Why You Should Start Journaling (if you aren’t already)

It might seem like a relic of bygone eras before blogging but journaling is a useful practice even if you don’t want to disengage from your devices.

As you may have picked up, I am an avid journaler whose practice has evolved into a BuJo/Journal hybrid. I don’t journal just as a means of collecting odd story or visual prompts for projects, I journal because it teaches me about myself and holds me accountable in ways that no one else could. It provides me with an outlet for ideas that are still gestating, thoughts that are ugly because they are the tip of emotional icebergs and a place to keep ahold of memories that were moments too brief to hold for long but valuable because they are indicators of how fragile memory really is.

  1. Blogging is for everyone else, journaling is for you. Blogging has the capacity to function the way that journaling (or diary keeping) can function but because it lives online you know that there’s an audience besides you even if that audience is a bot or a spammer. Journals aren’t inherently private but you have a degree of tactile control that renders the medium as individual and physical. Your journal is an extension of you and over time the relationship you develop through your practice will provide you with a deeper opportunity for mental intimacy with yourself that is impossible outside meditation. In my journal archives I have access to my mundane thoughts as I finished college, my feelings as local tragedies were occurring and over the years as the memories popped up, my impressions of people who were in my life briefly and impressions of people who I didn’t realize would become my best friends.
    In my initial explorations of diary keeping I censored myself and then I destroyed much of those entries. But, as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate the parts of myself I was unwilling to accept in the past. These efforts have made me, if not a better writer, a more honest writer.
  2. An offline blog or journal lacks the physical connection that writing on paper can provide. Journaling helps create an intimacy with the self and not just with your mind but with your physical mind/body connection. There are words I misspell frequently and they live in my journals. These are important reminders of how ugly drafts can be, how imperfect and how valuable they are. When I’m tired or distracted I often let letters slip or my writing becomes messy. I’m much more polished on a computer. You can argue that being polished and perfect is the end goal of most writing efforts but there is an erasure of the person in the process. We write in order to translate our thoughts, our states of being and these translations have the ability to teach us not only about the high minded intellectual sides of ourselves but also subtleties of health that we cover for when we edit ourselves out of our writing.
  3. Journaling is useful for everyone. For example, you work in retail and enjoy it. You’d like to continue working in retail over the long term but at some point you’d like to advance into a management position. Journaling can provide you with a place to keep track of your day to day experiences in a private way. Little things that strike you as interesting, frustrating, banal or just happen to be stuck in your head. Journals are boring to read but that’s the point, they are your data on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Over the years you accumulate a lot of nonsense but then you find that you’re ready to try for a management position and you need to revamp your resume, this is where your journal can help you. Combing through your old entries you’ll find little stories to share, insights from years of experience that have become mechanical remain fresh in your journal. Companies regard your data as valuable and in this sense you should regard your daily experience as the rich material they are and keep track of them for yourself for no other reason than the fact that someday you’ll forget about that person who brightened up your day by complimenting your shoes and how their compliment helped you get through a really crappy week. You can trace these patterns for yourself and bring new insights into how you want to live, what you want to do with your life and sometimes you’ll have recorded something important enough to share with the world at large.
  4. Journaling is a path toward healing. Grief is isolating, particularly in a world where every day is full of bad news and so we often bottle up our sorrows. Reaching out to other people is vital to healing but I know all too well that it can take a lot of time to reach a place where that feels plausible. As I became more honest in my journaling practice I became more emotionally competent. Earlier journals have a thread of dishonesty and an undercurrent of suppressed pain which took me very close to the edge. I was never very honest with my counselor when I finally sought help to deal with grief over a lost loved one but I would sit down with my journal afterwards and say all the things I was too afraid to say to him. I allowed myself to write the ugly things and seeing them inked on the paper took away the power they had when they were in my head. Everything I didn’t want to say I worked very hard to keep secret from myself but that energy use left me drained and made me struggle so much harder in my day to day life.
  5. Keeping your journal private is key to finding joy in writing in it. Obviously if you live in a situation where privacy is dubious it can be difficult to open up to yourself and so it is important to create a journaling practice that enables you to explore your thoughts and feelings honestly. There are thoughts I’ve journaled about that I know would hurt people’s feelings out of context and that’s okay. That’s the point of the journal. Being 100% honest every day with every person would be exhausting to everyone involved and make it difficult to grow and evolve. Some thoughts need nurturing, watering and weeding and other thoughts are weeds but you won’t know until you’ve allowed them to grow in your journal. Once they do, you can leave the weeds in your journal and grow the plants into full blown ideas that you bring to your daily life and allow to bloom.

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