As we approach the start of Knitting Season, I thought I’d write a few posts about how I use (and have used) journals. I imagine many of us think about journals as deeply personal spaces, and yet my most formative experience of journal keeping was collective and not individual. (Because this story belongs to others as well as myself I can’t share images of the journals (which I have kept) or too much detail about their content).

Between the ages of 12 and 15 I, like many girls in my school, had a “thing” for a particular type of small, pocket-sized hardbacked notebook that could then be bought cheaply at Woolworths. There was just something about the binding (so radically different to our flimsy school exercise books) that made these journals feel extraordinarily special. And if the binding of these tiny books made them into indulgent objects, so writing in them became a secret luxury, completely different to the writing we did for class or homework.

Our journals were personal, and to some extent hidden (they weren’t ever seen by teachers or families) but they weren’t private, because we were writing for each other, for an audience beyond ourselves. We all swapped and shared our journals with our closest female friends. We forged firm bonds by communicating with each other through the written word and by participating in each other’s pages, each other’s spaces, each other’s worlds. Thus, the pages of our journals became shifting, ad-hoc fields of collective composition. A boring chemistry class was simply an invitation for happy secret journaling, as we wrote messages and jokes and stories, passed a notebook under the desk, read each contribution and added our own in turn. We became extraordinarily adept at moving a small journal around a classroom beneath the teacher’s eye, and the continual threat of discovery somehow made our tiny, hardbacked notebooks even more numinous as objects. And the journals had a communicative and collective function beyond the school classroom too. For, on one particular evening, we’d each write a few pages in our own journal, then over the following few evenings, we’d take home the journals of our friends, adding to their narrative, or providing commentary upon it. Journals might be borrowed over a holiday, or, on one occasion when a friend moved away, put in the post, swapped over a long distance and timeframe, then carefully returned.

I still have a few of these collective journals and looking over them today, much of their content is personal detail of the inconsequential kind that you’d expect from a group of young teenage girls. But there’s a lot in there that’s very sharp and very funny too in a way that reminds me of Searle and Willan’s Molesworth, without the Latin or unacknowledged privilege. Writing collectively (and, I suppose, competitively, as we vied to be either gripping or amusing) we composed creative narratives over several weeks of consecutive evening composition. We’d quietly contain a bullying classmate by making her the anti-heroine of a made-up play in which she became the proprietor of a sinister and badly-run hotel. Or our over-enthusiastic geology teacher might be cast as God in an alternative creation story, his wild exhortations conjuring volcanoes and mighty tectonic shifts. And alongside these works of the imagination we articulated the predictable, rapidly shifting allegiances, small jealousies, beliefs and questions, of young teenage girls. Do animals have souls?

What I find interesting about the journals I shared with my friends between the ages of 12 to 15 is that they contain very little of the heterosexual attractions, connections, and betrayals that formed a new and intriguing part of our day-to-day existence. Our journals were homosocial environments and the boys in our class knew it, because they found our notebooks absolutely fascinating. We girls guarded our journals jealously, though the hands of boys were continually attempting to pilfer them, grabbing at us as we slipped them between our bodies and under desks. We spent all day surrounded by and engaging with boys in ways that were becoming increasingly complex, but the pages of these notebooks were just for us. Our journals were exclusive girlhood spaces and there were no boys allowed.

On one occasion my journal was stolen by a boy, who took it home, and, overnight, painstakingly annotated every contribution of one of my participating friends with footnotes in which he articulated his own longing. Now, I myself harboured a secret yearning for this boy. He was the leader of the youth orchestra in which I sat toward the back row of the second violins, and when he came round to my house and played Debussy’s Clair de Lune on our piano the whole earth paused and took a breath. I was his pal, a fellow musician, a fiddle-playing comrade. I’d accepted that I’d be no more to him than that, and I also understood the completeness of his obsession with my friend, because he had told me that the words “still she slept in an azure-lidded sleep” in Keats’ Eve of St Agnes made him think of her. Because I liked this boy, I didn’t mind so very much when he stole my journal, but I did mind him writing in it, and I didn’t like what he wrote. For his scrawl disrupted the integrity of my journals’ female narrative, changing its dynamic from one of friendship to desire. I didn’t care that he thought he loved my friend whose skin was so pale and so transluscent that the blue veins tinged her eyelids, but the pages of my journal were not the space for him to share that. I never shared his annotations with the girl that they concerned, nor showed the pages to the rest of my group of friends. I put what I regarded as my damaged journal to one side, went out to Woolworths at the weekend, and bought a new one.

