ENG 162 Fall 2013

ENG 162 at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor ME, taught by John A. (Don't ever, ever ask!) Goldfine johngoldfine@gmail.com

Friday, August 23, 2013

Week 1 Part 2. Theme: know thyself...know thyself?

Theme Week One: a journal of daily life and living.

You will keep a journal for a week. Keep your journal online on your own blog.  Feel free to comment on the assignment here, but it's not required.

Hint: I don't get upset when people express dislike for or confusion about assignments in a reaction. Nothing is less interesting than "Wow, great assignment idea. I've been keeping a diary for years anyway, so I'm gonna hit the ground running on this one. Already majorly looking forward to doing this."

How about a dark or oddball approach to a comment instead, something I can't predict: a reaction in the form of an Uncle Henry's ad ("FS, Course diary, barely used....") or a political speech ("We all as good Americans cherish the values enshrined in our diaries, the values of honesty, sincerity, and love of self....") or as an argument with yourself (Me: Oh crap, he wants a diary. Yourself: Handle it, jerkface--what's your flippin' problem? Me: It's so pre-dict-duh-bul!)

So, you start the semester with a journal. Just one week! (I've had people in the past who kept it for weeks, people who thought they were supposed to do it all semester....)

Journal comes from Latin and is related to the word 'diurnal' or 'daily.' A journal is traditionally a daily thing, and teachers love that aspect because if you, the student miss a day, they get to shake their finger and say, "It doesn't work unless you do it daily, you know."

Maybe they've got journal-keeping confused with other things, which if they happen daily are nice but are no threat to body or mind if they don't. In other words, many teachers see journal-keeping as a part of their character-building mission, the part where the teacher inculcates good habits in bad-habited students (as if two seconds doing the forbidden bad thing isn't enough time to destroy two years of habituation to the boring old good thing.)

I'm not asking you to keep a journal this first week because I think it will give you the habit of writing regularly or daily, though if a miracle happened and it did, I would be the first to sing praises to heaven.

Journals do this, or ought to: they focus the mind on the present, the here-and-now, the actual, the real, the temporal, the nitty gritty.Maybe it's just my own taste, but I can't imagine good writing--or good student writing anyway--that doesn't at least start with stuff. Stuff--the stuff you know, you see, you experience, you cope with. Start small and build outwards is the way to go for most student writers, though exceptions come along.

Journals also demand another thing that is essential to all writing: sorting. Every day a thousand million things bombard your eyes, mind, brain, skin, ears, heart, and soul. Okay, which ones do you choose to write about? You have to sort through stuff and make some choices. All writers have to do that, because no writer can ever tell the truth, the whole truth. There's too much truth, too much of it trivial, to ever tell the whole truth. Writers lie in order to tell the truth.At the very least, they lie by leaving some stuff out. If your religion forbids that sort of lying, prepare for extensive journal-writing. A week of writing, 24/7, will not be enough time to relate everything you experience in a week.Or a minute, if you open your eyes and mind to it.

The third thing a journal ought to do is introduce you to you. If you don't think your stuff is worth telling about, how are you going to do this course, because creative non-fiction is the opposite of the just-the-facts encyclopedia, which is non-creative non-fiction. In creative non-fiction, the reader almost always is aware of the writer lurking behind the words.So, maybe the journal will help you to meet that writer and come to some understandings with him or her about what you like to write about, how tough you're going to be on yourself, what terrain you want to or dare to explore.Write a journal, however you interpret that word.

Please don't ask me The Questions: how long do you want it? What if nothing happens to us? How much detail do you want? Does spelling count? Are we supposed to write every day? There are a million of those questions out there, but you, the writer, have the answers. I don't.

And, last thought--just because you're starting this semester with a journal doesn't mean that this is a course where you diarize for 15 weeks, where you go on and on about each and every second of your story. You will use your stuff perhaps, but for a higher purpose, I hope, than merely venting, merely confiding stuff to 'dear diary.' That's where the creative part of the course comes in.

44 Comments:

Anonymous Felicia G. said...

