Journaling is a freeing and noble practice. It’s been romanticized heavily in fiction, often depicting intellectual-looking people bent over creamy-white pages, looking lost in thought, or alternately, blazing with black pen, scribbling, wild with passion, Einsteinian hair, all aglow with intensity. In reality, though, at least for me, it’s nothing like that. I’ve kept a journal since I was ten years old. I have been sporadic with my recordings, but it has always been there as an outlet for me when I needed it; a reliable companion.
Usually, I turn to my journal for these purposes:
- in times of emotional crisis
- in meditation
- developing appreciation
- to dig myself out of depression
- to clear my mental stack
- for writing lists
- as art therapy
Due to my dissociative disorder, my journal can also become a place for my alters to express themselves, for quick doodles that are unrelated to the rest of my present life, or a place to brainstorm by myself before taking an idea to someone else.
There are many kinds of journals, and various ways of keeping a journal. There are more formats available for creativity and storing information than ever in history (such as on a computer, tablet, or smartphone), physical (good old paper and pen), recordings (videos and voice recordings), or in pictures (keeping a log of your activities and interests on Instagram, for example). There are more avenues of communication than ever before, so why not put them to use to get to know the most important person in your life — You!
I’ve found there are many benefits of keeping a journal —
- being aware of yourself in time and space
- being able to connect to yourself in times of grief or emotional crisis
- having an outlet for anger or hard-to-control emotions
- giving yourself time and room to explore an idea
- sorting through a problem that’s plaguing your conscience
- making a private place for you to just be yourself
- providing breathing room and introspection.
Journaling need not be serious or intense. It is a way for you to connect to yourself (that’s the only thing that matters) which means use the method that works best for you.
- Hate writing but love taking pictures? Take pictures!
- Are you more comfortable with a list of things you’ve done during the day, which feels like an accomplishment, instead of a long-worded entry? Do that.
- You like to doodle? Doodle about your day, or how you feel, or whatever you want.
It’s a tool, but it’s a tool for you. It should work the way you want it to, and you should be comfortable with it, enough so that it encourages you to connect with yourself even more. We’re going for a positive, upbuilding experience, not something that feels like homework from a class you hated in school. (No Algebra, please!)
In these times of media-everywhere, and external invasion, I believe it is more important than ever to make time and private space for yourself. I know my journal has gotten me through many difficulties and has been an invaluable tool, keeping me afloat between therapist’s visits, doctor’s appointments, through losses of family members, personal grief, identity crises, and as quiet place to just be myself when the world was spinning all around me. It’s been a handy tool to keep with me, to review old entries, and realize how much emotional progress I’ve made day-by-day, and how the trials of one day can become forgotten or even the blessing of another day. By looking through my journal, I get a sense of time, space, of taking up physical form, of existing and making an impression. Even if my name doesn’t go down in the history books, I still have this time and this environment. I still have my viewpoint, and I still have a record, an undeniable account of my existence. Some days, that is the power that carries me to the next day, helping me to keep my emotions in perspective — that what seems like all-consuming right now may not even be memorable to me days, months, years to come. Journaling has given me an emotional overview to carry in my mind, an awareness that I am built by the hardships and the good, and my attitude and reflections.
Go ahead and give journaling a try. It might be a bit scary at first, but there are plenty of rewards in getting to learn about yourself, inside and out.
Articles which inspired this article and I found interesting:
- Virginia Woolf and the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary: https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/01/25/virginia-woolf-on-keeping-a-diary/
- Stevie Nicks and Journaling (Austin Kleon): http://tumblr.austinkleon.com/post/99398088056
- HAIM and journaling: http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/06/stevie-nicks-haim-interview/?_r=0
- The unabridged journals of Sylvia Plath: http://thoughtcatalog.com/jeffrey-ellinger/2014/06/80-memorable-passages-from-the-unabridged-journals-of-sylvia-plath/
- Bustle.com / Anais Nin: http://www.bustle.com/articles/90629-i-wrote-in-a-journal-every-night-anas-nin-style-and-this-is-how-it-changed-my
- Quotes from Anais Nin: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1107826-the-diary-of-ana-s-nin-1931-1934
- If I Can Do It, Anyone Can: http://www.mortylefkoe.com/it/