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Note to Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits

3.23  ·  Rating details ·  249 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews

Keeping a journal is easy. Keeping a life-altering, soul-enlightening journal, however, is not. At its best, journaling can be among the most transformative of experiences, but you can only get there by learning how to express yourself fully and openly. Enter Samara O'Shea.

O'Shea charmed readers with her elegant and witty For the Love of Letters. Now, in Note to Self, she

Kindle Edition, 196 pages
Published (first published July 29th 2008)
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Mar 16, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So as a devoted journal writer I knew the moment I spotted it on the library shelf that I would be really annoyed by what it had to say. Chalk it up to morbid curiosity, and now I almost feel bad rating this book because it was just what I expected but I made the decision to go ahead and read it anyway. So I'll be charitable and say that I'm not at all part of the target audience for this book, as I don't need tips on motivating myself to write, topics to record my thoughts on, etc, etc. But mor ...more
Nov 14, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
i wanted to like this book. i have been keeping diaries since i was about five. i enjoy reading published diaries from famous diarists. i actually kind of enjoy weird self-help-style books, especially when they are about "finding yourself through writing" (even though they are all so repetitive, i pretty much never actually learn anything from them). but this was not what i expected.

the author is about my age. in fact, i think she is just a hair younger. so i wasn't really expecting the kind of
I bought the Kindle version of this book because it's only $3.95. I thought it would read like many other books on journaling, but it turned out to be better than I thought.

O'Shea takes journal writing pretty seriously, but her book is not just about using the journaling for spiritual and healing purposes. It's more about using the journal as your personal friend, your mental processor, and your personal confessor.

I appreciate how she shares entries from her own journals, and addresses taboo s
Only made it to page 32 before I gave up. It just felt obnoxiously self-absorbed to me, in a way I couldn't relate to at all.
Feb 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: Care
O’Shea takes the topic of journaling and creates a hybrid memoir/textbook-ish book. The essential thesis is that journaling honestly can be a kind of self-therapy. It can help you learn from your mistakes, to set goals, and to evaluate where you are now. The book is divided topically into sections like “Romance on Record,” “Hearts that Hurt,” “While You Were Sleeping,” and “A Day in the Life.” There’s even a section on blogging as journaling - “All the News that’s Fit to Blog.” In each section, ...more
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Note to Self

With the disappointment from Melissa Burch's book put aside, I was a little wary of picking up this book. Maybe the reception of this book was more favorable due to its comparison with the former, but unlike Melissa Burch's book which boasts of how she wrote all these great books by these four fabulous methods of journal writing, Samara O'Shea's book doesn't give you the magic formula for journal writing and tells the readers that these are just suggestions and that we don't necessar
Mar 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A young woman's thoughts on the how's and why's of keeping a journal or diary, with thoughts and examples.

I read this because I always had trouble keeping a journal and wanted to see how it was done by someone who finds it a rewarding experience.

The tips and tricks probably could have been boiled down to a blog post. Most of the book was taken up with examples from her personal journals and her reminiscing about her life, explaining the context of those excerpts.

Things I learned:
1. It doesn't
Elaine D
Throughout my affair with this book, I found myself tripping over poignance, clarity, and refreshing honesty at every turn. Samara O'Shea brings to life the venture of journal authorship to anyone willing to sit down with a cup of coffee and listen. I picked up this and a few other writing books at the library after making a calculated decision to develop my own writing. This volume may very well have made it into my list of the most inspiring and motivating books I've read. Reading it was sitti ...more
Sherry (sethurner)
I have kept journals and diaries on and off my whole life, so when I saw this little volume at my local library I decided to see what it had to say. In the end it didn't have much to say to me, though a younger reader might find it useful There are some quotes I liked, like this one: "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection." -- Anais Nin. I liked that, and I was interested in her comments on other writers who also kept journals or notebooks, like Anne Frank, Samuel Pepy ...more
Kirsten Hivon
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finished a while ago actually, but computer is misbehaving so this is the first chance i've gotten to write a review. Really good at giving idea's on how to start and keep a journal going. Good for me considering I haven't written in mine for 7 years. I loved the journal entries in it both hers and others, but I still don't think I have the courage to be as bold as the author in my entries, I always feel like I'm being watched. Definately worth a read if you wish to start your own journal or Blo ...more
May 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked the book. If you're looking for a step by step teaching tool, this isn't it. She's just telling us about her experiences and how writing helped her. I can relate to the way she reasons with herself, so enjoyed reading it. I just didn't particularly want to know details about her sexual escapades.
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this one. O' Shea writes in a beautiful yet conversational voice, and I feel as though I just had a long discussion about journaling with a kindred spirit. Although I like to think I could have written this book, I would not have been able to write it without first reading this one. Grateful for the inspiration to journal more.
Nicole Kapise-Perkins
Along with offering useable tips for keeping a journal, Samara O'Shea's writing style is fluent and funny. A great read for anyone interested in journals and diaries, both reading published ones, and keeping your own.
Oct 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
i really enjoyed this. it made me want to pick up my journal again, which has been most neglected in the last few months. the book is filled with inspiration and the author's own journal entries as well as those of other writers. basically, this book just made me kinda happy.
Sabrina Bullock
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely loved this book. Many examples of journal entries, including several historic ones. Gives a multitude of ideas for topics to write about in a journal.
Terrific book for the journal lover in us all!
A mix of some 4* moments and some 2* moments.
It takes a lot of either nerve or self-absorbed exhibitionism to sprinkle one’s diary entries among those of Tennessee Williams, Sylvia Plath, John Wilkes Booth and similarly gifted writers. My money’s on the later. John Wilkes Booth, while a nutjob, was a very good writer; his diary is historically significant and a fascinating glimpse into a zealot’s mind. Reading about how O’Shea thinks her "mouth is beautiful when it moves," how she got high and watched porn or the angst-ridden pining over v ...more
Apr 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have seen many reviews on this book floating around out there. Some of them are great, and some less so. But for me, this book was one that falls in the “LOVE” category. I love the voice the author uses, and how she peppers everything with blog entries, both of her own and others. She adds lots of anecdotes, both the good and the bad. She made some points which made me think, not just about journaling but about things in general. I like books that make me think, and more than that, decide WHAT ...more
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Very fun, easy read that is partly memoir, partly book on the uses and craft of journaling. I found it an interesting hybrid, with useful lists of things to do in one's journal, wise tidbits of life advice, and mostly-entertaining looks at the author's own experiences. Also, the book made me want to pick up journaling again, which I count as a total win.

