I’ve just spent two weeks exploring the delights of Oslo and Bergen in Norway. As always I had my trusty writing journal with me. When all around me cameras were clicking and ‘selfie’ sticks were out, I sat down with my journal and an oasis of calm would open up. In the frenetic rush of being a tourist, this act would force me to stop and focus. Focus on a detail within me and without and how the two interacted.
I enjoy sight-seeing as much as the next person, but sometimes it can all become over-whelming and, worse, almost a tick-box exercise. My journal is my guard against this. I am a great believer in free writing, and most often I write quickly without particular thought to why or where it may lead me. I pay attention to all my senses, to the seemingly insignificant, seek the narrative. I may sketch, enjoying shape and colour rather than trying to gain a realistic record. Photos are better for that.
My journal will join the others on their shelf. There are parts I will go back to while others will have been important only to the moment when they were written. None of it will be shared with others, until it has been taken up and crafted.
This act of sitting and writing or sketching is apparently so extraordinary that while I was doing it in the Viking Ship museum in Oslo, someone asked if they could take a photo of me. Unbelievably, I was as noteworthy as those magnificent exhibits. Or maybe it was merely the urge to frame everything within a view finder. Personally I prefer the slow-writing method of settling me into a place and recording memories.
Do you keep a writing journal? What is your experience of it?