My Journal: Messy and Half-Filled

Hey pals,

I wanted to talk about my journal today. I feel like we are brought up with one format for how diaries or journaling is supposed to work. You have to write everyday, you have to expose everything but not, you’re supposed to have juicy secrets and crazy love affairs and everything has to look perfect.

I think (especially now with instagram) that people feel like they have to make everything look perfect, even though it’s just for them. Studyblr is a huge thing now too and social media is all about the aesthetic. When I grew up with the internet, I had facebook for people I knew in real life, instagram wasn’t a thing, twitter wasn’t really something we used… I had a tumblr under a name that wasn’t me. I fabricated a person (except it wasn’t, everything I wrote was me and how I felt) so no one would find it and know it was me. Everyone in my life had a different name or I only used their first name’s initial. I blogged about all the horrible ugly things that were inside my head as a teenager because therapy was more stigmatised than it is today and even if you had therapy they weren’t very nice people most of the time. My blog was my online diary, a real one was too much pressure and tumblr had loads of posts and pictures that described how I felt more than I was able to.

Diaries or journals have always been this teen girl media thing, a way to tell the story of the protagonist of a novel or film and they always looked perfect. Pretty notebooks, perfect handwriting, even a great hiding place or lock system.

They are more than what we are taught they are. Yeah, sure, it’s great to make it look pretty (especially if that part makes you excited about doing it) but this perfectionism has held people back. I’ve known people who can never ever write on the first page of a notebook in case they make a mistake, even if it was a rough notebook. It’s hard to get past that feeling, but remember you do this for you.

My journal that I’ve been writing in since my graduation was a tool for maintaining my mental health. I moved away from my therapist that I really liked and who had really helped me get to the bottom of a few things and I didn’t want to stop ‘talking’ like that entirely. Yes, I write in it everyday (if I forget or am too busy, I try to catch up) but no, it’s not pretty. The outside is nice but I fucked up the front cover because my pen smudged. My handwriting (if you’re new here) is UGLY. Especially if I have a lot to write or a limited time. I also use it to experiment with designs and drawings for when I want to experiment with bullet journaling.

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But the important part is to chronologise my life. I want something to look back on from this period of my life to see how far I’ve come. For a more immediate reason, I keep track of symptoms in my journal. I talk about my sleep, my fatigue, pain, depression or anxiety, mood swings, diet and exercise, anything I try, all of it. I’ve learned that you do need to keep track somewhere, if it ever becomes important you have it in there. I’m experimenting with all sorts of things to try and better my physical health and to see if it helps my mental health too. And if I’ve done a lot, I write down everything I did that day and feel proud of myself for managing, for succeeding. I even write if I didn’t do anything that day and how I feel. There’s no fear in this journal of not being pretty enough or perfect enough.

I mean sure, one day when I write my memoir I’ll probably quote from it but it is not a thing to be edited. It is my truth of now. Right now, I forgot to fill it in today and I don’t want to go downstairs to get it coz it’s late and I’m tired and as comfortable as I can be after an exercise class. So I’ll do it tomorrow and write about the pain I felt today and where, I’ll talk about how annoying this exercise class was and how I’m not sure I want to go back, I’ll talk about managing to write this!

Don’t be afraid of scribbling things out, don’t be afraid of your less-than-perfect handwriting, don’t be afraid of writing about those ugly feelings inside you, because this whole thing is for you to share and to verbalise things you wouldn’t normally be able to.

This is my journal and its imperfection makes it perfect for me.

~ Artie

Handwriting Sample & Dyslexia

Hey pals,

Browsing through the internet, staring longingly at beautiful stationary and even more beautiful handwriting, I came across someone’s handwriting sample. So, I don’t know, I wanted to do it and discuss my handwriting a little with you guys.

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Can I just say how impressed with myself I am for this photo? It looks like a scan!

Anyway, here’s my writing sample. I want to talk about the big ugly scribble first. Why didn’t I just do it again? Because I wanted to make this realistic.

I’m dyslexic.

What has that got to do with handwriting? Well, everything actually. My brain doesn’t work as seamlessly as others when it comes to anything written. That includes numbers, letters, English, other languages, all kinds of words or written communication.

I had a re-diagnosis test for literacy the year I started uni (actually it might have been technically the one before? Either way, 2014/2015) I learned that my reading speed is ‘average’ and ‘university’ reading speed was two speeds higher than mine! And I found out that my comprehension and short term memory wasn’t super great either, it was better with things I actually liked and found interesting (shocker!) and since this test I’ve found it deteriorates with stress, sleep deprivation, boredom… I’ve never been a good sight reader either (though actually I found I was quite good compared to my university classmates?? This may be where my drama training helped me develop skills I lacked).

My brain skips words, reads pages and pages without taking any of it in, ‘learns’ without retaining (hi, what’s a verb?? says the Creative Writing degree graduate…), it swaps round letters and misreads 90% of fonts (BECAUSE THEY DON’T MAKE THE LETTERS LOOK DIFFERENT ENOUGH!), assumes words based on the beginning and ending letter… learning how to spell sucks (you don’t need to know how many spelling mistakes I made whilst writing this post alone), and it generally works faster or slower when it’s most inconvenient. Oh, and don’t get me started on trying to figure out how I learn best, coz it changes every time I think I’ve got it.

Now I’m getting to the point! If I try really hard (which I did) I can make my handwriting look somewhat passable and legible. But writing notes… my writing is kinda ugly (see the sentence I wrote out above? That’s still far nicer than my usual writing). So the big ugly scribbles are where my brain went too fast for my hand. I also mix lowercase letters with capitals all over the place, I’ve heard this is actually really common amongst people with dyslexia. I don’t have the capacity to write in cursive, I’ve tried many times and it looks God awful even though it was part of teaching when I was in primary school.

I struggle using a keyboard (note: I still can’t touch-type due to my dyslexia, I just can’t remember where the letters are) and though I love writing in public or having study dates, everyone knows when I’ve made a dumb typo. There’s lots of head-shaking, eye rolls, and most often face-pulling.

This post started as one thing in my head and became something else after I wrote up my sample.

My handwriting is ugly, but not in the typical and somewhat cool way where it looks like chicken scratch and a doctor or university lecturer could have done it. That kind of ugly handwriting is linked with intelligence… which is the opposite of how I felt growing up with dyslexia. I still feel pretty stupid to this day sometimes because of my dyslexia. Everything has been more work.

If anyone reading this relates to what I’ve said, let me know your experiences and if you’d like to hear more about my battle against dyslexia. Or if you can see some of the above signs in your children, I suggest taking them to be tested and really push for the extra help (not everywhere is good at providing support when necessary).

I hope you enjoyed reading this spontaneous piece.

~ Artie