In On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts, Ann Kroeker (co-author with Charity Craig) gives some advice courtesy of another writer, Dorothea Braude, in how to engage memory: set aside a short period each day: when you will, by taking thought, recapture a childlike ‘innocence of eye,’” the state of wide-eyed interest you have when you were five years old.
Ann, like the rest of us on the planet, has to do more than simply sitting and thinking to recapture that “innocence of eye.” She has to write her thoughts and observations down, using whatever is closest at hand – a journal, a Word document, phone of tablet apps, or whatever else is handy (I’ve been known to write thoughts on grocery lists).
I carry a journal with me just about everywhere I go, including business meetings, church worship services, and the gym. In the one I’m carrying now (its predecessors safely stored on a bookshelf above my computer), you might find rough drafts of poems, quotes (like the one by Dorothea Braude cited above), my notes from a poetry reading with Billy Collins, sermon notes, and odd facts like “During August 1914, the Times of London received more than 100 poetry submissions about the war every day.”
When my wife and I went to Amsterdam and Paris for a belated 25th wedding anniversary trip, I carried a travel journal with me, dutifully recording each day where we went, what we saw, where we ate, and what we bought. It was not only helpful for correcting faulty memories later, it was also useful for helping to keep track of expenses and anything that might have to be declared for Customs.
I did the same thing these past three years for our trips to England. Except these travel journals are slightly different. In addition to places visited and places we ate, they also include drafts of poems written while on a train to Oxford, notations from ads on the tube in London, a few comments about Salisbury Cathedral, observations from a walk in St. James Park, and any number of things I noticed and didn’t want to forget.
I can’t say I actually recaptured that “innocence of eye” from when I was five years old, but using the journal as an extension of my noticing things has contributed immeasurably to my writing.
Photograph by Ha’anala 76 via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.