I’ve been keeping journals for almost thirty years. I started back in my early twenties. I was living alone in a one-room efficiency, working a minimum-wage job, and was in between relationships. I’m not exactly sure what prompted me to start writing my thoughts in a notebook. Maybe I had been reading about the habits of other writers. Or maybe someone suggested it to me. I had been writing poetry in spiral notebooks since high school, and it’s possible that’s what led me to the idea of keeping a journal.
My first journals were indeed spiral notebooks. Remember, I was living hand to mouth and couldn’t afford anything fancier. But the notebooks were fine for my purposes. I wrote about loneliness, about struggling to find my way, to find myself. I credit writing in a journal with my transformation from angst-ridden, confused, socially-awkward kid to a rational-thinking, socially-adept adult. It was a long journey, but I’m happy with the results.
And while I haven’t always been consistent in writing regular entries, I always come back to my journal during times of stress or uncertainty. I use the time to work on issues I’m having, to try to understand the world around me, or just to vent. I also use it to flesh out ideas for my stories, or to admonish myself for laziness. I sometime use it to just be silly. You know, to write whatever comes to mind and see where it takes me. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it’s just weird. Either way, it’s a chance to let my mind go and be creative.
Now days, I write in hardback journals. They’re still cheap…like five bucks for 250 pages, but I like the paper and the feel of it. Writing in a hardback journal makes me feel more mature, more professional. But honestly, I could just as well write in a spiral notebook again. It’s just that the spiral notebooks don’t look as good on my bookshelf.
Keeping a journal is cathartic. It’s cheap therapy. It’s a sounding board. It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or a painter, a housekeeper, a beekeeper, or just another face in the crowd, I recommend that everyone at least try to keep a journal, if only for a little while. You never know what may happen…you might find the answer to a question that’s been bothering you, or maybe it’ll help you get some stress off your mind. You might figure out a way to solve a problem. Hell, you might even find enlightenment.
Or maybe you’ll find it isn’t for you. And that’s okay. The point is to try it out and see if it fits. There’s no harm in trying to write down your thoughts, and there’s always the possibility that it may just help you in some small way.