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Note To Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits [Hardcover]

Samara O'Shea

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Book Description

July 14 2008

Keeping a journal is easy. Keeping a life-altering, soul-enlightening journal, however, is not. At its best, journaling can be among the most transformative of experiences, but you can only get there by learning how to express yourself fully and openly. Enter Samara O'Shea.

O'Shea charmed readers with her elegant and witty For the Love of Letters. Now, in Note to Self, she's back to guide us through the fun, effective, and revelatory process of journaling. Along the way, selections from O'Shea's own journals demonstrate what a journal should be: a tool to access inner strengths, uncover unknown passions, face uncertain realities, and get to the center of self. To help create an effective journal, O'Shea provides multiple suggestions and exercises, including:

  • Write in a stream of consciousness: Forget everything you ever learned about writing and just write. Let it all out: the good, bad, mad, angry, boring, and ugly.
  • Ask yourself questions: What do I want to change about myself? What would I never change about myself?
  • Copy quotes: Other people's words can help you figure out where you are in life, or where you'd like to be.
  • It takes time: Don't lose faith if you don't imme­diately feel better after writing in your journal. Think of each entry as part of a collection that will eventually reveal its meaning to you.

O'Shea's own journal entries reveal alternately moving, edgy, and hilarious stories from throughout her life, as she hits the party scene in New York, poses naked as an aspiring model, stands by as her boyfriend discovers an infidelity by (you guessed it) reading her journal, and more. There are also fascinating journal entries of notorious diarists, such as John Wilkes Booth, Anaïs Nin, and Sylvia Plath.

A tribute to the healing and reflective power of the written word, Note to Self demonstrates that sometimes being completely honest with yourself is the most dangerous and rewarding pursuit of all.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (July 14 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061494151
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061494154
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 16.1 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #937,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


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About the Author

Samara O'Shea is the author of For the Love of Letters: A 21st-Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing as well as a blogger for The Huffington Post.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some good advice for beginners...but... June 6 2009
By Mike Donovan - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book has some truly solid advice on beginning and keeping a journal. Much of that advice may be simply culled from other journaling books, as there's nothing original here, but it IS here. However, I think it's VERY important to point out (without passing judgment)that the author has loaded this book with not just sexuality/sensuality, but GRAPHIC sexual content. Some of this book, frankly, I could not even begin to quote here and Amazon allow the review - some of it is THAT graphic. She pulls no punches. She's very young and it shows. Clearly, young people make up the target audience but the cover doesn't necessarily make that known. A lot of people will read how this or that guy "rocks her world," and will get a straight-up dose of just why - even how (if you catch my drift) with the graphic sex talk. No judgment - just a warning. This isn't something you give certain people without their being shocked that a book, seemingly so innocent, could be so full of the author's constant references to her own rather busy sex life. Finally, with what I have said above, this is obviously not something you would give a young teen as a book on starting a journal.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cute July 26 2008
By Seven Kitties - Published on
This book targets more of the "WHY" of journaling than the "how." While most of the journaling books generally give you the standard folderol about journaling being good for you and then jump on to exercises, O'Shea dives into her own journals and shows you, literally, what that means.

She does give some questions to help you journal, but there's none of the 'how to pick a journal' stuff here. She assumes you can manage to pick up some paper and pen on your own without sage advice. In fact, she avoids the "Journal Guru" voice throughout the work. Instead of feeling that you're sitting at the Feet of the Master (as many journaling books tend to do), she's more like the good friend you haven't seen in a while dishing, no-holds-barred, about journaling and her life. (The feminist in me applauds the frankness of this little 'sistah-fest').

Because, oh yeah, you get a lot of her life in here. At times it verges more on memoir than journaling, but no one can accuse O'Shea of holding back or being shy. She ruthlessly exposes extracts from her own journals, and not-very-admirable episodes from her own life (including her decision to cheat on a boyfriend). You certainly come away from this book feeling as if you KNOW this woman, and that she learned to know herself through her journals. More, that you see parts of yourself in her.

