Dear Diary: Taking Notes From Veronica Sawyer

A confession: I am absolutely engrossed in the blasé, driven attitude of Veronica Sawyer. Veronica Sawyer, the heroine of 1989’s brilliant Heathers, starring equally novel cool girl Winona Ryder, has truly established herself as an inspiration to me and other fans of the cult hit. This inspiration is earned through a variety of her personal hallmarks: her collection of blazers, her flowery bathrobes, her specs, her dry sense of humor. It is truly impossible to boil down my like of her to just a single attribute. That being said, I find that in order to do her various quirks justice, I should focus on one snapshot of her that really inspires me to be my best. In this case, I’m going to focus on her JOURNALS, one of the goldmines of this 80’s black comedy.

What sets Veronica apart from her popular band of friends (whom all share the same first name, Heather, thus explains the movie title) is her sardonic attitude and overt self-awareness (and, of course, her first name). This is best illustrated in her first diary entry, read shortly after the opening credits roll. We see Veronica hunched over sitting on the staircase, dragging her pen across the paper in a fit of severe vexation. In her huge handwriting she spells out the tribulations of being high school royalty (To put it in her words: “Real Life sucks losers dry. If you wanna fuck with the eagles, you have to learn to fly.”) We learn right off the bat that this chick isn’t playing around. While Veronica has an obvious difficulty using this self-awareness to change her own life (as she sticks with the Heathers, assuming she doesn’t feel up to deal with the consequences of disbanding from this gang of shoulder-padded monsters, who coax her to do troubling, snarky things). Her journal is where she can be herself, in some warped, twisted way. You could argue that her journal is some excuse to not outright deal with her problems (as you may also label psycho-BF J.D, extremely terrifying in his own right). Regardless of if her journals represent some sort of personal evasion or what, I have to say that I’m absolutely captivated by her relationship with them. Sawyer isn’t lying on her stomach on a bed with a feather-tipped pen, flourishing her thoughts and then inserting an monogrammed bookmark to keep the page. She’s absolutely brutal to the paper, scrawling in messy, big letters her stream-of-consciousness, recording exactly what comes to mind. These journals may contradict any alibi if god forbid it’s ever revealed that she (spoiler) killed those kids with J.D. It’s a mystery if Veronica is ever found out: although I bet from jail her disturbing diary entries would only take on a new edge.

Veronica’s diary keeping has inspired me to write about the merits of journaling. I myself am an avid journaler, though I can’t say I’m quite as wry as Veronica. No - my personal approach is a lot more careful. I tend to write with less a sense of urgency and more a sense of calculation. I wouldn’t say it’s dishonest, but I reflect on situations as opposed to just spilling out my emotions regarding them. Either way is fine, it’s just about finding what works for you.

Here are some tips to make the most of your journaling experience:

1. Pick the RIGHT BOOK.
In all honesty, I’ve been writing in journals all my life. My closet is scattered with books- bright ones, leather ones, etc. Four out of five of these books has only a single entry. At most, they may have a handful. While MAYBE my new ability to journal can be credited to a surge of maturity, I have to say I think the common denominator in all my past failed attempts to upkeep a journal was my inability to pick the right book.Maybe it’s crazy. But what I’ve discovered about myself is that I have only been able to successfully write in composition notebooks. I’ve filled two composition books in the last two years (one in a year and a half, another in six months). I've concluded that the actual logic behind this preference is that it's far easier to take the piss out of myself when I didn't shell out $15+ for the medium. The book dismisses some importance, thus making it easier for me. You may thrive with tiny Moleskines you can stick in your purse. That's fine! Experiment to figure out what type of book works best for you, and stick with it.

2. Pick the RIGHT PEN.
Am I being totally ludicrous? Maybe! I can vouch personally for the fact that the pen you use does affect your output of thoughts, or at least in my case. A smooth-running pen = quicker writing= less interrupted stream of consciousness! I would recommend buying a gel pen, something with smooth ink. Or maybe you're prolific with a standard PaperMate. Again, it's up to you.

3. Make a schedule, either flexible or strict.
Considering a journal is your personal work, you are in no way required to write a certain number of pages a day, everyday. But comprising a schedule, strict or not, will help you ensure you keep up with the journal and hopefully instill it as a habit.My goal is to write a page a day, and often this does not happen. I use the goal to help me moderate my personal journal use, but usually I vary from short blurbs to four-page entries. By aiming to do a page I always have the activity in the back of my mind, thus preventing me from abandoning it altogether.

4. Have an Objective.
Objective is crucial. Objective may just mean leaving it up to chance, rolling with whatever punches your consciousness throws at you. However, having different aims in mind can manipulate your writing in interesting ways. Example: you may sit down and decide you're gonna describe your day, play by play, in chronological order. This may just be a quick synopsis. Fine. You could also choose to write from various lenses- about specific details, a specific conversation, and that's it. Not every entry should require added context. Maybe you can't get out of your head how pretty the bathroom is at a new shop you went to. Who's to say you can't write about that? It may sound boring, yes, but focusing intently on one piece of scenery can add a very interesting depth to it. Write about bright snapshots in your day- it's often more fulfilling than droning on about every activity you did. Maybe you watched a movie, and that one jarring line defined the entire mood of your day, cuts to the essence perfectly. Or you had some thought you feel you need to write down. It's important to be able to filter out more mundane, pointless details so writing is actually fun to do, and revealing when you look back on it.

5. Make It Personal.
One of the biggest merits of keeping a journal is that you have a running record of all your most personal thoughts- that's pretty monumental. You can write down everything: your thoughts, in-depth dissections of your favorite albums, etc! The more personal it is, the better- be sure not to filter yourself. It's crucial you prioritize authentically documenting how you feel, without shame. (I stress the importance of taking the piss out of yourself- it's insanely therapeutic). Keeping a journal will allow you to look at the past with a sense of clarity. It will heighten your self-awareness. My mood and my sense of self have increased in a positive way ever since I started keeping a journal. It's such a good exercise- it can quite possibly change your life.
Maybe you have some mean friends you need a form of escapism from. Maybe not. Regardless of the motive: Veronica Sawyer has the right idea.

Text: Mary Corrigan

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