Shelley Widhalm

Journaling: Lost and Found

In Journaling, Losing A Journal, Losing Written Work on July 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

I lost my journal on May Day and finished what I’ve since called my journal recovery project six weeks later.

I thought losing four months of daily writing—wiped out from a computer glitch and failure to back up my work—was tragic, awful and a devastating thing for a writer to endure, because I had lost words that I’d written—about 70,000 of them.

I’d taken careful and detailed notes of my daily life and emotional responses as background material for a future writing project, wanting to turn an awful dating experience, coupled with stupid life decisions, into a novel—I still plan to, but as the very correct and accurate cliché goes, I need more time to process.

When the journal loss exploded my sense of writing security, I called my mom and cried, feeling 10-fold heartbroken. She said maybe I needed to go over everything again to get a new understanding, and, being a mother, she was right.

At the same time of my “loss,” I’d moved, alternating my focus on working on the project and packing, unpacking and organizing my things. To recover my journal, I arranged my communications in a similar fashion to house arranging, figuring out which things should go where to be useful, convenient to grab and still look aesthetically pleasing.

I typed up all of my texts over the four months that involved the important people to the telling of my story and copied and pasted long strings of Facebook messages between me and my best friend and a couple of other shorter communications among my circle of friends. I hadn’t realized it, but I treated my best friend like my diary recipient, giving him a blow-by-blow description of much of what had happened and seeking his wiser, been-there, done-that advice.

I’d been in a situation that was beyond my understanding of psychology and sociology and my own experiences to process and simply get what was happening. After what had happened, I needed to put my life back together, hence the move and a few other personal fix-it-up undertakings.

Seeing the various communications in one place made me realize I’d gotten caught up in someone else’s thinking, instead of relying on my own logic and commonsense. I bought into this person’s worldview, losing some of my own. I lost confidence. I defended my position. I didn’t say stop, and let communications become arguments that I couldn’t win. No matter what.

I couldn’t see these patterns in such a concise format when I was caught up in my daily writing without looking back. Journaling was a place to write down what had happened and how I felt about it and move onto the next day.

Retyping the strings of communications told a story, in that day-by-day sense, from beginning to end. It showed me how I communicate on a casual level, including patterns of expression, repeated phrases and descriptions of events and emotions.

As I recovered my journal, I recovered from my grief. I didn’t regret losing those other words, because I had new ones. I had me back, thanks to the work and talking with my mother and friends and having the will to get back to who I am: a writer in love with words, whether lost or found.

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  1. Glad you found it 🙂

  2. Thank you. It took some work, but it was worth it. 🙂

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