Given my early experience of collective journaling, was it any coincidence that, a couple of decades later, as a young academic, I developed an obsession with the commonplace books and notebooks kept by eighteenth-century girls? A few years ago, I spent a lot of time in some wonderful American research libraries reading these collective journals, the vast majority of which were kept by Quaker women, during the Revolutionary War or just after. Reading these journals as a historian, I was primarily interested in the content of these women’s writing, but I also became fascinated by the similarities between my own experience of collective journaling and theirs. For, like my friends and I, these young women found their voices as individual writers by producing shared narratives of friendship. Like us, their books would be passed between groups of girls being taught collectively; between private homes in the same town or area; or occasionally between friends divided by long distances. Two centuries and countless differences separated these girls from me and my friends, but, just like us, they wrote plays and poems and stories. Like us, much of what they wrote was completely inconsequential, but some of it was also incisive or funny, imaginative or engaging. Like us, they kept their books from boys while, just like us, boys hovered at the margins of their narratives. In the all-female spaces of our journals we both responded to contemporary events and difficult ideas. We asked big questions. And whether we were born in the eighteenth century or the twentieth, the pages of our journals were places for us to find our identities, to communicate with each other, and to celebrate our female collectivity. Journaling enabled us girls to forge ourselves together on paper and through the written word.

Do any of you have experience of collective journaling? I’d love to hear about it.

63 thoughts on “Collective journaling

  1. I have kept many journals over the years, but never had a shared one. So this for me is a warm up for the shared knitter’s journal that Kate will be hosting. I am musing about the difference between writing longhand and typing. My cursive used to be pretty, now it’s uneven, as if I’ve almost forgotten how to form the letters. I am sitting here in front of the computer, making notes by hand in my knitting journal, whilst knitting a cable pattern, and intermittently typing on the computer keyboard.
    Knitting is integrated into my daily life, much more so than sewing at the machine. And I think drawing and writing by hand are a deeper part of my creative process than typing on this computer. I didn’t learn to type until high school and have never been really fast or accurate. I am looking forward to writing more by hand in the journal, sketching, and writing to you all. Annie

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  2. When I was in high school my two best friends and I kept a collective journal (although we didn’t know that’s what it was called). We just used standard spiral-bound notebooks and we covered the front of them in all our favorite stickers. Some of the fun of those journals was in the decorating of the covers. The three of us would take turns, usually no more than a day or two, and write pages of our deepest thoughts, dreams, and desires. Then the book was passed to the next person. You have me wondering whatever happened to those notebooks…

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  3. Back in about 1985, a friend and I started passing notes in boring classes. Then by gradual degrees it became an ongoing script with characters, some invented by us, some borrowed from books or real life. All these years later, it’s still going, but has evolved to be self-contained stories, often parodying a genre, in which we do chunks turn and turn about until we deem it finished. There’s been a Cold War espionage story (Assignment in Siberia), an Egyptian treasure hunt, something we only later realised was a James Bond pisstake, film noir detective, sword and sorcery fantasy (I found a list of cliches to avoid and tried to hit them all), Midsomer Murders, a mash-up of Fawlty Towers and And Then There Were None, and in the latest iteration our characters are travelling between the fictional worlds of a whole assortment of books, including Cold Comfort Farm, Anne of Green Gables, Brontes, Jules Verne and the Wizard of Oz.

