I’ve always been inclined to make lists. They keep me organized, they help me remember, and I believe that ideas written in list form elicit a different momentum, a different trajectory than traditional prose.
Often, I find myself listing things in journals, things I will do, things I did, things to remember, etc. — and as a teacher I’ve used listing with my students for many different writing tasks — but I have never tried an entire journal of just lists. I’ve come across a few examples of really beautiful, mixed media list journals (see the picture above as an example!) and was about to start one myself, but then I discovered The List App. Suddenly, I was potentially connected with an entire social network of other people listing, too! I figured that this was more than a coincidence, and so I readied myself to sign up for the The List App and get to work on creating my List Journal.
Then, I stopped myself. I already use quite a bit of social media already (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, LinkedIn). I really had to think carefully and decide if I wanted to begin using another social media tool, which led me to thinking about the many other types of tools I use and have used over the years to journal in general. And that thinking has turned into this blog post.
I’ve dabbled in all kinds of journaling over the years. As a little girl, I started writing in a diary that came with a “secure” lock and key, cementing the idea for me early on that ideas and words are precious and should be recored, respected, and protected.
- Learning to write — In school we learned to use composition notebooks to
record our stories, drawings, and other ideas. I remembering writing entries in elementary school, trying to keep my handwriting neat and worrying if I was spelling all the words correctly.
- Freewriting — In high school, my 9th grade English teacher introduced me to the idea of stream of consciousness writing, and we wrote in a journal every day at the beginning of class. To this day, it’s one of the most important things I’ve ever done in school, both as a student and a teacher.
- Mixing it up — In college, I diversified my methods of journaling a bit. I carried pretty journals of various sizes, colors, and shapes and filled them with poetry and other handwritten “philosophical” musings. I wrote poetry and doodled in the margins of the notes I took in class, making my notes much more personal than simply being a record of a lecture I attended or a novel I read.
- Incorporating technology — I also started to type a journal in a Word document when I was in college…saving it nightly to a floppy disk and feeling somewhat artsy because I could end each entry with a ♥. I did this daily for about a year, and then I printed out the pages and placed them in a three ring binder, returning to writing journal entries by hand.
- Email — When I began emailing, I saved some of the messages I sent/received because they, too, felt like journal entries. I printed out many of them and and stored them alongside other paper correspondence that I had saved over the years.
- Visual storytelling — Toward the end of college and after, I started to appreciate photography and visual storytelling much more. I explored photography as a way to capture and tell stories. I took and printed photographs like crazy, arranging them in photo albums and storing the overflow in boxes. I made New Year’s Resolutions for a few years in a row to take more photos and I got into the habit of stopping regularly to take pictures that were important to my story.
- Blogging – When I first started this blog, I remember calling it my “online writer’s notebook.” The intention was always to explore ideas about writing, write in response to whatever inspired me, and connect those ideas with others.
- It’s in my genes — Through my appreciation for photographs, I also became enamored with my great-grandfather’s scrapbooks (he called them photo albums, but they were really much more than that!) and the idea of mixed media. My great-grandfather kept much more than photographs in his albums: greeting cards, newspaper clippings, letters, puzzles he’d completed and glued in, awards he’d received, etc. I began to dabble a bit with glueing small items and stickers into notebooks and albums of my own, writing on watercolored pages and adding intentional sketches (and sometimes clip art when I was feeling fancy!) in with my prose or poetry, saving ticket stubs, programs, and things like that.
- A new “hobby” — Once I started to seriously research my family’s genealogy, I needed a good way to record what I found, so I committed myself to the hobby (art?) of scrapbooking. I used scrapbooking as a way to archive the actual photographs, documents, and other mementos that belonged to my ancestors along with my own handwritten or typed anecdotes and recollections. One album turned into another and then another and now I am on the 14th album (and counting!) full of family history, photographs, notes, and more.
- Social media — People have different thoughts about social media sites — and thoughts about why we use it and what it should be used for. For me, social media has always been a type of journaling…with photos, videos, and chronicle events, connecting and sharing them immediately with others. I look back through my social media posts every once in a while and either download or screenshot some of them to include in my albums.
- Loosening up — Somewhere along the way, I developed a love for legal pads. There was something about the freedom of writing on a fresh page that was completely flat, not worrying about how comfortably I could position my hand when I wrote closely to the inside margins. The danger I’ve found with this type of journaling, however, is that without the pages being bound already, I have torn up or thrown out much of what I’ve written. I do transfer some of the handwritten notes to another notebook or type them up, but not as many as I should. Now, I’m working on saving these notes in their original form so that I can bind them, after the fact, in a handmade book or place them directly into one of my albums. (I’m pretty excited about this project!)
- Better writing habits — When we first met, my husband introduced me to a site he used called 750 Words, a site designed to help writers develop better writing habits. He showed me how on the site, you could journal or write Morning Pages each day and get immediate analysis of your writing that gave you insight into your mood and other key ideas about your writing that you might not have realized yourself. This practice helped me become more intentional about the journaling I do — sometimes letting the ideas I write tell me how I feel and sometimes using how I feel to shape what I write. This practice also helped me return to the idea of typing journal entries. Though I still preferred to write out journal entries, I liked that the typing helps me get more ideas recorded.
When I set out to write a short post about using The List App, I wasn’t planning on it turning into all of this. I think it’s been important for me to realize, however, that as my story evolves, so do the methods I use to record it. Journaling is a way for me to keep the important things in my life front and center. And who knows? Maybe I’m also preserving these memories for posterity, for future generations, for anyone who might ever be interested.
LISTING and THE LIST APP
All of this reflecting and remembering now brings us up to date and to The List App.
The neat thing about The List App is that it’s social, when we record our ideas, we can share them with others. By adding the little + next to a list when you post it, you can invite other people to suggest ideas to add to the list. The lists can be humorous, serious, and you can add visuals as well.
I’m excited to use this new app and add it to the other tools I’m still using to document my story. I’ll probably save screenshots of the lists, print them out so that I can annotate or sketch on them, and further elaborate on my ideas, ultimately finding a place for them in my albums.
What do you use to tell your story? How has it changed as you have changed? I’d love to know!