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When I was seven years old, my family and I went on a cross-country car trip, and my mother gave me this notebook and suggested that I write down what I see on the journey. Although I was nervous about writing and afraid that I would make mistakes, I wrote entries and dictated some entries for her to write down. I loved reading it over and over later.
At the age of eight, I received my first “real” diary from Santa Claus. At first I was afraid to write in it because it looked so pretty, but I did write often.
At the age of ten, my mother died. I didn’t write for a full year. Then, my writing changed. I found a little blank book that a plumbing store was giving away and in it I poured out my emotions. –Mary Amato
A diary is a place to write down your own life experiences. Keeping a diary can be rewarding, even if you’re not interested in becoming a writer. If you speak to its pages with honesty and emotion, it becomes the most amazing keepsake possible: a record of your life.
Writing in a diary is:
- Comforting—a safe place to write down your questions, fears, and thoughts.
- Clarifying—it helps you to figure out how you feel or what is happening.
- Permanent—a record of your thoughts and experiences.
- Good “Exercise” for Expression—the more you write, the better you will become at expressing yourself.
There is no right or wrong way to keep a diary. Here are some tips for the writer:
- Choose a small, thin notebook so that you have the satisfaction of filling it up more easily. A big, thick book can be frustrating for many writers.
- Try an inexpensive, plain book. A fancy book can inhibit writers.
- Write whenever you want. Don’t feel pressured to write everyday.
- Write in your own voice. Don’t worry about the words. Write as if you’re talking. Don’t try to be too fancy or wise.
- Dictate—if you find it hard to get your thoughts or ideas down, ask someone else to write for you. Make sure they use your exact words. No editing allowed.
- Write for yourself—you don’t have to show anyone your journal.
- Write for someone else—sometimes it helps to imagine someone reading it in the future, like your own child.
- Try to write as concretely and specifically as you can. Instead of writing that you are angry, or sad, or happy, describe exactly what happened that made you angry, sad, or happy. Use details. This kind of lively writing will make your entries more satisfying to read later because the details you add will help you to re-experience the moment.
- Look for what I call “shivery” moments–those times in your life when you have a big emotion or realization (maybe you witness an argument between your sister and your mother and it makes you realize something about yourself). Write the scene.
- Take your diary with you when you travel.
- Try a “collaborative” journal with a friend or family member—pass a notebook back and forth, each taking turns adding to it.
- Remember to write the date. In the future you’ll want to know how old you were when writing.
Here are tips for parents or teachers who are encouraging a child to write:
- Give the gift of the written word to the child in your life. Write real, meaningful messages in your own voice to the child for special events.
- Establish writing rituals.
- Once a month, have EVERYBODY WRITES night: gather around a table, light a candle, and write.
- On New Year’s Eve, ask each member of the family to read over his/her choice of a diary entry.
- Create a “dialogue diary” with your child: get a special book, write in it from time to time, invite your child to write in it, and pass it back and forth with your child.
Copyright © 2008 by Mary Amato. Permission granted to copy for educational use.