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      1. It’s been great fun, as we’ve always played it as comedy. I’m currently working on ‘Cruise Ship on Fire’, which incorporates every ridiculous disaster movie trope there is.

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  4. Thank you for this thoughtful post!

    I wonder if you know about the nineteenth-century collaborative authorships such as “Michael Field” (two women publishing jointly under a male pseudonym) or Emily & Dorothea Gerard or Somerville/Ross? They raise lots of interesting questions about authorship, gender and authority, and women writing in the world. There is now a body of scholarship on their writings, as well as the primary source material. I thought these examples might fall later than your research and of course prior to your own experiences :) and if not known might be welcome.

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  5. This is such a lovely post, with many thoughtful comments. I wanted to share my experience of the current practice of collective journaling which happens among a group of middle school students at my school. I’m an English language arts teacher, and a group of students approached me last year about forming an Art and Literature club. They set up a google doc, share it with everyone, and they all contribute. In addition to their own thoughts and ideas, they post links to images and websites to comment on. And the running comments-thread functions like marginalia. This is definitely not limited to club time. They all open the doc any time they are online, whatever class they may be in, and add or comment. From such a jumble they created their first publication in December.
    Collective journaling is alive and well, if very different in form. Thank you for this series of posts. You’ve inspired me to take the journaling plunge.
    Because I’m one of those people who are afraid of messing up a good blank page, I’ve started by writing on other papers and adding them in using washi tape. I hope that once I gain confidence, I’ll be ready to write directly in my book. This feels silly, but it beats paralysis.

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    1. Really, you have to think that google docs creates a collective journaling session over and over again. It’s a huge cultural change for people being educated on computers (i.e., turning in all work, or at least all written work, over a computer). We don’t use it much at my office but my partner reflects on how it’s the first obvious move for any grad students working together, and my kids don’t know how to create any other kind of doc.

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      1. Yes, my 11 year old son has just started doing this sort of thing with his friend – editing each other’s work, commenting on the day, making up nonsense. It’s brilliant.

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  6. Your journal sounds magical. I wrote down my thoughts in high school but they weren’t anything interesting…now I have this blog. Although, it doesn’t provide the same level of confidence that you would find in a journal. I think journaling is the sign of a writer-to-be!

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  7. I remember in middle school, around 7th grade, reading a novel that had a slam book in it, where the bullies wrote mean things about the main character. I suggested to my group of friends that we do that, only we would write nice things about each other. And we did, and it was lovely. But our math teacher saw it one day, and we all got in trouble. Thinking back on it, I’m glad that she was looking out for bullying, but at the time it seemed horribly unfair.

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  8. I’ve never engaged in collective journaling, but it sounds amazing and a great way to create community at a time when so much conspires to pit young women against each other. I do keep a journal, but terribly private, and I frequently consider burning my old ones. Maybe it will free up some psychic space.

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  9. I don’t personally have experience with this types of journaling. I tried to do this with a friend when I moved away but her mother wouldn’t let her share her writing in this way.

    Here is a story from 5th grade Catholic school. There was a girl who repeated 5th grade so she was “older” we were all a bit fearful of her worldly ways. She had a journal of sort that didn’t last long in Catholic school. It had a special name which triggered fear in the nuns eyes! The nuns got wind of this journala and were on a serious witch hunt for this notebook. Each page was set up with a question and you would write your answer on that page. It was for girls only and the boys wanted to see it as much as the nuns. Many of the questions were about boys and yes “SEX” and many questions about if you had your period yet. Obviously all the “SEX” talk had to be stopped in the nuns eyes and this nasty book had to be found! I remember seeing it a bit and being pretty shocked as an 11 year old. This girl had older friends so it was mostly about them.

    Once journaling now: texting, snap chat, instagram . . . The list goes on and although we use all of this technology to chat, visit, share I still love a paper and pencil journal of sorts.

    Yes the nuns got the notebook/journal and the girl was suspended for a few days and this was in the early 1970s.