When I was little, I was sometimes given little journals in which there was enough space to write the outline of the day's events. Since I had them, I tried using them, but it always fizzled out in the end. After a while, I would forget or just not bother to write and, by the time I got back to it, I would have forgotten what happened on each day and just wrote "had fun" for as many days as I had forgotten. This was so common a comment I abbreviated it to "hd fun" (bound to happen because most of my comments were abbreviated anyway). I always gave up in the end until next time I got one. When I was ten, I got one long enough to write the whole day down in and since I had the journal, I once again tried keeping one. It took days to just get three quarters of the day down, so I ended it with "Since I write slow and for other reasons"… (that was as far as I got.)

Well, I certainly have more patience and a little more speed when it comes to writing now. It’s only for a week. Surely I will not have resort to “hd fun” in such a short time frame.

Monday, August 29, 2011 3:52:00 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

At first the idea of a journal made me feel sixteen again. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. Of course then I see your logic behind it and I can’t argue with that. Now I have to sort through my wild and crazy life, to see what I’m going to add to this journal of mine.

Monday, August 29, 2011 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

Amy--well, you put your finger on the heart of the problem: what to include, what to exclude.

You might want to exclude your deepest darkest secrets and, for opposite reasons, you might want to exclude 'Had breakfast, went to school, went to work, came home, went to bed.'

So, between those two is...? One thing to consider is a focused journal: looking at a single thing for a week--a problem at work, a new purchase and how it's working out, school startup, training a pet, something like that.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 8:20:00 AM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

Hey Felicia--how about: "@scl 6 hrs, hd no fun."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 8:22:00 AM  
Blogger emmasuekaren said...

I never know how to start a journal. Once I get started it seems that I have a hard time knowing when to stop talking. I haven't written in a journal since I was in middle school I'd estimate, and my entries then aren't anything I'm proud of at this moment - they defiantly don't contain my best writing. Hopefully things will come a little easier with age.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 9:34:00 AM  
Blogger RobPoole said...

I have mixed feelings about journals. They instill me with a both a sense of "What a pretentious bastard writing all about himself in his little journal." and also "What an intuitive and wonderfully sound way to keep a record of your feelings and thoughts without burdening others with them." In short, I will keep this journal, but I'll probably continuously question its merit as well as sing its praises.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Felicia said...

I'm torn about this assignment. On one hand, it's nice to have the opportunity to vent about my hectic life to a person who's job is to read about it. On the other hand, I find it tedious. Another problem that may arise is length on entries.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 4:29:00 PM  
Blogger Brightside said...

"Controversy is nevre a bad thing." That's what came to Mind when I read this thread. A journal isn't exactly an intrenatiounally controversial issue, but it's always controversial in the sense of its content. Just like Mr. John Goldfine mentiouned in the post, a journal is full of bothe Truth & lies and has facts bothe interesting and boring. Whethre the keepre of the journal is looking back on his//her entries or it lands in the hands of anothre persounne, it'll be controversial because there are so many ways to intrepret it. I mean, look at Anne Frank's diary!

For me, I have to be Honest and say I dislike journaling. There, already some controversy. Perhaps it is the fact that it requires daily work or perhaps it is because my attentioun span ranges from 3 minutes to 5 hours. I don't knouw about those exact numbres, but you get the Idea. Sometimes I'll write a massive pages & pages and sometimes I'll write half a sentence. But eithre way, I get sick of writing my Life stoury. Or I feel there is no need to write, "Rainne, bored, sleep."

Well, beggars can't be choosres. Journaling is something I'll have to do, so I have to do it is all. Somehouw, I'll make it fun. Perhaps I'll 'improve the Truth' and make it a bit for entretainingly "controversial."

Saturday, September 10, 2011 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Biddix said...

