Some of my 97 filled journals
I’ve been keeping a journal since I learned how to write. I’ve been numbering my journals since I was 12, and I’m currently in the middle of journal #98. I’ve written in classy Moleskine journals, gothic faerie journals from Hot Topic, ordinary spiral notebooks that I’ve pasted pictures of my best friends and favorite movies or bands on, handmade journals my artist friends have made for me, and everything in between. I write everything down: my thoughts, feelings, hopes, aspirations, dreams, fears. I document inside jokes and the details of my life that I might otherwise forget. I use it to work out how I feel, to process my thoughts when I have a big decision to make, or to focus on the positive aspects of life with gratitude lists.
I am also a writer of fiction, plays, poetry, and non-fiction, but when I am writing in my journal, I don’t worry about how “good” the writing is. My journal is just for me. Considering how much I put my writing out into the world to be judged and reviewed by others, it’s so refreshing to have a place where I can simply revel in the joy of putting words on a page. Even though I’m not specifically focusing on quality, the sheer act of writing in my journal every day has made me a better writer because it has given me years and years of practice putting my thoughts into words.
I would recommend anyone keep a journal, though, even people who have no desire to pursue creative writing or publishing. There are so many things that I have learned from my experience with journaling:
1. Keeping a journal allows me to document my life. Some people like to take a lot of photos and keep photo albums. Some people like to film a ton of home videos. Some people just like to Instagram all of their meals. These things give us something to look back on and remember the moments of our lives. My journals represent the years of my life. When I look at the gothic Edgar Allen Poe journal, I remember being an angsty teenager, scribbling my thoughts in geometry class. When I hold the red Moleskine in my hands, I can remember writing in it on a plane to visit New York City when I was 23. (Not to mention how great it when a friend and I have different opinions about how some minor event went down in the past, and I can say, “well, according to journal #32, I totally win this argument!”)
2. In a world where we are bombarded with technology, journals make me feel grounded. Nothing against keeping a journal online or on your computer (which I have totally done… I still even have a Livejournal!) but there is something so comforting about stepping away from the computer, the cell phone, the tablet, the Kindle, or the television, and feeling a pen pressing ink into a page of paper. And there is something so personal about looking back at my journals later and seeing my own handwriting.
3. I have learned how to be honest with myself, which helps me to be honest with others. I make it a rule to only write down the truth in my journal. If I write something that feels like a lie, I will immediately recognize it. I might write something like “I guess I am still enjoying my job,” but when I look at the words, I realize that this is wrong, and maybe it’s time to move on. It’s a lot easier to be true to myself and those around me when I have a place to be completely honest about how I feel and what I want out of life
4. A journal is a great place to use tools like gratitude and visualization. I believe in the power of gratitude. Whenever I am feeling down, it’s always nice to make a list of things I can be grateful for. When I take stock of all of the things I do have in my life, it usually make obstacles and challenges seem relatively minor, and I don’t get upset as easily. Also, I believe in the power of visualization. All of the things I have accomplished have started with a visualization or an intention, and if I want to visualize something that I want in my life, it’s much easier for me to really “see” it when I have written it out.
5. I can feel all of my feelings. As much as I love using my journal to be a more positive person, I have learned that if you don’t have a place to express your feelings, they will just fester inside of you and turn into bitterness, resentment, and despair. A journal is a great place to express the feelings that I might not want to speak aloud about. If I’m feeling sad or angry, sometimes it really helps to write out everything I’m sad or angry about, even if it’s completely irrational. When I allow myself the space to feel negative emotions, I don’t dwell on them. I can let them pass through me.
6. Journals are great tools for processing, self-reflection, and figuring stuff out. We all have to make big decisions sometimes. We are all faced with challenges. Life can be confusing, and things can get very convoluted in your head. I have a tendency to be impulsive and to act without thinking sometimes, and if I didn’t give myself the time to figure things out in my journal, I might not always make the best decisions. (Not that I always do make great decisions, but the journals help me make them a lot more than I would!)
7. My journal helps me to appreciate the moments of my life and see the beauty in them. There have been times when I thought I had a really bad day but once I started writing about it in my journal, I was able to appreciate it. In these moments, it’s almost like I am able to observe my life the way I would read a novel. I am also more likely to outwardly express appreciation for the people in my life when I have expressed it first to myself. But the best thing about always keeping a journal is that whenever I have amazing days, when I record them in my journal, I get to live them all over again. And that is a truly special gift.