Saturday, March 12, 2011

Choosing What's Important OR Why I'll Never Be Good At Journaling

When I got my first set of scriptures with my shiny new red scripture marker pencil (how's that for a string of adjectives?), I immediately set to work underlining the important scriptures. Three completely red pages later, I looked back and wondered why I bothered marking at all. The scriptures weren't easier to find or read now that they were all red. If I wanted to find a scripture on faith, I still had to look in the index. So I stopped marking scriptures unless a teacher suggested one as "markable." Or if it was a scripture mastery scripture and therefore in my best interests to be able to quickly locate in the event of a scripture chase.

Lest you think this was just a youthful inability to identify truly important things... it has never gotten any better. In desperation, at the age of 21, I developed an elaborate system of marking, that labeled each word according to topic. Faith and repentance were green. Prophets and references to records were light blue. Christ was orange-red. I had a pack of 24 scripture markers and all but white had a designated purpose in my scriputures. Reading them was more akin to coloring. I spent more time deciding what color each word should be than I did deciding how I felt about each one. I wish I could report that I've finally found a happy medium.

Elana Johnson posted a list of tips for writers recently, including "Write in a Journal." I'm really REALLY hoping this isn't a hard-and-fast rule, because I'm just as bad at picking the important parts of my life as I am at picking the important parts of the scriputures. During the very infrequent periods in my life when I've kept a journal, it took hours to maintain. Also, it quickly devolved into a blow-by-blow account of contacts with my current crush. Great fodder for YA? Certainly. I'd love to locate that journal and read it... before burying it deep in the earth. Was my crush the most important thing that happened to me during those months? Probably not. Just the most obsessive.

Right now my life is busier than it has ever been. I'm maintaining a full-time career, trying to start up another one (Best-Selling Novelist--have you heard of any openings?), I have three church jobs (Gospel Doctrine teacher, Cub Scout Committee Chair, and Visiting Teacher), three young sons, and a house that doesn't clean itself. Oh, and a husband who likes to get attention at regular intervals. If each day were twice as long, I'd still need more time. Girl's gotta read sometime, right? So for now and for the forseeable future, this blog is my only journal. Long live the internet.

Which brings me to my final, startlingly happy point: choosing what's important in fiction is worlds easier than choosing what's important in the scriptures or in my own life. Why? Because I don't know the future of my own life. Because I don't know the future of my own life, it is impossible to know what to put in a journal. What will I want to look back on later? *shrugs* Can't know. (Since my crush wasn't my future husband, it seems I was very wrong to think it would be important to record every word he said to me.) Which scriptures will I want to lean on in the coming months and years? How the heck should I know that? Will I most need scriptures on patience or on pride? On balance or on self-improvement? (I know which I'd rather need....)

Fiction, happily, is different. I know where my characters will be a few weeks down their lives. I know which experiences they need to have at the beginning of the book so they'll react appropriately at the end. I didn't always know this, but now that I'm editing, the picture is a lot more clear. It's still hard to winnow out the throw-away experiences, but at least I have a template--the end of the book--I can use to help me figure it out.

Editing is cool.


  1. And marking your scriptures may be obsolete with all the nifty new electronic gadgets. =D

    Nice post.

  2. Some of them still allow marking--but why?

  3. Thanks for following me, Robin! And I'm with you ... fiction is so much easier than journaling about real life. We get to have all the do-overs we want w/our characters, you know?

    BTW, your blog is so pretty! It makes me feel like I'm outside on a spring picnic. :-)

  4. Thanks, Anita! Would you believe I got the blog design for free from a friend studying web design? Devoney rocks.

    Your profile pic, on the other hand, is scaring me. :)

  5. LOL! Yeah, I found my profile pic in photo bucket and fell in lurv with the creepiness. ;-)

  6. Well, mission accomplished. :) When I read your book, it will be in a well-lighted place, with my hubby nearby for support.