I find that having to keep a journal is paltry. By saying that, I don't have any real desire to undermine your methods or reasons. I understand why you want us to do it. I guess the underlying impression that I personally get out of it, is that what goes on with me on a regular basis just isn't all that interesting. Then again, I've seen countless films about "one man's life," so I guess that there might be a Lifetime drama in here somewhere. This is just a horrible, desolate time of year. People don't go out much due to the weather and with school not technically in session yet, I truly fear that other than my ability to point out the absurd, all of my posts are going to sound like an echo of an echo. Fear not though, Sensei...I will trudge through this much and come out clean on the other side. Or at least that's the plan.

Sunday, January 15, 2012 7:23:00 PM  
Blogger Samantha said...

Journaling reminds me of middle school. A time of youthful innocence that makes every moment seem worth jotting down in a treasured cloth notebook adorned with colorful jewels. Journals are the place where adolescents sort through life and organize their emotions, where they learn new things about the world and themselves. Revelations are made in journals, history is recorded and re-reading a journal can help you remember who you are and who you hoped to be.
However, journaling seems to be a hobby left in one's youth, not something adults do. Still, in this crazy world, I am sure people's sanity would benefit if they gave themselves a private place to vent. I am not going to lie, I am apprehensive about this assignment. Part of me feels my daily life is too mundane to bother recording and another part of me wonders how much is too much to reveal. Picking and choosing what to write about will be the biggest challenge.

Sunday, January 15, 2012 8:09:00 PM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

Samantha--exactly. For a lot of people, a journal is something they put away after age 12 or so when 'real life' begins. But that's okay--just as you say, journaling now, in public, is an exercise in decision-making and judgement-calls. What to include, what works, what is too private, what about daily life is intriguing--all those are things I want you to think about.

Monday, January 16, 2012 8:27:00 AM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

Biddix--I'd argue that the small, mundane, daily, and trivial--if looked at carefully, if one bears down on them, if one allows them to unfold into further definition--are actually significant topics.

But, in any case, the journal just happens for a week and then we move on to different, if not greener, pastures.

Monday, January 16, 2012 8:30:00 AM  
Blogger Biddix said...

I completely understand. Hell, I guess that if I really think about it, you probably could get about three paragraphs out of me on how I go about cooking eggs. I'm not entirely sure that I took the time to completely think it through (which I just noticed after reading your post to Samantha).

Monday, January 16, 2012 3:03:00 PM  
Blogger dawsonk said...

I concur with alot of the comments. However I love journaling and I have since I was 6and I still actively do. I think this is a great idea.

Monday, January 16, 2012 8:17:00 PM  
Blogger Jacob said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 9:19:00 PM  
Blogger Jacob said...

I'm waffling over this assignment. I've never kept a journal. Typically my writing was a stream of nonsense that I expelled from my mind. Keeping a journal seems like too formal of an act for me. I'll humor you and participate; I may even learn something. You proved me wrong in Eng 101. I've no doubt you'll do it again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 9:22:00 PM  
Blogger LMN said...

Well, I have done personal journaling in the past..but for my eyes only. I have written poetry most of my life and definitely write what I feel...I'm 'one of those' who wear my heart on my sleeve...so...I'm a little hesitant here...but I will do my best...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 9:49:00 PM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

You'll humor me, Jake!!!!

My first LOL of the day (6:16 am). I'd love to say, "By god, young man, you do as you're told or else!" because I know you'd laugh, but if I said it, people who don't know me might get scared.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 6:18:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew Willey said...

Never really kept a journal before and am kinda interested to see how it works out. I think its a great way to start the class, it really starts the ball rolling and gets us warmed up.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 6:32:00 AM  
Blogger Dray said...

I'm not exactly new to blogging, I've had one on and off over the years, but this iwll be the first one I've attempted as an assignment. I think it'll be interesting to look back on, now that the dust has settled a little from getting back into school.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 6:55:00 PM  
Blogger DAGrant said...

Guess I have never thought about keeping a journal. Just another thing to think about doing. But in a sense I guess I kinda keep a journal because I can't live without a planner calendar. Which I not only keep with appointment and school schedules, but phone numbers, birthdays, and things that happened on certain days which I can look back on and write comments about. I also keep my planners because so many times I look back to find info.
But I guess it isn't quite as indepth as a journal would be but I gets me there.

