times, scribes were devotees of the Word. They were the
bridges between worlds, charged with the sacred task of
painstakingly transcribing the Mysteries into a form
that could be referenced by holy men and women. Many
centuries later, our modern journals give us unlimited
access to the Mysteries of our souls. Through this
column, I hope to offer ways that we can approach our
own lives with the love and devotion of the scribes of
November is a cozy month to start a
family journal. Whether you write scrapbook-style, with
each community member’s offerings gathered in a
three-ring notebook, or in a special blank book, you’re
creating precious family history. Here are eight ideas.
The first two are adapted from Peter Stillman’s
excellent book Families Writing.
- Start a family newsletter. An
8-year-old in Illinois began a hand-written newsletter,
"The Family News," originally for distribution
to her immediate family, but which quickly became
renowned among extended family. Her mother reports that
far-flung relatives and family friends communicate with
this entrepreneurial journalist with considerably more
frequency than anyone else in the family! Some typical
entries from a June/July edition:
Julie graduated on June 13 from North Central College.
Her degree is in Speech Communications and Theatre.
Almost the whole family went to see her. Everybody
cheered! The next day, Julie had her party. The whole
family came! A disc jockey came! It was great!!
Matthew has a new bed! He is out of the crib and in a
twin bed that has a safty (sic) rail. When he gets up
from his nap he goes over and knocks on the door and
waits for Sue to come and get him! Matt grew 3 inches in
3 months! He loves riding in wagons!
- Gather up your stories. According
to Stillman, "(Family writing) has obvious and
inestimable value in strengthening essential
bonds." Consider a home-published collection of
Captured Moments, poetry, and stories about one
particular family member. One such booklet, My Sister
and I, was written by an Idaho schoolteacher who
created it for her sibling’s 40th birthday.
It contains moments and memories known only to the two
of them – childhood adventures, pranks, secrets;
sibling rivalries and jealousies; shared intimacies as
adults. "Nothing extraordinary, heart-rending,
grand," Stillman says. "Just the homely
incidents of life, the unremarkable details, the
commonplace. Which is the raw material of all good
writing and which is also why anyone, no matter how
apparently uneventful his or her life, can’t possibly
ever run out of things to write about."
- Scribe your family legends.
My younger sister has created an intricate mythology for
her children about the Tooth Fairy. Each child has her
or his own assigned Tooth Fairy, with individual
personalities, communication styles, and distinctive
handwriting. When I was a kid, my dad created an
imaginary character, Yahootie, who always got blamed
when one of us wouldn’t fess up: "So who ate the
last of the ice cream? Yahootie?" Write stories
about your family myths and legends – the ones you
grew up with, the ones you create for your own children.
Along the same line are stories about the most colorful
characters in your family and their odd ways. My
grandfather, an actual working cowboy in his youth, had
a bawdy sense of humor and was legendary for his
extensive collection of outhouse miniatures. When he
died, we inventoried his entire stash before carting it
off to Goodwill – a "list poem" that always
bring down the house. This category of community writing
would also include favorite holiday customs, traditions,
stories and lore.
- Start a writing tradition.
One year for Christmas, a broke grandson offered his
grandma a weekly letter from college – and then
followed through. Their correspondence, and intimacy,
continues. Start a tradition of tucking silly notes in
lunchpails, love notes in pockets, goodnight notes under
pillows. When I find an inspirational quote or message,
I write it down, date it, and slip it into whatever book
I’m currently reading. My original thought was to
startle myself at some future point, but since many of
those books have now found themselves in my lending
resource library, I’m constantly being told by
students and clients how the quote or thought prompted
them into a writing session.
- Create a travelogue.
My friend Marta is the consummate travel postcard
writer. They’re funny and informative, with
interesting, well-chosen photos. My collection of
"Marta" postcards is an illustrated history of
a 30-year friendship. (My favorite came from her 1973
trip through the Southwest. Her postcard showed a
certain small town’s Main Street, with this note:
"Dear Kay, I’m standing on a corner in Winslow,
Arizona. I’m such a fine sight to see. There’s a
girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowing down to take a
look at me. Take it easy, Marta.") When you travel,
even if it’s only for the weekend, send a postcard to
someone in the family.
- Circle the distance.
Far-flung families or communities can stay in touch with
a circle journal or round-robin letter. Caveat: Put
someone with strong organizational and follow-up skills
in charge! During a women’s writing retreat last
summer, Shari suggested we circulate a "circle
journal" to keep the connection. She mapped out the
pathway, figured that it could make two complete
circuits from Connecticut to Hawaii in a year, if
everyone kept it no longer than two weeks. We
collectively created a collage for the journal cover
during the last day of the retreat. Shari created
easy-to-follow instructions, including the timeline and
addresses, which she taped to the inside cover, and she
made the first entry. Four months later, it has circled
around to me, and I am delighting in both receiving and
- Storyboard your scrapbook.
As you gather photos and memorabilia for your albums or
scrapbooks, jot one- or two-sentence captions.
Occasionally devote a scrapbook page to a longer story.
The streamlined version: Pester each family member to
jot notes on the backs of fresh photos.
- Just the "write" gift.
Write a poem, a character sketch, a captured moment for
a loved one. Typeset and illustrate it on the computer.
Or write it out in your own hand on elegant or decorated
paper. Frame it and give it as a gift.
Kathleen Adams. All Rights Reserved
Kathleen Adams LPC, RPT is a
Registered Poetry/Journal Therapist and Director of The
Center for Journal Therapy in Lakewood, Colorado. She is
one of the leading voices on the power of writing to
heal and is the author of four books, including Journal
to the Self and The Write Way to Wellness.
Her upcoming seminars include the annual 5-day women’s
writing retreat in Colorado July 8-13, and a one-day
Journal to the Self workshop in Denver in late July. She
would love your feedback on this column; please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
or stop by her website, www.journaltherapy.com.
Kathleen's Past "Scribing the Soul" Columns:
2001 "Coping Strategies for Times of Crisis"
2001 "Journal of a Synchronicity"
2001 "Rituals for Soulful Writing"
Baker’s Dozen Ways to Journal Your Dreams"
2001 "Journals to Go"
2001 "Healing Words, Healing Touch: Jihan's Letters"
2001 "Love Letters"
the Authentic Self"
2000 "Riding the Inky Wave"
2000 "The Good News"
2000 "Soul Food: Exploring Affirmations in
2000 "Diary of a Headache"
2000 "Making Up the Truth"
2000 "Pockets of Joy"
2000 "Five Ways to Scribe Your Intuition"
Kathleen's Feature Article on Dream Journals:
in the Dark: Cracking the Soul's Code Through Dream