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  10. Oh! Thank you for this article! I had forgotten about several years when a few friends and I kept a circulating notebook where we took turns adding drawings, commentary and witticisms. I’d love to get a look at what we thought was funny and/or clever in those days.

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  11. Like many others I have never heard of collective journaling, but it is a fascinating idea and I very much enjoyed your writing of it. I seldom keep a journal, but have been going through old family records and found two journals from the 1800’s: one a journal of a young man from small town Iowa and his travels to and experiences of his first semester at Yale, the other a journal written during the Civil War of another relative traveling from his home in Iowa to visit his brother in Illinois…not a long distance now, but then involving trains, a river boat and horses. Such insight into another time and place! I am so glad these were not destroyed (even though one discusses the bedbugs in the train bed…eeww!)

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  12. At age 15 I kept a private journal. My mother had died when I was 11 and my father went away on an extended business trip of about 6 months, during this time I lived with friends of the family. I was dreadfully unhappy and I remember that my journal was the only friend I could trust. It grew to be a very fat book as I added keepsakes to the pages, some quite bulky like shells from a day at the beach. When my father returned and I moved back home I couldn’t risk him finding and reading it so I ripped every page into tiny shreds.. it took several hours and every tear was painful. I have often started new journals but I am aware that I write with the knowledge that someone else may one day read it. There is therefore less honesty than in my first journal. I can’t imagine the sharing of thoughts with friends as you describe and think that you’re so very lucky to have experienced this. On re-reading what I’ve written just now it sounds a bit sad.. so I should add that I have had a wonderfully rich life as a grownup with many friends.. and I am now corresponding with my grand daughter who although still young has shown an interest in expressing herself through the written word – slow mail of course 😁

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    1. Jane, what a bittersweet story!
      An idea: right now, BEFORE her handwriting and thinking grow up, buy a journal to share with your granddaughter. Make it a lovely one, bright or decorative with good quality paper. Write a message on the first pages, then send it off with a stamped, addressed return envelope inside. (Maybe with a wee gift like a special pen?). Perhaps she will write back, and you can repeat the process, and over time, back and forth, you will collect a beautiful record of a shared “conversation.”

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  13. When I was in college I was part of a very tight drama group. We were all studying different things but we were brought together by our love of the stage. We spent many many hours together and had many inside jokes and stories that made absolutely no sense to anyone who had not been there.

    We, of course, thought we were hilarious and we never tired of telling the same stories over and over again. My best friend really wanted to find some way to preserve this collective communication so she started putting together a collective notebook she called our “Quote book”. (I suppose it was kind of like a commonplace book of which I have kept many over the years except that we were quoting and commenting on ourselves.) She recorded all the funny moments, punch lines and inside jokes that she could and then invited us to remember and record our favourites or correct her recollections. It wasn’t quite passed around like yours was but it was a great repository of our many hours of conversation into the wee hours of the morning when fatigue makes everything extra silly and hilarious.

    Even now, she will take it out like an old matriarch pulling out the family Bible. She opens it and pages through it and says “Do you remember…” It’s a great way to start a very pleasant hour of reminiscing and we still quote these things to each other a couple decades later. I have moved very far away and everyone has moved on and we rarely see each other but if someone throws out the phrase “a pink Cadillac and sequins” it will start a peel of laughter and a lot of story telling.

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  14. I recently met up with a school friend whom I had not had contact with for over forty years. Her brother was my boyfriend for a while. One blissful afternoon we sat together and read our diary entries out to each other for the same days in the 1960s. We were delighted to find how often we mentioned each other and wrote about those teenage parties from our different perspectives.Oh, how we laughed and giggled with affection for our teenage selves and each other then and now.

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  15. I didn’t journal with my friends- but one friend of a mine was busy writing a novel, which she shared with me, and on which I commented, a strangely prescient novel in which the world was governed by power blocks led by paranoid dictators…. however, we did learn the Russian alphabet so we found wrote notes to each other that no-one else could follow and these flew back and forth across our classrooms…. Very useful it has proved, in holidays in Rusdia and Ukraine!