Friday, January 20, 2012 8:09:00 AM  
Blogger DAGrant said...

Guess I have never thought about keeping a journal. Just another thing to think about doing. But in a sense I guess I kinda keep a journal because I can't live without a planner calendar. Which I not only keep with appointment and school schedules, but phone numbers, birthdays, and things that happened on certain days which I can look back on and write comments about. I also keep my planners because so many times I look back to find info.
But I guess it isn't quite as indepth as a journal would be but I gets me there.

Friday, January 20, 2012 8:17:00 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

At first I wasn't exactly sure what to do about a journal for this week. But just to clearify with you I totally understand it now, and even though I wasn't able to do a journal everyday I will do my best to recap each day of this week with what I would write. Back when I was in highschool I used to like to keep journals, and especially if I was going through a hard time all my feelings went into my notebook. I also have noticed that I write a lot more when I'm upset or mad than when I'm happy. I will post my daily journal right now :)

Friday, January 20, 2012 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Raychel said...

I have never, ever been a journal writer-in-er. In my teenage year I would post on LiveJournal/ UJournal; but that was just because all the cool kids were doing it. The best way, I have found, to keep record of my happenings would be to capture it on camera. I could never just sit and think back on the day because I don't have the attention span and partially because I can't finish what I start.
The opposite effect happens when someone holds me responsible. So I will be journal writing for a week. Let's see what happens.

Friday, January 20, 2012 4:26:00 PM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

Raychel--somewhere, some school, some sharp prof is figuring out a course that deals with the fact that people worldwide are taking 7.5 billion photos a day or a year (I forget which!) and is going to have a lot of fun with it. But you, alas, are stuck with Prof. WordGuy, not that I'm a prof.

Friday, January 20, 2012 6:30:00 PM  
Blogger dee said...

I like the idea of having a journal. Im not a writer by nature and the writing that I do is usually research papers. Facts that I learn and put into my own words. Its hard for me to create something from nothing. I like to write about something that I know or have seen and experienced for myself. When I do creative writing my biggest problem is where to start, what message do I want to send, how formal do I want to be? With journals I don't get stuck. I know what I was doing, when I was doing it, and why I did it. There is no wrong way. And, well, maybe I just like talking about myself.

Thursday, January 26, 2012 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Cassidy said...

Now this will truly be a challenge. Over the years I have not been able to keep a diary or journal due to privacy issues. Thus, I have compensated by processing things mentally. Which, I refer to as my mental journal aka meditation that I find great comfort in. With that being said let the challenge begin.

Saturday, August 25, 2012 9:13:00 AM  
Blogger Jade Daigle said...

Journaling has always been a difficult task for me. As with most of the others here, I struggle most with what to include, and what not to. I have had many teachers in the past ask for journals. I can never seem to keep them balanced though, in terms of length of entry. Sometimes all I can manage is a paragraph, while other times I get through 5 pages and have to stop myself mid sentence.

Saturday, August 25, 2012 4:11:00 PM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

Jennifer--by no means do I want you to skate even close to saying anything private. A journal can be lively without telling the reader your darkest secrets. One way might be to focus on a single aspect of your life right now and journal about, for example, eating or your car, or starting school, something like that.

Sunday, August 26, 2012 9:32:00 AM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

Dee--yes, that ease of getting into it is exactly why I start the semester with a journal. I won't say there is NO wrong way, but you'd have to work hard to find it.

:)

Sunday, August 26, 2012 9:33:00 AM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

Jade--I'm not worried about length. I'd rather have one quality graf than a page of blather.

Sunday, August 26, 2012 9:34:00 AM  
Blogger Emily Wright said...

From the time I could write till the age of sixteen, I kept a journal. Why did I stop at the age of sixteen? My older sister read my journal, found out that I was smoking pot and told my mother, I was grounded for a month which included missing a trip to Honduras with a friend. I felt violate, not about my sisters discovery of my less than holy recreational activities, but because of the other private things that were written on the pages she read. I never kept a journal again. Twelve years later, am I excited to keep a journal? No, but I will.

