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Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal
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Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  223 ratings  ·  54 reviews
An inspirational, practical & literate guide to starting & keeping a journal - & transforming it into something permanent like a memoir or a novel. Leaving A Trace is a practical guide to keeping a journal successfully & transforming it into future projects. Each chapter features both narrative & tailored exercises for beginning & committed diarists ...more
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Published September 26th 2009 by Back Bay Books (first published 2001)
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Very good book about keeping a journal or diary, with writing exercises (some of which I tried and was pleasantly surprised by) and excerpts of what writers noted for journaling and memoir writing had to say about how the process enhanced their lives. Notes the author, "Successful journals break the deadlock of introspective obsession." Yes, that. That's what I aspire to.
Jan 27, 2008 EJ rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Peg and Bridget
When I picked this book up on the "value" shelf at Barnes and Noble I expected it to be a cheezie "how to dig into your soul and find who you are" self help writing book. So now years later I truly can not remember why I actually bought it. Perhaps its 3 dollar price ticket had something to do with it.

It is a fast and informative read. Covering subjects regarding journals; the importance of them, how to go about keeping one and the journals of the past that have impacted the future of others. W
I love Journals, writing, and journal writing. This book is excellent, and it really lent depth and breadth to my writing. I strongly recommend it to anyone and everyone. I find that reading books about writing gives me fuel for my enthusiasm to write myself. This book really motivated me and gave me tons of new ideas to write about. Most writers say that if you want to be a writer then you need to write every day. This book really encouraged me to do that. I need to re-read it soon.
Alexandra Johnson has built an academic career studying diaries, of the famous and the ordinary, and she's extended that study to writing about the craft and practice of journalling. I so enjoyed this book--dipping in and out over the course of the past 6 or 8 months. It's a book best enjoyed and savored slowly, the way I do a perfectly brewed coffee. I'll keep this close by in my bookshelves, so I can continue to revisit and revise.
This book is for those who want to become more serious with journal keeping and possibly use it for further creative work. I enjoyed the challenge and intellectual approach to journaling. It has stretched me to use my journal in a deeper way.

There are so many writing resources available that it's hard to select the best for our time budget but I feel that this one is worth the time.
Tynan Power
Dec 02, 2007 Tynan Power rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in journaling, people interested in writing
Shelves: writing
One of the best books on journaling I've read. There are segments of it that are particularly interesting and useful for writing more than journals. I really liked this book a lot and took a lot of notes.
Jodi Sh.
I don't rate books by people I know -- too complicated. But while Johnson's book is a treatise on journaling - why, how, forms, what can be gleaned or developed from them, etc. it had a surprising effect on me--I picked up my journal after not touching it for two years. Among other things, it was revelatory to look back and discover that apparently I've never been happy working for someone else. The book also inspired me to return to an awareness of my surroundings and the people that make up th ...more
Dec 09, 2008 Ciara rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: journal keepers, self-help fans, people looking for a stabilizing project
Shelves: read-in-2006
i read this book because i have an obsession with journals & diaries, & part of this obsession involves wondering what tips, tricks, bells, & whistles other people bring to their attempts at disciplined journal-keeping. i have been keeping a journal off & on since i was about four years old, & i've really gotten serious about it in the last three years. i try to write everyday, but i often find it difficult to get started or to write anything of particular consequence, even w ...more
Each of us have an infinite arsenal of writing material to wield at our own discretion. Whether we recognize it or not, every moment that passes is crammed with writerly inspiration, and the onus is on us to seize this fodder and alchemize it into art. Alexandra Johnson's Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal, The Art of Transforming a Life into Stories shows us exactly how to do this. I first read her work probably ten years ago. Her book The Hidden Writer: Diaries and the Creative Life is wond ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
This book honors questions we often ask ourselves such as, how do I keep a journal? And: what do I do with all the materials in the ones I have kept? As Virginia Woolf noted, the past urges us to leave a trace and we do that by keeping a journal. We take what we keep in journal and transform it into larger projects or writing. My diary is the missing link in the creative life. In the beginning, it was scribbling and venting.

