I am asked a lot about themes in my work and one of my themes is faces and masks. I use both words interchangeably since your face can be a mask and a mask can become your face.
The first thing we see when we meet each other is a face. How that face is presented to us depends on how the person is feeling. You may see a happy face, a sad face or an angry face etc. Most people put their best face forward. If they are having unpleasant feelings, they’ll put the mask on, the face that is just a presentation to the world, so the face becomes a mask, and the mask, their face.
It’s a survival mechanism that we all use. We don’t necessarily want everyone in the world to know how we are feeling. Sometimes we don’t even want people close to us to know.
But how effective is it to wear the mask. Sometimes it is very effective, and feelings are well disguised. Sometimes not so much and the true feelings come piercing through the armour – a momentary flash of weakness or just a vibe that something is not quite right.
Coping with the Holes in My Head, 2014
It is a literal and figurative thing. We wear our faces as masks to hide our true feelings. We wear masks to hide our true selves like at Halloween and costume parties. I often wonder what is going on behind the exterior presented. Are people dealing with “Holes in their Heads” or feeling “Off-kiltered?”
All this is of interest to me. Mostly we are chameleons, changing to suit our environment. Like the lizards I grew up with that can camouflage to the colours of trees. I am not sure why, but I am always interested in the internal workings of my fellow humans.
Writers write and the more we do it the better we become at it. It’s like they say practice makes perfect. When we write in our journals we may not be doing our official writing but the act of writing constantly can sharpen our minds and our thought processes. So when we come to the writing that we do for publishing, we will have unconsciously honed our skills a little.
We can also consciously use our journals to develop our skills as writers. We can try out different writing methods and see which one is best for us. This is where we can try a writing technique that is not usually our style. Who knows, we may find something that could possibly enhance our writing and make our stories that more exciting and meaningful. The great thing about our journals is that we can try these things with ourselves before we allow anyone to see our finished products.
Our journals may also have great story ideas in them and so we can use our own past experiences as research. Think of all the places we have been, our thoughts and impressions on events close to us and far from us, stories told to us by strangers and family members and just the events of our everyday lives. We have some of this written down in our journals and this record can be used as fodder for interesting stories. Rereading our journals can take us back to a particular memory and all the feelings that surround that memory and make for powerful fiction or nonfiction.
Let us look at our journals as more than just static records and see them as tools to sharpen our skills and as a library where research can be done.
Remember there is nothing like words in black and white to help you see where you are and where you are going.
Sheryl A. Keen
Author “Journal According to John.”