The memoir aspect was the least of what I was originally looking for from the book. These were occasionally tedious, but they were tedious in th
Jul 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone.
I can't believe how much I got out of this book. I thought I of all people had nothing to learn about keeping a journal: I've been doing it on and off for long enough that I thought I knew all I needed to. Ha! Note to Self completely turned that conception around.

What I like the best about this book is its honesty. Samara O'Shea really bares all to her readers, in a no-holds-barred approach that shocked me into being more honest to myself and my friends. It's so honest that in the acknowledgment
Huma Rashid
Dec 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This deserved a 3.5 but I decided to be generous and bump it up to a 4.

You're going to love or hate this book. If you're not a journal writer but are looking to get motivated to start writing, you'll probably love it. If you're a journal writer, you may not like it because you may feel you already know all this stuff, or that the tips are unimaginative or already apparent. Or, you might read through Samara's book and appreciate the tips she offers (that you may very well already know and use in
Aug 04, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was pretty into this book in the beginning. I really like keeping a journal, and thought it would be fun to seek out some inspiration and encouragement from a fellow journal-keeper. But what started out as a diary adventure quickly turned into Samara's biography with some cheesy homework assignments thrown in at the end of the chapter. I honestly didn't see much skill in this book - nothing that the average Joe couldn't have done. It was mostly just the author reminiscing on past journal entri ...more
May 29, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Much of the book was what I already knew, like the importance of not repressing anything while journaling; the idea of how journaling can serve various purposes instead of just the traditional usage as a record of daily events (eg. writing about goals and feelings and impulses and so on). I read the first twenty or so pages quite conscientiously and then just powered through the remaining parts of the book. I got some quotes or sayings I liked, but other than that, I felt that she was excessivel ...more
Feb 12, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Journal-keeping is made to sound nothing like 'danger' here, and the 'other pursuits' seem to be limited to 'blogging' and 'being blogged about'. O'Shea is a competent writer, but not a very compelling one; this book is fraught with her personal history of relationship issues and loaded with deep journaling insights like "let your journal be what it wants to be!" and "don't be afraid to quote song lyrics!" (which she then follows up with Gwen Stefani and Jennifer Lopez lyrics, much to my chagrin ...more
Sarah Lee
My therapist told me to try journaling but I had no clue where to start or how to stay motivated. My usually issue is that I do it for a couple of days and forget, or don't know what to "talk about" so to speak. I was really looking for a book with lots of prompts, and so when I first saw this book I thought it was everything I didn't want in a book about journaling. However the author is funny and shares many journal entries of her own and various other people throughout history. She really hel ...more
Rebecca Johnson
I liked the cover. The insides...well, not so much so far. I'll give it a little more time before I pitch it, though.

...time passes...

OK, I finished it. I skimmed some of the chapters, i.e., the ones on breakups and writing about sex and God and drugs and stuff. Not interested, thanks.

I still think it's trite and I don't think I'm a fan of her writing. That being said, though, there are some practical ideas in here about how to direct your journaling, if you need direction, as well as some ins
Jun 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I plucked this neat looking book from the stacks while I was browsing the library shelves. Initially the book offered some solid guidance and advice on journal writing. I like how she used excerpts from her journals and respected authors like Sylvia Plath to demonstrate her points and put the reader at ease about their own writing and life. But as the book progressed, her excerpts grew more and more tiresome and I found it difficult to continue reading (the book is less 200 pages); her journal e ...more
Oct 10, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I wouldn't.
Recommended to Relyn by: spotted on GoodReads
Shelves: abandoned, memoir
Bummer. This book was on my to read list for years and years. I finally broke down and bought the eBook. It only cost $4.99 and I still want my money back. As a journaler for over 3 decades, I was really excited to read a memoir by a journaler with that as a central focus. Didn't happen. At least, not in any interesting way. I would have been happy for tips on effective journaling. That didn't happen either. Ok... Well, I also love memoirs. No luck - still not interesting. Perhaps I had too-high ...more
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: journal-writing
I've read a lot of books on this subject, so I can't say there was much that was new to me here. Still, O'Shea has an engaging style, plenty of candour, and some advice that I would have found liberating when I was keeping my first journals--some 40 years ago. And her chapter "Hearts That Hurt" contained some recommendations for the tried-and-true "Unsent Letter" technique that I found immediately useful.
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I've written two books paying homage to the written word and its healing powers. My third book offers inspiration and guidance to those suffering unrequited love. The book is a melting pot of personal stories, history, pop culture, literature and advice. I've written for Woman's Day, Country Living, Marie Claire, and The Huffington Post. I'm currently working toward a master's in social work with ...more
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“There are two times in life—when you’re madly in love and when your heart is good and broken—that you’ll inadvertently pay more attention to the words around you.” 1 likes
“Copy down the quotes that move you, because they, in addition to or in lieu of your own words, will testify to how you saw the world at a certain age.” 1 likes
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