So, part of the possible appeal of this book is 'whether or not you like Samara O'Shea.' I can only suggest you look at her other book, or browse this in a bookstore, to see if her personality appeals to you. (Or, publisher, *hint hint* put on a 'look inside' thingummy for this book!) Warning: If you're a hothouse flower, the references to drugs and sex might turn you off.

This is a good book if you've been journaling and want to see your journaling get *deeper*. She's got some really savvy insights into human nature, and poses some really good questions for us to ask ourselves as we journal. For example she has a whole (and very racy!) chapter on sex. To journal or not to journal sexiness was one of the themes. In the end, she doesn't prescribe one solution, but lays out her case for why she does (sometimes) and why she doesn't (at other times). And what a question--do *you* journal about physical intimacy? Why or why not?

If your idea of journaling is getting to know yourself and how you work better (as opposed to, say, writing for your children or grandchildren) this book is a lively and spunky companion.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To Journal or Not? Read Note to Self! July 30 2008
By J. Mileto - Published on
Thank you for helping me to feel NORMAL, Samara!! I am a 33 year old mother of two young children who has been journalling for over half my life at this point. I started journalling as an awkward and unsure tween and my journals have certainly seen me through much change since then (motherhood!). And, hey, change is scary! Note to Self has allowed me to look back on those scary changes in my life and say, "You are not a freak!"

Samara explains, "We collectively breathe a sigh of relief when we realize we are not alone in our thoughts, words, or deeds." From the start of the book, the reader feels as if Ms. O'Shea is sitting right across the room from you, sharing knowledge, laughs, and little snippets out of her life -maybe all over a pot of tea! She's not afraid to share with the world what she has learned from it in her time here. And best of all, she is encouraging us to look at our OWN path in life by keeping a journal.

"But I'm not the type to. . . " Okay, there's room for you folks who are not current journallers! Chapter 1 begins with reminding those of us who have bashed ourselves for not journalling the way you *thought* you would in that pie-in-the-sky preconceived notion you may have held at once point about what a journal should look like. Maybe it's at this point you gave up, but Samara is on the sidelines cheering you on to give it another go! There are chapters filled with advice on tapping into your own experiences to find something about which to journal. Samara encourages the reader to find his or her own personal connection to journalling. And hey, she admits, maybe the only connection you will ever get is pleasure in reading other people's journals. Well, pull up a comfy armchair, because Note To Self is chalked full of these . . . (check out the chapter Intimate Details if you are a sexual being, otherwise you might want to skip it!)

One last thing, for those of you reading this review, it's online! Ms. O'Shea does not exclude those of us who stare at screens to check out information. There's a chapter on blogging and how this recent update to our lives is affecting journalling-pros and cons, and beyond.

So, here's to you, Samara! Thanks for not being afraid to share yourself with us folks out here who are making our way through one day at a time. It's nice to know you are doing the same.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Equipment for living April 20 2009
By Theodore J. Remington - Published on
Samara O'Shea's "Note to Self" doesn't provide endless writing prompts to jump start your journaling habit. She gives the reader something more profound: insights into how journaling provides you with equipment for living.

Sure, she gives a number of suggestions for possible areas to explore in a journal or diary--some that you might not have thought of, others that might have occurred to you but you dismissed as silly, juvenile, or dangerous. But the pith of the book is the insight on how a journal can illuminate our lives. O'Shea does this with specific examples, some from journals and diaries of famous writers, but mainly providing unexpurgated samples from her own journals throughout her life, along with reflections on how/why she wrote what she did.