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  16. At school (1960s), my group of friends used to leave little notes for each other in the cabinets in the science classrooms, particularly chemistry and biology. The notes and responses flew back and forth over several terms (we all had science lessons at different times of the week) – so it was not “journaling” but more like a correspondence that any of us could add to. Completely ephemeral. There were jokes, comments about the science classes we were enduring, arrangements to meet up, and so on. I wish I had done as your correspondent Jennifer Wilson did, and taken in my knitting instead!

    Later, from about age 18 to 22, I was deeply and hopelessly in love and kept a secret journal. As your correspondent Brian said, “a place for free and full expression of my unique individual torment”. When I opened it again years later it was just as bad as it sounds, and I finally burned it 30-odd years ago, so no-one else could be hurt by it.

    I have kept a couple of journals with my sister, much more joyful and enjoyable. We usually do it when we go on holiday together, taking up as many pages as each of us likes and passing it back to the other. We don’t however read each other’s pages until we’ve completed our own. Your practice actually sounds much more involving – you responded directly to each other’s writing. What we’ve enjoyed doing is seeing the contrasts, for example in how we’ve each experienced the day or an event quite differently, even though we’ve lived it together.

    How interesting!

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  17. I have just had a bit of breathing space in the family Christmas preparation season and this is the perfect post. We are giving our granddaughter (10) a locked leather bound notebook (just what I would have loved—I am a stationery addict) at her request. She is already writing long stories, sub Enid Blyton, starring herself and her loyal gang of classmates (in real life I doubt they are so amenable) and I hope to find ways of introducing her to the idea of commonplace books which some of us in the family keep. I have rejected my earlier idea of slipping random post-it notes in, because on reflection I think it would intrude into her private world and make it less “hers”.
    I would also second the recommendation for “Can Any Mother Help Me?”, and mention that The Mount School, a Quaker girls’ school in York, also had a group diary circulating in the early 20thC though I am a bit hazy on the details. And for a time my 2 daughters, a British friend and an American friend all had 4 diaries that they swapped after the American girl moved back home—they were in their late teens. And I wonder whether similar things exist using the internet in a positive way, not “social media” which seems to have gone awry?
    As you can see, your post has opened up lots of avenues to continue to think about over the festive season and beyond.

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  18. I was very close to my mother on the level of adult friends instead of parent/ child. Our weekly letters began when I left home for college and carried on for years. At some point I had the notion of shared journaling, in addition to the newsy letters. We’d each keep the journal for maximum one month. Instead of personal news and clothes and so on, sometimes we’d set a challenge: Write about your favorite childhood doll [requested by me, because my mother had made my own fav doll, a repro wooden peg doll for whom I created a massive wardrobe of tiny clothes.] Or describe your wedding day/ describe your prom dress/ what is your favorite NYC memory? etc. We’d also describe holidays in detail, vacations, recipes, books. Drawings were okay, photos less desirable but accepted. The little journals went back and forth from Long Island or Brooklyn to Chicago or Cape Cod for at least ten years, til my mom’s death. I keep them in a box…but have never looked at them again. I began writing my blog shorty after her passing, as a sort of substitute version of those shared journals. (She’d have hated my blog, the public-ness of it all though.)

    lizzy dillingham

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  19. In Jr. High (middle school) back in the 60’s (in the U.S.), we’d pass journals called “The Grand Slam,” only they weren’t
    a “slam” against anyone, more just a collective naming of our individual “likes” and “dislikes” to questions –
    most rather trivial. (What’s your favorite color? Your movie star?). Mostly girls participated but I don’t think it was exclusive to girls.
    As for privately sharing notes in the classroom to get through a boring lecture (or share test answers – shame on us!), yes girls did this often and yes, the boys (annoyingly) would often try to confiscate the notes.