Sunday, August 26, 2012 1:03:00 PM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

You should be fine, emily, as long as you avoid telling me about your notorious teen potsmoking!

Sunday, August 26, 2012 3:49:00 PM  
Blogger Alley Ummer said...

I've kept a journal off and on throughout my life. Not always to gush about boys I walk by, that is too middle school, but just to reflect on what I've seen and what I have noticed about myself in the current moments. I'm not necessarily for it, nor am I against it, but its great to stop and think about what you have been through and noticed during your days. Its interesting to see what your mind remembers and focuses on each day. The only problem is knowing what to include and exclude, but I'm sure it will come naturally when I start.

Sunday, August 26, 2012 7:36:00 PM  
Blogger Zach Bowers said...

I have had as little luck with keeping a journal as I have with flying without a set of wings or a plane... none. Every journal I have had I have placed a secret in and said to myself less than an hour later, "I can't leave that written! What if someone finds it? What if they use my feelings or thoughts against me?" These thoughts have always brought my journals to a fiery end so hopefully my laptop fairs a little better. With a weeks worth of secrets and thoughts I find myself fearing for the safety of my laptop and even the internet(just kidding) We will see how it all rolls out in at the end of the week and weigh if my worries have ever been founded.

Monday, August 27, 2012 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger msadosky said...

The theme isn't bad. I don't mind at all. It's good to know what happens in other people's lives - especially people who are nosy, this is like heaven for them. I had a journal as young girl, but I gave up - I had other obligations that kept me busy, like dancing and gymnastics - and when I needed to vent, I'd just scream and fight with my brother... I am more verbal person when it comes to my life sometimes - but now that I am older, it's more appropriate to express oneself in a blog/journal... Screaming and fighting is frowned upon at the age of 21.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Jenna Parent said...

I think writing a journal is a great idea, its something that get the words flowing.

Thursday, August 30, 2012 7:18:00 PM  
Blogger JacobAllenwood said...

Seems like an okay assignment, i'm just not quite sure what I will write about everyday...

Friday, August 31, 2012 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Erin Wight said...

I do like to keep a journal, but I've found for me that keeping one regularly doesn't fit my personality. I also like to use it for doodles, haiku, meeting notes, etc. It's kind of a hodge-podge of stuff, for me. But I would be interested to see the results of keeping one every day.

Saturday, September 01, 2012 2:03:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan Larrabee said...

I am actually really pumped for this assignment! Writing journals is kind of fun for me! I have already written two and I find myself having a lot to say. It is refreshing to get it out instead of keeping it in or only sharing it with a few people. So, I am excited to keep one and I think it is a great assignment to start the semester.

Sunday, September 02, 2012 8:39:00 AM  
Blogger Courtney Arrico said...

Writing a journal surely reminds me of when I was 10 years old, my diary was my best friend, but nowadays it's an entirely different story. I couldn't tell you the last time I wrote a journal about my day, or about anything, honestly. In some ways I miss doing it, because it most defintely helped me with my feelings and was always a safe keep for all of my emotions. I mean, not so much when I was younger because my diary basically revolved around boys or how mad my parents made me, but now is different.

I'm excited about doing this, because then it will bring me back to those days, but only doing it for a week will be good so I don't get sick of it in any way.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012 2:05:00 PM  
Blogger Ashley rackliff said...

When I was little my journal was my diary. Usually me rambling on about my life with no structure jumping from different topics: boys, my parents or girls in my class I envied or "disliked." Now my question; this is a daily journal that we are doing for just this first week?? I am okay with this... plenty of things I could throw out there in hopes of not getting too carried away and being able to eventually end somewhere. :)

Monday, August 26, 2013 8:36:00 PM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

Right, Ashley--just one week and whether it's a mixed bag diary or a more focused journal is up to the writer.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 6:43:00 AM  
Blogger appu said...


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RRB NTPC Result 2016
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