote an animal memoir!

  2. Oh my so beautiful. I didn’t want it to end. While my dad was dying this summer, it was like my childhood came back in full color. That entry made so much sense to me in so many levels. The pain and the beauty

  3. I love this post. I always wanted to keep a journal but never managed. I love creating worlds and characters and stories but I was never good at expressing my own thoughts and feelings.

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