    The privately kept journals among all females you’re describing, Kate, reminds me of Lisa See’s novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Do you know of it? It’s a story set in 19th century China when young girls and women were foot-bound and living isolated lives. Young girls were paired with a friend in perhaps another village and the two would write in a secret language exclusive to females, exchanging pictures and stories as a way to better endure their isolation and share their dreams. The men didn’t know the language and apparently, didn’t care. Guess it was enough to have their women’s feet bound, along with their independence. But, it created a spiritual connection that grew from early girlhood.

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  20. Not quite the same, but in high school I took a series of theatre classes in which we had to keep a journal, which was then collected and read by the teacher. I put very different things in there knowing it would be read by her, whom I very much wanted to impress. And since my friends were all keeping the same journal, we did a fair amount of sharing – although I always hated it when someone doodled in the margins of mine.

    I still keep a journal, in the same format as then, although it’s lost a lot by becoming totally private.

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  21. What a different world you describe! It must be a Grammar school thing as I was at a Northern comprehensive school in the late 1980’s and had a close group of friends but this journaling sounds far too highbrow for us! I’m looking forward to opening my club parcel tomorrow evening but as I have never felt the need to keep a private journal (also when I studied art at university I failed the course miserably because of my inability to express myself in journal / sketchbook form) that aspect of it is something that makes me rather nervous…

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  22. I have never been a journal or diary writer, and don’t remember any other girls at my girls grammar school writing journals, but a lot of us were knitters. I always knitted under the bench in chemistry lessons and achieved 7 out of 100 marks for the only chemistry exam I ever sat. But I made a lot of jumpers, and 50 years on I’m still knitting and looking forward to getting a copy of Millarochy Heids for Christmas !

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  23. My very best friend from grade school & I had a notebook we passed back & forth. It was covered in stickers… we have both wondered whatever happened to it & would desperately like to see what we wrote in there. I don’t know which of us got the idea to start it, but we were both voracious readers. Thanks for reminding me of that!

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  24. This is a fascinating piece that I very much enjoyed reading. I was part of a close group of girlfriends at the same age but we did not journal collectively. I have been thinking about why and I suspect it was because we were from very different cultures. That was part of the intrigue and the shared experiences tended to be around food and social and cultural differences in the family. I kept a private journal but it was a particular one. From the age of about ten I slipped notes to myself down the neck of a liqueur bottle I had covered in papier-mâché. I still have the bottle and although I have thought of breaking it to allow the notes their freedom so far I have not. I look forward to the Knitting Season journalling to come.

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  25. I, like a rare few others who commented, had never heard of such a thing! Very intriguing. I lived in the country away from school and others so my contact with the world was in the woods and fields. Thank you for letting me see a different world!

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  26. Yes! At around age thirteen, in the late 1980s, I started a couple of collective notebooks quite similar to yours (though here in the States the preferred model was the black-and-white marbled “composition book”). It’s interesting, though, to consider how differently I thought about it — probably because I was a boy. I had visions of a space for free and full expressions of my unique individual torment. In practice, my friends (male and female) wanted a space for jokes and light chit-chat. The teachers were convinced that it was a “slam book” (i.e., a space for bullying), which it wasn’t, in any way, and it really bothered me that they couldn’t tell the difference. The first notebook, which was named (by my less pretentious friend Michael, for reasons I can’t recall) “Moosehead,” was quite successful. The second, which I insisted on calling “Avant Garde,” was not.

    Is it any surprise that I became a James Boswell scholar?

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  27. I never heard of collective journaling, but reading your story about it, it reminded me of a book I have in my possession. It´s a (Dutch) copy of the book “Can any mother help me?”. It’s about a secret, private, magazine kept by a group of young English mother’s – it started in 1935. They wrote articles and the magazine was sent from one womanto the next on the list.
    They discussed about a lot of things and made notes in the margins of the text. In the 30’s women were forced to step back from their job as soon as they married. These women were intelligent and very bored, they turned to the magazine for intellectual stimulus. You can look it up on amazon: Jenna Bailey is the author.

    Thank you for your wonderful posts.

