A Writer In Her Library – Journaling with Deena Metzger

I’ve re-discovered one of the books in my personal library, Writing For Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds, by Deena Metzger. I’ve been doing a lot more journaling in the last year and it re-ignited my interest in books about journaling and ways that have worked for other diarists.

This particular book has an emphasis on specificity and poetry. She has us examine our observations as though we were a traveler in a foreign country, visiting a new place. By doing so, we turn our attention to things and see them as though for the first time. She invites us to get more specific in what we see. In this way, we can bridge into poetry and metaphor, see the importance of what we’re seeing in a new, and deeper, way.

I like books that have exercises in them because, at the end of the day, I’m a writer and not just a reader. I prefer books that invite me to be an active participant. I think that’s why I enjoy mysteries – because I get to solve the story along with the characters. Metzger has us experiment with many different methods, trying each of them on to see what works for us and for our writing.

It is through facts that we can get to the heart of emotion. Rather than tell the reader, “I felt sad,” we show the reader what sadness felt like and its uniqueness in that time and place. Each sadness is different: different causes, different participants, different consequences. The more we can report the facts of the feelings, the more we can get to the center core of Truth in our experience. I think this is at the heart of the old writer’s adage, “show, don’t tell.” When I say to the reader, “I felt angry,” I’m telling the reader what I felt. When I say, instead, what that anger did to me physically, what I said and how others responded to me, and what was left unsaid, I show the reader a moment in time – so much more than just the emotion of angry, but an entire scene and its aftermath.

I’m only in the first part of the book right now but am thoroughly enjoying myself. Highly recommend this to those of you that enjoy journaling, or that think you might want to give it a try.

What how-to books do you recommend?

2 Replies to “A Writer In Her Library – Journaling with Deena Metzger”

  1. Wow! I honestly never knew there were books about journaling.

    I have never been much into reading how-to books for some reason. But I really enjoyed the Josip Novakovich “Fiction Writer’s Workshop” and am grateful for your introduction to it.

    1. There are some excellent ones, depending on whether you want to just write or do illustrations with it. Hannah Hinchman’s book A Life In Hand is excellent, as is Tristine Rainier’s The New Diary. I like seeing how others interpret journaling.

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