A Crack in the Sidewalk: Journaling


by Barbara Rosenthal

— NYC, Nov. 1, 2017. Welcome back again to this monthly column. Looks like the way it began last month is the way it will go every month. That particular incidents will trigger the topics, some of which were listed in that September column. What pulled my trigger this month, for a column on keeping a journal, was a startling communiqué to my publisher, Joseph Quintela, by an investigative reporter from the Italian daily, La Repubblica, Andrea Lattanzi. Seems that a 1967 photograph of me turned up in an envelope of bullets excavated from an abandoned munitions factory in the mountains of Tuscany, with a rifle tied to the JFK assassination.

The envelope, with “Warren Commission” markings, had been brought to the newspaper by one Gianlucca Iori, the director of the regional archaeological museum. The reporter wanted to know what I could tell him. We had a dozen long email exchanges and an hour’s Skype interview. His article will be published soon. But it was my 50 years of journal-keeping that set the record straight.

I want to recommend the practice, and write now, perhaps even dryly, about methodologies. And parallel work-books. And parallel calendars. And tools such as handwriting or computers. And the different ways the voices of a line of written language make me write them down. And what the differences might be in thinking the words “diary,” “journal,” “notebook,” and whose diaries, journals, notebooks I have loved to read over the years. Who knows what will become of everyone’s past and everyone’s future in the future?

Try these 10 things:

  1. Get a good quality hardbound blank sketch-book, easy to carry around. And a swiftly-flowing ink pen with a thin-point. You can keep a parallel “Keyboard Journal” if you want to.
  2. On the inside cover, write what to do if it’s lost and found. Then start a fresh page with the date, including the year. Try to keep the volume with you. If something perks your notice, or something interesting happens, listen for a “journal voice” to tell you what you are seeing or experiencing, and write it down.
  3. Write down anything — but don’t think about what to write — just keep your brain open for a voice of something that wants you to write it down. Think in terms of “writing it down,” not “writing.”
  4. If the “journal voice” comes, and it’s actual “writing,” such as poetry or literature, etc., keep separate notebooks. If the “voice” is a direction for a task, or shopping need or appointment, or note to yourself — keep separate workbooks, project books, calendars, in separate volumes.
  5. Think of the double page of that blank sketch book as a flat surface like a blackboard. You can write different things on different parts of the pages, you can box things, you can leave space to develop thoughts later if one thought leads to another very quickly. You can make drawings (but you might want to keep a separate drawing book).
  6. Don’t write for a reader. If you write about yourself, don’t explain yourself if you already know the explanation. If you find yourself using the word “I” or writing in complete sentences, you are probably violating this rule.
  7. Use real names and spell them out. Don’t lie (but you might want to keep a parallel “true secrets” or “burn upon death” volume).
  8. When you reach about 70 years old, find a good archive to house them. Mine will be in the Special Collections / Hunt Library of Carnegie-Mellon University, my alma mater.
  9. Recommended reading: Gauguin, Camus, Nin, Ionesco, Proust (in that order).
  10. Feel free to violate all rules that don’t fit your realities. (Maybe not only just in journaling…)

See you all back here in January!

  1. NOTE: If you would like to follow the ongoing story by LaRepubblica of what Barbara Rosenthal’s photo at age 20 was doing with the bullets, images of the pages from Journal 1968, a video of the 2-screen Skype interview, and the claims of the Tuscan archaeologic museum director presenting evidence for the JFK’s assassination “second shooter theory,” despite the evidence presented by Rosenthal’s high school classmate, Thomas Mallon, about Oswald’s rifle, click here: http://www.emedialoft.org/artistspages/ProjectPage-Journals.htm



About the author:

Barbara Rosenthal is an idiosyncratic New York artist/writer/performer whose latest novel, Wish for Amnesia (Deadly Chaps Press, 2017) explores themes of innocence, esthetics, thought and corruption. She is particularly interested in the intersection of art and life.

WIKIPEDIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Rosenthal

WEBSITE: http://www.barbararosenthal.org