Why as a Writer I Love to keep a Journal

As a writer every moment is a special moment. It is as if my eyes are clicking at and simultaneously penetrating every movement. I am an observer and I am the observed. I am connected intimately with this moment. It is like William Blake saying “Kiss the joy as it flies”. The word on the page is the kiss.

I love the world of reverie – the mulling over of life and its occurrences – ideas which come into my head which make unusual connections. These thoughts may never be included in a novel – yet they have a concrete reality which they would never have without a journal.

Keeping a journal is for me like breathing. I can’t imagine being a writer without being a reflector on life with thoughts stored within pages bound with love.

In writing “Eden Burning” and “The Secret Wound” – the journals were the seeds of inspiration in which I record dreams, writings which inspired me and scenes which are ordinary yet always have the potential of becoming transformational. Sometimes the journals are incredible witnesses of a truth of which I could never convince anyone.  

I will tell you one such entry which I recorded in 2000 in one of those journals spread on the table.

I had a dream in which I was lying in a bed in a hospital with a needle in my hand connected to a bag of liquid. My eyes were closed. I could hear my sisters talking and laughing. Then I realised that I was dead. I couldn’t speak with them. My face was hardening. The next day I began to share this dream with my mother. I stopped mid-sentence as I realised that it was her in the dream – not me.

A few months later she came to visit my husband Martin and I in Oxford. She was a little frail but nothing we were told to worry by a heart Consultant in Cork who had checked her out. Her first words on seeing me were, “You are meant to see this.” I didn’t know what she meant by that. I didn’t ask. In a way, I knew what she meant but I also knew that it was not something to be discussed. Those are the thoughts which I recorded in my journal.

That night, I had another dream. There was a large clock – black and white – hanging on a wall. It showed the time of five minutes to four and then it jumped to five minutes past four. I wakened from my sleep – my heart thumping. I looked at the alarm clock. It showed thirty minutes past five in the morning. I knew that my mother would die between five minutes to four and five minutes past four. Maybe it would be that afternoon?

I had a big meeting with the President of the Company I worked for and the President of the Prudential Insurance Company. I drove to work and told the President of my company that I could not stay – I had to return home.

Jump forward. My mother is in hospital. They say that there is a simple need to calibrate her medication. There is no need to panic. Five days later, she is on a life support system. She cannot talk. The white and black clock is in the room. It shows thirty minutes past three. I call the nurse and ask if she can bring my sisters to the bed. We sit together and talk in a natural way about what is happening in our lives. We want our mother to be able to die without feeling the distress that we are holding on to her. We even laugh. The needle is in my mother’s hand.The clock ticks towards five minutes to four, her breathing changes. At five minutes past four she is dead.

Journalling for the writer can be the bridge from the past to the present, the present to the future or it allows the writer to sink into the present moment with great depth and mystery.