A decade ago, a San Francisco artist decided to conduct a collaborative artwork by releasing 1000 blank journals into the world. He gave a few to friends and acquaintances and then, as word spread, people began contacting him, wanting to take part. He sent journals all over the world. Subsequently, filmmaker Andrea Kreuzhage documented a search for the journals, discovering along the way a world of shared creativity and expression from people around the globe.
Bridget Jones’ Diary
Based on a popular novel by Helen Fielding, this film chronicles a year in the popular journal life of a woman in her early thirties. Single, self-conscious, and seeking success both in her career and in her love life, Bridget begins her journal on New Year’s Day, as a way of making a fresh start in her life. Following the journal, the movie reveals to us the many entertaining fiascos as well as important personal progress its heroine experiences as the year wears on.
In this true story, a recent college graduate takes on teaching English to at-risk high school students. Other educators wrote off her students as “unteachable,” but Erin Gruwell knew better. She used journaling processes to involve her students not only in English literature but also in recounting their own experiences, especially the hardships and challenges they faced as inner city youth. They read The Diary of Anne Frank, and wrote about their own lives in a war zone, with drugs and violence as daily threats. The students of Room 203 named themselves the Freedom Writers, and published a book entitled The Freedom Writers Diary.
The Motorcycle Diaries
When he was 23 years old, Ernesto Guevara (later know as the Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara) kept a journal as he traveled across South America. The journal, which tells of his encounters with poverty and injustice as he crossed the continent, was published after his death and then made into this film.
Eat, Pray, Love
Julia Roberts stars in this recent release based on novelist Elizabeth Gilbert’s popular memoir. Still reeling from a painful divorce, Elizabeth goes on a trip of self-discovery to Italy, India, and Indonesia, writing copiously in her journal in each place. She battles her demons of depression, loneliness, and doubt to find her own path to happiness and love. Here’s an excerpt, testifying to journaling’s amazing transformative properties: “I fell asleep holding my notebook pressed against my chest, open to this most recent assurance. In the morning when I wake up, I can still smell a faint trace of depression’s lingering smoke, but he himself is nowhere to be seen. Somewhere during the night, he got up and left. And his buddy loneliness beat it, too.”
Of course, this list is just a sampling. Journal writing can be reflective, like a memoir; or it can be more forward-looking, a place to dream and set goals. Either way, the stories from journals and the stories about journaling can provide fascinating material for movies and other artworks.