I wish she had stuck to who she is instead of imitating Virginia Woolf a
This was an okay book. Had some decent writing exercises at the end of each chapter, and I'll probably hang onto the book at least for a while just for those. But it seemed awfully repetitive, and I'd hoped to get more insight on the approaches different writers take when using journal entries as the basis for fictional work. Might have given it three stars if it said more in the same amount of pages or was shorter and didn't repeat so much. I picked up another book by her immediately afterwards ...more
Paula Dembeck
This is a good guidebook for those who want some direction in writing in a diary or journal. Written by a professor of creative non fiction, this small volume is filled with practical advice for those who want simply to record the events in their lives to those who want to move on to publishing their memoirs.
The book is divided into three parts. The first and second part discusses the practical considerations in writing a diary or journal and dispelling the notion that there is a right way to
Anne Tezon
If you have been "hit and miss" as a journal writer and are embarrassed by the thought of someone reading one of your journals, this book is for you. Sure, you use your journal to vent, to complain and to let your true self show . . . to yourself. I've always thought I would re-read mine someday and burn the pages. This book advises against that. Johnson suggests curling up with your journals on some rainy day and reading them, looking for patterns, for lessons learned. Transcribe them and try t ...more
One of the better journaling books out there.
Pat Loughery
I suppose I started reading this expecting that I would learn better how to tell stories in my own journal, which for the past few years I've kept more frequently than ever before. That is not this book's goal. Instead, think of it as a writer's resource: How can you plumb the depths of your own (or others') journals for writing fragments, sources, memories, senses? And how can those things find their way into your writing, whether as memoir, poetry, short stories, creative nonfiction? Where are ...more
I really liked this book, but I read it too slow. I'd like to read it again in a more concentrated timeframe, and do the exercises along with it. It was interesting to read a perspective that journaling and writing is so immensely important. I'm not a writer, so I never considered how you could turn your old journals and stories into memoir and edit and refine it to craft something beautiful and real to you. Would read again, and this is a book I'd even like to own.
Feb 28, 2009 Samantha rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to journal or likes to already!
Recommended to Samantha by: Amanda C.
(On Keeping a Journal)- The Art of Transforming a Life into Stories.
This book is fascinating! Anyone thinking of starting a journal or learning how to maintain one will really enjoy this book. Alexandra weaves "real-life" journal entries and examples throughout this book which is my favorite part! It almost feels historical in a sense. She is definitely an artist with words- simply beautiful. At the end of each chapter, she included "exercises and journal prompts", a great way to get you starte
I found this book very inspiring. Those of us who love the idea of journal keeping but have a hard time with consistency will enjoy Johnson's lavish descriptions of stationery shops and various types of journals, not to mention her numerous ideas and prompts to help you unlock creativity and start writing. She writes a book whose main premise is to sing the praises of keeping a journal, asserting that those who do are "leaving a trace" not only for the next generation, but for themselves. Johnso ...more
Joy Corcoran
One of the best books I've read on keeping a journal and diary. Johnson is an excellent writer and her belief in the importance of leaving a life story and legacy is very refreshing. She tells a great story and has wonderful ways of using the journals as a source for living better, for writing better and for story telling.
Wonderful handbook for anyone interested in journaling. A must have for all writers. Johnson gives compelling and provocative prompts for journal writing as a piece of a larger work. Sometimes that larger work is a manuscript, poetry or memoir--other times it is simply the self.
Read as part of my quest to jazz up my journaling a bit. This book was too serious for my purposes. Everyone the author cites is a published author. I don't necessarily want to write a book, I just want to consider my life from a different perspec...moreRead as part of my quest to jazz up my journaling a bit. This book was too serious for my purposes. Everyone the author cites is a published author. I don't necessarily want to write a book, I just want to consider my life from a different perspe ...more
I am working through this book for the second time with a group of artists in various media. (This is not the edition, I have, by the way, and I was happy to see there is a kindle edition available.) The writing prompts are excellent, and work well for groups. I get something new out of them each time. I love her writing style, as well.
Aug 09, 2008 Kristylemmon rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: diary/journal writers, people who want to get to know themselves better
I actually have not finished reading this. I am doing the writing exercises as I go through it and need to take breaks (sometimes year-long breaks!). This book is awesome for inspiring you to more creatively record your life. I love journaling and this book has given me so many ideas and techniques. Some of my favorites were writing about my childhood bedroom, snapshot writing and people descriptions. I highly recommend it for people who like to journal their lives and want to get more creative ...more
completely unmemorable - I've apparently read it twice.
Sarah Brandel
I had a great dilemma while reading this book: keep reading, or go write? It provided an intriguing introduction to famous journal keepers and those who keep them today, with numerous inspirational examples from both. It also took things a step further, providing suggestions for mining old journals for stories, poems, or memoir. This provides me with another dilemma: go write, or reread my old journals?

