Dear Diary: Journaling Through the Pandemic
Talia Argondezzi, director of the writing and speaking program at Ursinus, is bringing together Ursinus staff to form a summer writing group.
The project was inspired by a New York Times column titled, “Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary.” The group, which is tasked with journaling and recording their thoughts about the pandemic, is scheduled to meet through video chat twice a month to discuss the process.
“People usually think of writing as a way to communicate, to take what you already know and help someone else to know it too. But that’s not how I think of writing. I think of it as one of the best ways to access what you think. In other words, you don’t always realize what you know or how you feel until you name it with words. Writing helps you figure out what you think, so in that way, it is not a way to share thoughts, but to find them. Writing is thinking,” Argondezzi shared.
According to Argondezzi, writing during a crisis is important as it gives people a way to process the intensity and novelty of this new experience and the strong emotions that can come with it. It is therapeutic to many people and, although it may never see an audience, it can provide an archive for future generations to look back on and help understand the feelings of individuals at the time.
She also shared some advice for anyone interested in starting writing or journaling for the first time:
- Your writing is worthwhile even if it’s not profound. You don’t need to start with your most brilliant explanations of the meaning of life or your most heartfelt tributes to the people and ideas that matter most to you. Start by describing what you did today.
- Shoot to get words on the page. You’re writing for you. You can even give yourself a timed challenge: set your phone timer for five minutes and type or handwrite without stopping – even if you’re writing gibberish by the end. Then increase your time as you get more comfortable.
- If you’re having trouble finding your voice or striking the right tone, it helps to imagine an audience. Who would you enjoy writing to? Your future self or kids? An old friend? Someone you’ve lost or lost touch with? Or a made-up entity—the personified diary, whose sole purpose is to listen without judgment. There’s a reason the clichéd first line of journal entries is often “Dear Diary.”
- Silence your inner critic. Many writers lose interest quickly because they’re sure what they’re writing is bad. One problem is, we tend to read the final, polished drafts of others, never thinking about how many terrible drafts each masterpiece has been through. Another problem is, we can tend to write for validation, especially if we’ve ever been praised for writing in the past. But once you free yourself from the tendencies to shoot for perfection and to write to please others—and I believe journaling can help with this—the words start to flow. —By Mary Lobo ’15