At first blush, this might seem like a tactic that could end up producing a book that tells you a lot about O'Shea and why she keeps a journal, but precious little about why you might do the same. That's not the case. For those of us who might like the idea of journaling but haven't been able to get into it, O'Shea shows us that when it comes to journaling, anything goes. There is no right or wrong way. Even starting and stopping, ending up with erratic entries rather than dutifully making a daily record of ones thoughts is fine and dandy. The takeaway (at least for me) is that you can use your journal in any way(s) you want. Perhaps the only sin is to be dishonest with yourself, and O'Shea's numerous personal examples (and her willingness to share them publicly) make you feel much less self conscious about writing about anything in your own journal. Heck, if she can write about doing drugs and cheating on her boyfriend in her journal--and then publish it!--certainly you can share your secret fantasy of dancing with the Rockettes or the slightly naughty dream you had about your son's second grade teacher with your own journal.

For me, I've resisted keeping anything like a personal journal for a long time, mainly because something about it seemed . . . well . . . self-indulgent. Obsessive, in some way that I found off-putting (for reasons I can't quite articulate). But I came away from the book with the sense that the opposite is true: by recording one's thoughts and reflections, we get out of our heads and put our feelings out in the world. True, it might be in pages that only we see, but by giving them a life of their own, we can interact with them in a way we can't when we just let them roll around inside our skulls. And this interaction helps us grow and become better people, both for ourselves and for others. That's not self-indulgent. It's good ol' common sense.

By the way, in spite of the semi-scandalous nature of some of O'Shea's entries, one pleasure of the book is that O'Shea herself comes across as a wonderfully complicated, engaging, funny, caring person. In one excerpted entry, she is describing her relationship with God; in the next, giving a blow-by-blow breakdown of a teenage romance. This is also a good lesson in its own right: we are complicated creatures, not just the choir boy or the juvenile delinquent, the princess or the bad girl. Allowing us to see the proud and not-so-proud moments of her life, and showing that she accepts these all as part of herself (at least as she was at one time), O'Shea models how she uses her journal as a way of documenting her life as a work constantly in the process of becoming, not a static entity.

That lesson alone is worth the cover price.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Journaling Book -- It Works! Nov. 9 2010
By SW - Published on
I always heard that journal writing was good for the body and the soul. People always said that journaling was a great way to deal with the stresses of everyday life. I had even heard that keeping a daily journal in general will promote weight loss. However, what I have NEVER been able to do before reading 'Note to Self' by Samara O'Shea, was to actually KEEP a journal and use it for my benefit. In the past I would start a journal and write one or two entries, however, that was it and I would never write in it again. 'Note to Self,' has enabled me to continue my journaling on a regular basis, and in doing so, I feel better about myself, as I've `dealt' with a lot of issues, just by getting them out and writing them down.

'Note to Self' combines Ms. O'Shea's personal and practical journal advice, very personal journal entries, and examples of how others, including well-known people have used a journal to further their own best interests.

'Note to Self' is part instruction manual and part personal therapist. A journal is your gateway to the psyche. I have learned from reading this interesting and practical book is that keeping a journal is the next best thing to having a private therapist at your beck and call, 24 hours a day. It is always there for you. Have something on your mind - write in your journal. Can't figure something out - write in it. Are distraught - reach for your journal and your stress will leave your mind and body and flow to the page. Work issues - perfect for journal writing. Relationship woes - grab the journal, start writing and things have a way of magically sorting themselves out. Feeling guilty about something - start writing as it's like having a private confessional. These are just a few of the things that I learned by reading this book, and I found out that it really works. I am now more confident and less timid, more directed, less stressful, less guilty, generally much happier, and even a few pounds thinner than I was before I started keeping a journal.

This book is different from other journaling books that I have read. It is different because after reading it you will have the tools and mindset to keep a journal that is right for you. Everyone is different in the way they go about writing in a journal, and I learned that there is no one way to write a journal. By reading 'Note to Self,' I was able to learn about different journaling styles. By doing this, I could tell what was right for me and what wasn't, and journaling is all about doing what is right for you. All I know is that not only did I thoroughly enjoy reading this book, but more importantly, because I read this book I have been able to actually keep a journal, and reap the benefits from doing so. I highly recommend this book.

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