In any case, I'm looking forward to reading another of her books, The Hidden Writer, about the
FINALLY! I finished this!! It's not that is was such a clunker that I couldn't get through it but b/c there is SO much else going on right now.

The book has a lot of really neat ideas on journaling. I'm even going to use some of them for some of my patients. I work w/ adolescents & it is hard to point them in a direction that allows them to express themselves productively. If I can give them a starting point that's always a good thing.

For the rest of us? It gives us the bump & encouragem
This book encourages me to continue my already established practise of writing a journal. In this useful and interesting book, the author suggests using "snapshots" of incidents from the reader's own journal entries, to rewrite and expand upon for new entries. Though I was tempted to take notes, I felt I should rather have a "glitter art" mentality and allow only what sticks to remain and shake the rest off. At a future reread I think I could then compare the book with what I was able to easily ...more
Literary Mama
As my children grew from preschoolers to high schoolers, entries to my childhood diary increased while my responses to writing prompts became more and more sporadic; those one-line prompts didn't always strike the right chord to get my creative juices flowing. I started to rethink “journaling” and how I spent my writing time, and turned to these books for guidance.

Read Literary Mama's full review here:
Really wanted to rate 2.5. Generally, 1st half was better than 2nd half. Was hoping for a bit more inspiration.
This book really made me think about why i write and how to make it more interesting both for myself and anyone that may end up reading my words one day. The book is written very well and was so good that i managed to read through it all quite fast whilst picking up vital tips along the way. It really inspired me to keep going with my writing and gave the me the kick start to get back to regular writing. Definitely worth reading whether you're new to journaling or not.
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Discussion 3 6 Jun 11, 2010 12:08PM  
  • The New Diary: How to use a journal for self-guidance and expanded creativity.
  • A Book of One's Own: People and Their Diaries
  • Note to Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits
  • Creative Journal Writing: The Art and Heart of Reflection
  • Journal to the Self: Twenty-Two Paths to Personal Growth - Open the Door to Self-Understanding by Writing, Reading, and Creating a Journal of Your Life
  • Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives
  • Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir
  • How to Change Anybody: Proven Techniques to Reshape Anyone's Attitude, Behavior, Feelings, or Beliefs
  • How to Study
  • Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams
  • Friendship Crisis
  • The Triple Bind: Saving Our Teenage Girls from Today's Pressures (Hardcover)
  • The 10 Women You'll Be Before You're 35
  • Tell It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction
  • The Science of Influence: How to Get Anyone to Say Yes in 8 Minutes or Less!
  • Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times
  • The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life
  • A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place
The Hidden Writer A Brief History of Diaries: From Pepys to Blogs The Girls' Handbook Twice Eggs (Ploughshares Solos Book 29) Wie aus dem Leben Geschichten entstehen

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“It took years of keeping journals to trust a simple fact: like life in transit, the writing inside is often fragmented, messy.” 3 likes
“Journal writing is, foremost, a way to order and reframe perspective.” 2 likes
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