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  28. Thank you so much for reminding me of the many notebooks a friend and I filled with silly (as we thought then) stories about a group of people, sometimes very similar to classmates and teachers. There are poems and songs in there too, depending on what we were supposed to learn in class ;-) When I re-read it years later, I was amazed about our thoughts and the quality of some of the poems. Funny aside: One of our teachers remarked on our increased attention and participation when we started to write during class ;-)

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  29. I don’t have experience of a group journal, but in my high school Algebra class (an independent study, teacher did not lecture on much in class) there were a group of us who wrote a collective fantasy story. All of us were different characters in the story (I was the Pillar of Salt). It was so much fun. I came across my carbon copy of the finished project a while back and read it. It brought back so many memories of those days.

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  30. What a wonderful post, I love the idea of collective journaling. Many years ago I worked in a charming small bookshop where the owner kept a collective journal by staff members about interesting questions from our customers. We spent quiet moments in the shop reading through the entries and giggling over some of the most amusing moments…now I think of that book and the memories of staff long gone. I can look through those hand written notes and hear their voices, see their smiles. Truly a treasure.

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  31. I have never kept a collective journal at all, in fact I kept no journal until the last five years when I keep an art and a separate writing journal, but they are very much personal.

    I never thought of Molesworth (“chiz, curses, wot am I saying”), one of my favourite childhood books, as dealing covertly with privilege, but yes, I suppose it does. I was myself privileged so I must have thought it normal that Molesworth should live in a world that resembled my own. His very Christian name, Nigel, could only be posh!

    Happy Christmas to you both and your two black beasties!

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    1. I love Molesworth too. As a child, I can honestly say that his world merely seemed terribly exotic and funny to me, and I never really thought about the ways in which I (working class, a girl) might be excluded from it.

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  32. Post solstice greetings, Kate: Having just re-engaged with journal writing after many, many years I am so thankful for your writing on this topic. As a Philadelphia area Quaker, our Meeting’s study of these journals has been a favorite topic — and the journals of these amazing Quaker women have been illuminating, instructive and inspiring. They were …”not only written for spiritual purposes but also had a temporal dimension, providing women with an authorized ‘voice’ through which to express their concerns.” (Sheila Wright). Am greatly anticipating arrival of the KDD Knitting Season journal, the Milarrochy Tweed yarns, and starting the subscription series on January 11th. Couldn’t imagine a more meaningful start to the year. And as a special treat in the upcoming year, I will actually be coming to Scotland in August, and plan to visit my grandmother’s home in Dumbarton which she left as a young bride in 1920. Much to look forward to in 2019. Sending wishes to you, Tom, Bruce and Bobby for a enriching year ahead.

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  33. I had never heard of collective journalling. It sounds fascinating and especially to read over all these years later. I have kept a journal on and off most of my life and recently discovered a box of them and spent a day reading through. Surprising how much, and how little, I have changed ;) I so enjoy the way you write – captivating. I am experiencing, for the first time, the anticipation of the Knitting Season club – no real idea of what form it will take (which is the exciting bit), and very much looking forward to reading about your take on creativity next year :)

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  34. We wrote and exchanged letters in our group- similar but different in the way that any particular exchange was between two girls. Occasionally a letter would be passed on and continued by another.

    I still have some of these letters upstairs and am am looking forward to getting home after our Christmas travels to look them out.

    So wonderful to have grown up with no social media.

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  35. What a precious gift! I was not really close to anyone in middle or high school, so my journals were for me. But they took a new turn in university when they became an important part of my prayer life. My journals were written as letters to God (because I just couldn’t concentrate on our conversations unless I wrote them down), and from time to time I’d write what he would say back. Most of the time it was what I knew he would say based on what I knew of the Bible and theology, but sometimes it was just inspiration. I’d say it was the Holy Spirit. My journals are more for plans and quick scribbles now, but every couple of weeks I do get the chance to journal a long prayer conversation. It’s very life giving. Maybe not quite what you were asking for, but that’s what I’ve got.

