Creating a Shared Journal
Where to Start
"For as many lives as there are, there are that many different kinds of journals," comments Barry. The first step is to decide what kind of journal you'd like to create.
A collaborative journal might focus on a shared experience in the past. For example, former neighbors who once lived on the same block might swap memories of their time together, as well as update each other on their current lives. These recollections, along with photographs and other mementos, could be gathered in a journal, which then would become the focus of a reunion block party.
A shared journal might also be a record of current events and perceptions. Hollie Rose keeps a "Thought Book" behind the counter of her coffee shop in Middletown, Connecticut. "It's a place to share important news about the day-to-day running of the cafe, to relate interesting vignettes of scenes that happen with customers, and also a place to vent," Rose says. "It's a nice record of the changing life of the cafe." When customers return, they enjoy flipping through the journal to see what they've missed. In nine years, the store has filled more than 30 volumes.
Or a journal might become the centerpiece of an individual celebration, such as a grandparent's 75th birthday or a 50th wedding anniversary. Guests could write down what the grandparent has meant to their lives or tell their favorite stories about the couple. They might also include a poignant quote or their best advice for a long and happy life. The journal can be passed around during the event for guests to record their entries. Alternately, family and friends could submit material beforehand and present the journal to the honorees at the event.
One group of women created a collaborative journal for a friend who was recovering from cancer, says Bouton, whose book, Journaling from the Heart (Whole Heart Publications, 2000), offers suggestions for tapping into memories and experiences. "Each person wrote about how much they cared for and loved her, and why she was important to them." The journal helped sustain the woman through months of chemotherapy and radiation. When her cancer went into full remission, doctors gave a lot of credit to the loving support of her friends.