This week I was asked to draw up guidelines for a program in which incarcerated men and women could start keeping Coronavirus journals. The project, of course, is a remote one, and in a world that does not have Zoom, or Internet for that matter, we try to connect the old fashion way - through (security vetted) paper.
Writing in a journal is something I feel strongly about. I started keeping a diary when I was 8-years-old. Even as a little girl I felt a significant disconnect between what I was being told and what I actually saw happening. There was a general sense of "I better write this down."
Looking back, I think I was profoundly lonely and wanted to talk to someone. It was also a way of sorting out my confused emotions, not to mention to develop trust in my own perceptions. Those diaries were lifesavers for me, piling up over the years, with their cloth flower covers, or in my teenage years, black, no-nonsense sketch books. Of course, prisoners won't have actual journals, but they can write down their thoughts and experiences on whatever paper that may be available to them.
So I was thrilled when asked to do this project. For inmates, keeping a journal right now is important for a couple of reasons. First, I hope it will be therapeutic for them in the same way it's always been for me. They can channel their anxiety, focus their thoughts, and hopefully better manage their stress. Second, they have an important story to tell. Only people who are locked up can tell the story of what it's like to experience the pandemic behind bars, with little way of protecting themselves. Someday the history of Covid-19 will be told. And this will be part of it.
There's one other thing I feel VERY strongly about. These men and women will be writing in journals.
They will NOT be "journaling." Journal is not a verb. It is a noun. For instance, we do not say we are "diary-ing." We keep diaries or we write in them.
Clearly all these years of writing has turned me into a curmudgeon. But standards must be upheld, even in a pandemic.