    Forums are their own kind of collective journal. Having read through your blog archives, I’ve been slowly noodling through the “finished objects” thread in your forum on ravelry. It’s quite different seeing all your projects come to life in individual ways that are more about sharing than presentation.

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  36. Wonderful! Yes, aged 12 to 15, I and three friends did exactly this at our all girl’s grammar school. Most of our writings were, I thought, clever and comical, lightening the boredom of lessons. I never dreamed that we were part of a large club of journal-keepers and scribblers – I thought it was just us!

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  37. In a way.. I made “art books” with a couple of different friends in Highschool. It was something I liked doing myself, and sometimes with another creative person we would make up the story/lyrics/philosophical ramble and draw images. Reminds me of “friendship books” that we would make and send around the world to penpals as well, those were mostly just adding your address, but also making a bit of a page for yourself. And then came Zines…

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  38. In my Jr High (Aged 13 -14) two or three of us wrote ‘novels,’ where the characters were each other, only in fantasy settings. They were read during lunch and while waiting for things to start in other classes. We did include boys as characters (several plots had to change as various boys went out of fashion) but we didn’t offer the stories to the boys. They were communal in that we discussed what should happen next, and gently offered criticism, but they were brashly wish fulfillment stories, and none of them were ever finished.

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  39. Ah, this is strange!! In another country and another decade I kept secret journals too with my high school girlfriends. I thought as I started reading your post that the similarities would end there but actually we used them the same way as you and your friends – we would add our own chapters and would also annotate each other’s entries. We left questions within our own entries for the other to respond to and put our best stickers on them (some that we had kept since childhood) as evidence of the journals’ importance to us. We stopped when my friends moved to another school and things took a bit of a dark turn for me as my dad got ill and (for that and other reasons) I grew more and more lonely and sad. I then turned to a journal that was just my own, but I would sometimes address the entries to various rock stars and tv people who I felt closer to than my own peers at school. I still have all these journals, having brought them to the UK with me from my childhood home, and think of destroying them now and then because reading them isn’t entirely pleasant. But I guess something must be stopping me because they’re still here after 20 years.

    I just started reading the book you recommended a while back, against creativity. Collective journaling among school girlfriends is radical creativity for sure!

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  40. I have not kept a collective journal, but I have participated in group book readings where we sent the same copy from one to another and each added our own margin notes to it. That was a rather lovely experience, with lots of side conversations and sharing of experiences, some of which had very little to do with the book we were reading.

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  41. I did as a young teen. I had a troubled childhood and my journal was my haven, I could put every thing in it good and bad and leave it there rather than carrying it in me. I put my hopes and plans, my thoughts, my poetry… Made friends with a girl who also had a hard childhood and shared it with her…she took it and I never saw her or my journal again…so I started another one but and still journal…but I do not share it with anyone.

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  42. I have never heard of collective journaling either nor have I experience with groups of schoolfriends. Outside school I had no contact with classmates. I just had one friend since the age of 6, but when we went to (different) highschools we only spoke on holidays or birthdays. I did write in journals, but always for myself or for therapists. I still write in journals because it helps to clear my thoughts, seeing things better in perspective.
    I find it intriguing to read you were communicating with each other at such a young age! Impressive!

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  43. What wonderful wealth that you and your friends shared! I’ve kept journals much of my life, but never a collective one personally, The funny thing is that in my teaching life, I encouraged students to write and share collective journals and took a small part in them myself.

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  44. There are just a few people worth reading when their post appears. I become happy when I see your name.
    Thank you for all your writing. Finding your writing, reading you, is a highlight of 2018.

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  45. I now pine for a missed opportunity…… especially as I went to an all girls school so I would not have had to run the gauntlet of male interference. It must be wonderful to look back at them and remember an other time.

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  46. I’ve never even heard of such a thing – it sounds amazing, as an activity and as a record of a time in life when we are still so collective and bunched together as a group.

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