LifeJournal™ Newsletter – September 2006


  LifeJournal Newsletter
September 2006

I had been away on vacation for several weeks and returned with a broken leg!  I’m lying in bed as I type this, with my left leg in a full cast elevated on pillows as I wait patiently (and some time impatiently) for the bone to heal.  In the meantime, I’m trying to keep myself sane by appreciating the extra time I have to read, play SuDoKu, and write in my journal. And although my physical world has been narrowed to the size of my bedroom, I still have the Internet, the phone, my family, co-workers and friends who visit, DVDs and of course– a mini-refrigerator.

This month’s newsletter contains two articles: One, by Sheila Bender, offers an exercise about how to start writing when you feel life is keeping you from doing so.  The other article is by Jeannie Perrin, a LifeJournal customer, who offers ideas about how to use LifeJournal for genealogy research.

This month’s Mail Bag contains a Q&A about line formatting on journal entries.

Remember to savor the last few days of summer before they slip away!

Ruth Folit
Chronicles Software Company

Table of Contents
An Exercise for Writing When You Feel Life is Keeping You From It by Sheila Bender
ifeJournal as a Genealogy Tool by Jeannie Perrin
Mailbag Q&A: Line Formatting

nd Quotes

An Exercise for Writing When You Feel Life is Keeping You From It by Sheila Bender

It’s hard to believe the world can go on without me while I take time to write. Often, I counteract a feeling that writing is self-indulgent by writing too little and over loading myself with responsibilities away from my desk.  But when I take the time to write, what I’ve done for others becomes very useful.

First, I journal an experience with as many details as I can remember, and then, I apply strategy from the craft of writing.

Here’s an example:

I journaled a description of being in a doctor’s office, where I spend much time now that I am my mother’s health care advocate.  I took care not to put in much about myself beyond the facts of what I saw and heard and made my description as neutral as possible.

Here’s an excerpt from that entry:

Dr. Ottoway’s office is not crowded this morning. One of the office assistants is playing with a toddler in a designated play area, with a sunken square of floor and large plastic primary colored toys.  The little girl is giggling and running out into the main waiting room. The office assistant lures her back with a blue truck. The waiting room chairs are made of blonde wood and pink upholstered cushions. Magazines for adults and children rest neatly against a far held in wooden-slatted racks. Medical records hang with brightly colored tabs in file carts behind the receptionist’s counter. When the nurse swings into the room from a door beside the magazines, she calls, “Penny Sharp? The doctor is ready for you.” Three people look up, two women and one man.

After I completed my description, I conjured a character to drop into that scene from whose point of view I could begin to see things with some tension– a daughter who was not willingly there:

She was so relieved that Dr. Ottoway’s office was not crowded. She thought how she’d tell her friends she had no idea really why she had said yes to accompanying her mother to this appointment. But inside she did know why she’d done it.  Doing it would give her a chance to show that she had gone out of her way, staying over a night after a Sunday afternoon visit with her mother. She hadn’t wanted to stay over.  She was much too busy to not wake up in her own bed and get going, long vacations she blocked out months ahead excluded.

As she sat waiting, she thought about the calls she’d make to figure out one more stretch of lodging for the trip to Australia only a few months away.  One of the office assistants was playing with a toddler at the back of the room in a small sunken square of floor with large plastic primary colored toys. The little girl’s giggling and running, almost out of the toy area, were very distracting.

Thank God the office assistant lured her back into the center of the play area with a blue truck.  She didn’t need a toddler coming over to start her mother reaching into her purse for some treat or other to engage the child’s interest. She glanced over at her mother sitting quietly in the waiting room chair beside her, a square-ish blonde wood and pink upholstered affair, not nearly as modern as the stainless steel and leather chairs in the city doctor’s office. When she saw the magazines stored neatly in racks against the far wall, she got up to find one that might have travel articles. She’d been thinking of the Caribbean or Fiji or maybe some islands off Spain for a next trip.

Just then, the toddler’s mother approached the waiting room from the exam room side. She had to wait a moment while another patient and the nurse walked through the doorway into the exam room area. She knew how that mother felt; life was filled with waiting for someone ahead of you to just get out of the way.

Now, I thought, that’s a conflicted person I can work with in writing a story. 

If you want to give this exercise a try, start by promising yourself you’ll journal some scenes from your current life. Do that writing. Then come back and put someone who behaves differently than you right into the situations.  You’ll be refreshed taking the time you need to be creative on the page.
Sheila Bender is the content partner for LifeJournal for Writers.  She is the author of several books on writing, is a master writing coach, and has an online magazine at

LifeJournal as a Genealogy Tool by Jeannie Perrin

The article’s author, Jeannie Perrin, writes: “Fifty years ago, I started my first journal in a pink diary that locked with a golden key. My interest in journal writing and genealogy stems from my grandmother’s journals, which I watched her write in as a child. The journals were given to me when she passed away. I asked her many times as a youngster what she was writing about in the little book and she always answered the same, “Life.” A fellow writer introduced me to the joys of using LifeJournal about 5 years ago and writing in my LifeJournal came as naturally to me as writing in the little pink diary.”

Ms. Perrin continues:

I started doing research on my genealogy after my grandmother passed away. I found old handwritten journals in a box of pictures and things that my Aunt Billie mailed to me. In that box, I alsofound genealogy research done in 1957. I became interested in the genealogy because along with the pedigree charts it had stories, in journal form. I decided that I wanted to keep a written journal of my genealogy along with the genealogy program that I use to pass on to future generations.

Disaster struck when I transferred everything to a new computer. I did not back up my genealogy program properly and all that was left of months of research was my LifeJournal. By searching my LifeJournal, I was able to duplicate the lost genealogy files.

When I started my genealogy for the second time, I found a new way of saving all the information for future use. This time I printed hard copies of my genealogy files to keep in notebooks and I decided to keep all the information in my LifeJournal under a new writer that I named “Genealogy.”

Using LifeJournal as a tool for my genealogy research has made it much easier to find all the information that I want to enter my genealogy files. I can:

  • Import and export notes to and from note pad
  • List surnames under the topics “Family” in the “Topics List.”
  • Rename topics in the “Topics List”: message boards, correspondence, records of birth, death, marriage,military
  • Search: surnames, research, correspondence, message boards, family members, records,
  • reports
  • Import pictures
  • Insert quotes
  • Print entries

Through using LifeJournal I found a way to merge the past with the present for the future.

Mail Bag Q & A: Line Formatting

Q. Can I adjust the line spacing within a journal entry?

A. Yes, you can. Open a journal entry and right click in the body of the entry. Select “paragraph” and then the “Indent and Space” tab.  You can adjust the line spacing by clicking the dropdown menu in “Line Spacing” and selecting any of the choices: single, 1.5, double, and multiple.

End Quote:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” –Marcel Proust

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