Journaling Interview: Colin Edwards

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I’ve got another installation for you in the Journaling Interviews series.

If you believe that journaling is a new or modern phenomenon, think again. This interview is with Colin Edwards, a retired Brit who has been at it for more than half a century. Colin lives in Margate on the Kent coast.

He’s a fascinating fellow and you’re in for a real treat! And now, heeeere’s Colin…

how did you get started journaling?

I had no choice! When I went to sea as a deck apprentice on oil tankers, one of the many rules was that I had to maintain a “personal log”. This was checked each week during the Captain’s “Sunday Inspection” of the entire ship. The last gift that my Dad ever bought me, just before I left home, was a leather bound quarto size book that was about an inch thick and incredibly heavy.

Even so, it travelled the world with me for four years, as I wrote a page or two per week. I clearly recall where and when he bought that book, which must have cost him at least a day’s wages, so that was another reason why I felt obliged to use it well.

how long have you been journaling?

I started when I joined my first ship in January 1956 so, as we do this interview in 2010 the answer must be 54 years. I find it hard to believe too.

how often do you write?

Usually every day but it doesn’t seem any big deal to miss a day or three if the mood isn’t right. Most daily entries run to about 350 words and I write small.

do you prefer morning or night?

Definitely the mornings. I start each dawn with energetic enthusiasm but by mid-afternoon the batteries have run down to siesta level. I don’t know if it is cause and effect that, until I quit smoking cigarettes three years ago, I was a night person.

do you have a preferred journal or notebook?

Over the years there have been many. I have never really enjoyed spiral bound formats and, for a long time, I used whatever hard back A4 books I could find. Then someone gave me a Moleskine pocket book.

When I had to buy replacements and learnt their high cost, I used a variety of cheaper versions. Then I discovered Rhodia A5 ‘Webbies’ at an internet supplier who was clearing old stock at 30% discount. I bought three! I particularly enjoy the feel of their slightly cushioned covers.

do you use journaling prompts, free writing or a combination?

Whatever feels good at the time. We live near the sea and sometimes an idea will float into my mind when I am walking into town along the beach. There is never a shortage of ideas and, as far as I can recall, I’ve never used any formal prompts.

have you ever found it necessary to take a break from journaling?

Which would you like? I stopped during the break up of my first marriage when, determined to make a clean sweep I took all my personal stuff to the rubbish tip [including those earliest journals, photos, everything] and started over. I stopped again when my home was repossessed following redundancy and bankruptcy. It was not all bad news as I am now living with my first wife again and we are both really happy.

has journaling contributed to any important changes or events in your life?

Yes. By keeping my writing abilities [and mind] alive it certainly helped to land me a fantastic four year job as a business magazine editor at an age when my contemporaries were either retiring or dying or both.

what has surprised you most about journaling?

It is when I look back over the pages and see how the handwriting says almost as much as the actual words. It is uniform, small and neat when I am writing from a good and contented mind. Larger and more jagged when I’ve been worried or tense and probably using the journal to calm me down.

what is the biggest journaling challenge that you have had to overcome?

A feeling that the time I spent journaling is selfish. I never write when my wife is around and we could be sharing ‘together time’. This isn’t to do with secrecy issues, it IS to do with respect and love.

what is your biggest journaling roadblock or hurdle?

I tried keeping a journal on a computer but it just didn’t feel right. There is something magical about the synergy between thoughts, words, hand, pen and notebook. It’s like an energy that doesn’t exist at keyboard level.

any advice for a journaling newbie?

If you get the urge and it feels good, just do it. There is no right or wrong, only the way that feels right to you. There is no failure or success, only an outcome that you measure against your own expectations. Who are you to say that your expectations were correct anyway?

If you stumble along the way, that’s OK. Think how many times you landed on your bottom when you were learning to walk as an infant, but you still tried and tried again. If journaling isn’t fun for you, give it a break and come back again next year.

anything else you would like to add?

I love the cliché that “too much analysis causes paralysis.” Don’t get too anal about why you journal because you don’t need a reason.

Don’t worry about who will read it, you may never know and it doesn’t matter and, in any case, it is none of your business what other people think. Their thoughts are theirs so don’t try to change them. It is easier to change your own beliefs and attitudes.

Each day you can decide whether to be happy or miserable … surely no sane person would volunteer for misery.

Thanks a million to Colin for participating in this interview!

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