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Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  380 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Now in paperback comes the acclaimed, one-of-a-kind practical guide to starting and keeping a journal and transforming it into a larger creative work: a family chronicle, a memoir, or a novel.
Paperback, 242 pages
Published January 2nd 2002 by Back Bay Books (first published 2001)
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3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  380 ratings  ·  80 reviews

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Emma Sea
super enjoyable. and i did some of the exercises as i went through the book, which is always a good sign. i definitely recommend if you're looking for a book to get you away from the shame-spiral of introspective whining in your journaling. a book i will return to again and again.
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing, spiritual
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.
Jul 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
*تنبيه : ذكرت إشارات وإفادات من الكتاب ومن غيره استفدتها لأن الكتاب في علمي لم يترجم ، راجياً من الله أن ينتفع القارئ ويأخذ لمحة عن هذا الفن الجميل.

تصفحت الكتاب وقرأت جملة صالحة منه وراعني ما فيه من كثرة الأفكار والتقنيات والتدريبات في موضوع journaling ولا أدري ما هو المسمى المصطلح عليه في العربية هل هو المفكرة أو المذكرة أو التعليقة أو المدونة أو الذكريات؟ فكلها تصلح ولكن قومنا لم يعنوا كثيرا بهذا الفن على جلالة قدره وفائدته النفسية والاجتماعية والأدبية.
كان أول ما نبهني إليه كلمة للطنطاوي-رحمه
Jodi Sh.
Feb 07, 2013 added it
Shelves: craft, i-know-you
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
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this to be a fascinating, practical, inspiring examination of journal writing and of transforming journal into creative works. I took copious notes, wrote lists of memoirs I should read and was spurred on in my own writing. It might not interest everyone but I loved it. Glad I picked it up on a whim on one library visit.
Mar 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
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
Oct 10, 2008 rated it liked it
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
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Oct 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fav-nonfiction, 2017
I thought the first half of this book was really good. I loved all of her examples of diarist's and their techniques and quotes. I found myself underlining many beautifully written descriptions on the benefits of keeping a journal. I was truly inspired to be more consistent in my journal habits and was excited to continue reading the book. Unfortunately, about halfway through it got a bit tedious. Perhaps it got a bit deep for me; portrayed intricate exercises in one's journal that complicated t ...more
Jun 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
I was less interested in the how to write a memoir aspects, and super into the quotations from and re journaling. History major in me loved how evidence was woven throughout. Also loved ideas for different types of journals. I lean that way but don't/won't have them all with me always. At same time, honestly reflecting around why I don't write and wondering if having a ranting/spleen journal for working through stuff separate from things I want to put down for A would make a big difference to su ...more
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the better journaling books out there.
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Only two stars for a book on journaling? By me?
Yes. This book is NOT what I thought it was going to be. I've read Johnson's other books on journaling - the history of it - and love them. Those books offer exactly what a potential buyer is made to believe by their blurbs. That is not the case with this book.

The blurbs and recommendations suggest a book about how to write a journal - a book full of ideas on how to journal differently. You will find only very little of that. Instead this book almo
Nicole Kapise
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it
When you are trying to finish your Summer Reading List before your next semester of college starts, insomnia is a beautiful thing. I read this gem of a book in one night (literally!). Alexandra Johnson gives examples of how a personal journal can be used as a starting point for creative writing, something I was aware of, but have never done. My journals are less observations of the world around me and more "brain dumps" for when I'm angry, stressed, or bored. I suppose there is useful material i ...more
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
4.5 stars. For those who ponder the value of keeping a journal, look no further than this wise and inspiring book. As a longtime journal writer who tends to focus on introspection, I especially appreciated the invitation in chapter 4 to switch into an observer mode and create a catalog of wonders instead of spending too much time wading around in my own thoughts (my words, not hers). I also appreciated the discussion of single-purpose journals and suggestions for indexing. Both practical and pro ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book seems more geared towards the serious would-be memoir writer, I also enjoyed its insights and tips. If I ever decide to plumb the depths of my old journals for good material, I’ll have more of an idea what to look for.
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: never-finished
Never finished, only read specific chapters
Antonio Gallo
Tutti vogliamo lasciare una traccia ... (work in progress)
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
Pat Loughery
Nov 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
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
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
The vast majority of this book is about how to start a journal and get through writer's block. If this is a problem for you then you will like this book. If not then don't bother. Interesting notes I took that are unrelated to journal ideas:

The author asked people who they most wished had kept a journal. Their answers were always that a relative or a parent they never knew.

In the 1600's Quakers kept journals as a record of conscience. Journals sharpen conscience, not ego. People who blab don't k
Anne Tezon
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
This is a surprisingly engaging and informative little book about why and how of journals. I picked it up on a whim, more for reading about the "who and why" than the "how to." There's loads of fascinating trivia tucked here and there about such things as how early Quakers used journals as a spiritual practice of conscience and that there is a writing system known only by women in a region of southern China for their diary-keeping. One could read it either as a more academic look at journals or ...more
Aug 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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Discussion 3 6 Jun 11, 2010 12:08PM  
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“Successful journals break the deadlock of introspective obsession” 7 likes
“It took years of keeping journals to trust a simple fact: like life in transit, the writing inside is often fragmented, messy.” 4 likes
More quotes…