All right, here is the exciting part. Let’s pick apart some of my writing and see why it is successful. I’m going to provide two paragraphs for each layout. The first example contains basic journaling while the second contains the same information, just in a more interesting format. See which one really contains soul.
Example One: Bare Bones
We used to buy chocolate covered cherries for my Grandmother every year. She loved them and would always offer me one. They remind me of Christmas at her house in Cary, Illinois..
This is a nice paragraph. It contains basic information, but it lacks soul. Now let’s try again.
Example Two: With Style
This box of chocolate covered cherries caught my eye the other day. And suddenly, I am 10 years old again, celebrating Christmas in my grandparent’s porch in Cary, Illinois. It is too hot, as usual, because of the wood stove and we are eating pizza pockets and drinking steaming apple cider. Discarded paper everywhere, gifts piled near each recipient as we listen to Grampa and Gramma’s newest jokes. Love is palpable. Happy. Gramma offers me one of her special chocolate covered cherries, her rich indulgence that we bring her every year. I eat one, sweet liquid leaking as I take a bite. I smile a chocolate smile. Heavenly remembrance. 2007
This one really gives you a strong sense of what Christmas was like doesn't it? What makes this paragraph so much more soulful? Let me go through my thought process.
I wanted to show the reader that these cherries have great significance in my life. I feel passionate about them and when I walked by them in the grocery store, I got a bit teary because they evoked such fond memories. (This is the type of subject that you want.)
However, I didn’t want to focus completely on the cherries, I wanted them to represent my childhood Christmases so I began my journaling with the cherries and I quickly moved to Christmas in general. I wanted to speak in the present tense so I set up the paragraph to be a bit of a time travel. Notice that most of the sentences are incomplete. They are a fancy list of Christmas memories: I remember that it was always hot on the porch, I remember the chaos, which I evoke by mentioning the discarded paper and the gifts piled. My grandparents were very avid joke tellers so I purposefully included that.
In order to conclude my paragraph, I return to the cherries. And instead of saying, I ate one. I describe the process to make it more real. And I bring you back to 2007 with the final incomplete sentence: Heavenly remembrance.
Now, lets look a bit at word-choice.
Instead of garbage, try discarded paper
Instead of delicious, try rich indulgence
Instead of sugary juice squirting, try sweet liquid leaking
You can see that the second example contains a plethora of adjectives. This makes the reader actually see your subject. If you can, include adjectives to describe your subjects. Sweet liquid, discarded paper, steaming apple cider, special chocolate, rich indulgence, chocolate smile. Adjectives make everything more real and therefore soulful.
Here is another Christmas example.
This is Christmas
Example 1 Bare Bones
This Santa ornament sat on top of my Grandparent’s tree for as long as I can remember. It makes me think of Christmas at their house and how much I loved being there.
Example 2 With Style
As a child, I thought it strange to have a Santa perched at the top of a Christmas tree. It should be a star, or an angel, like we had. But my grandparents hung this Santa in the place of honor every year without fail. And so, he has come to represent Christmas to me. When I see him, I think of the love I felt in my grandparent’s home. The stockings that always had an orange, an apple and a small stuffed animal. The packages piled high. The envelopes containing checks slipped into the tree. The delicious dinner. The laughter and the hugs. And the evening when we would pile into the car to go home and everything was beautiful and peaceful and the entire world lay at my feet.
In example two, I just jump in with my preconceived notion on what should be on top of a Christmas tree. This gives you insight into my child logic. Then I get broad again. I talk about how this Santa represents Christmas to me. (By the way, this Santa hung in my maternal grandparent’s home while the cherries were my paternal grandparent’s thing. (We celebrated Christmas separately.) Next comes that incomplete sentence list. These were the memories that really stood out in my mind. And my last sentence takes another step back. Yes, I’m talking about going home, but instead of saying: I went home. I talk about how I felt. And I’m listing 3 things: beauty, peace and happiness. However, I don’t use the word happiness, I used the entire world lay at my feet. This gives the journaling more soul.
You may already notice some patterns.
1. I like to start small and apply that small thing to a bigger thing.
For example, cherries = Christmas = love and happiness, Santa ornament = Christmas = love and happiness.
2. I like incomplete sentences. They are easy to write and they seem more like memories because they are little snippets.
3. I like to end my journaling with a beautiful image that leaves the reader a little breathless.
4. My journaling has a casual feel like I’m talking. I don’t like stuffiness and I only use words that I use in normal conversation
5. I use as many adjectives as possible.
6. I try to describe rather than state the facts.
7. I like to repeat certain elements. For example: I begin each of the incomplete sentences with The…
The stockings that always had an orange, an apple and a small stuffed animal. The packages piled high. The envelopes containing checks slipped into the tree. The delicious dinner. The laughter and the hugs. And the evening
8. I like alliteration: packages piled, delicious dinner
And here’s the last example.
Example 1: I’ve always struggled with my body image, but recently I’ve begun to accept myself.
BORING, let’s try something a bit more soulful…
Example 2:Like the majority of the female population, I’ve always struggled with my body image. Even when I am at my prime physical shape, I still see a fat me in the mirror. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel this way. I’ve had days that are better than others, but in general, I have the flawed notion that if I am not the correct size, I am somehow contemptible. I was unaware of this personal narrative until a few questions tickled my mind. These two little questions sneaked in during quiet moments when I was lost in my
head. The first took place outside a fabric store. “Why don’t I deserve to look nice if I weigh more than I wish?” The second took place a few days later on a Saturday morning. “Why is it forbidden in American culture to like my body the way it is?” These questions rattled my very being. I cannot count the number of times my friends and I ripped on our bodies as a way to connect to each other. I cannot count the number of hairdressers who have complimented me on my beautiful curly hair only to add without taking a breath, that I probably hated it and wished it to be straight. And I, being too embarrassed to admit that I actually liked something about myself, neglected to correct their incorrect assumption. I cannot count the number of times that I’ve tried on a poorly designed piece of clothing and blamed my thighs or belly for the resulting reflection. I cannot count the number of times I’ve perused a fashion magazine only to feel inadequate. BUT NO MORE. I am now a REVOLUTIONARY WOMAN. I will no longer blindly follow an ugly path paved by insecurity and pettiness. I will love my body the way it is. This doesn’t mean that I won’t try to improve it through eating right and exercising, but I will no longer succumb to the idea that I am flawed because I am me. I am beautiful. I am strong. I love that my body is capable of bearing and nursing children. I love that my butt sticks out because it is muscular. I love my curly hair. I love my moles. I love my scars: each one has a very interesting history. I love the color of my eyes. I have beautiful feet and long fingers. I have sexy muscular legs. I have a great curvy shape. I love…love…love my body.
Now read example 2 again. Look for my patterns.
How did I begin?
Do you see repetition?
Incomplete sentence lists?
Descriptive imagery rather than statements?
Tomorrow we’ll apply what we learned and you’ll be writing! Get a good night’s sleep!