Keeping a Journal

When Lucy Maud Montgomery was twelve years old, she began keeping a diary. She continued to write in her diary for the rest of her life, but those childhood reflections about life on Prince Edward Island were a tremendous influence and help in writing her world-famous Anne of Green Gables books. From the moment I learned that fact as a child, I wanted to keep a diary, too. I logically concluded that, if keeping a diary had caused L.M. Montgomery to become such a famous writer, surely it would do the same for me.

The next Christmas, my grandmother gave me a diary. It had a soft, hazy cover photo of teddy bears surrounded by pink flowers, hard covers, and creamy-coloured lined paper inside. There was a matching bookmark with a golden tassel, but no lock and key, which was rather disappointing; I didn’t want anyone accessing the deep, dark secrets of my ten-year-old soul. The first thing I wrote down was the list of Christmas gifts I’d gotten that day. Before long, I was writing obsessively — always using the same blue ink (no inconsistencies could mar its perfect pages). Every day’s events were logged in painstaking detail. I complained, dreamed, analyzed, and ranted until I’d filled it up completely and moved on to the next diary – a much less attractive book with a cover commemorating an antique quilt exhibit at the Smithsonian.

That was the beginning of my journal addiction. Fourteen years later, I literally have boxes of journals stashed in my closet that are bursting with the first-person narrative of my life thus far. As far as material possessions go, those journals are among my most valuable possessions. My mother once made me promise never to destroy them and, though I have shredded a few small sections in moments of self-righteous soul-cleansing, I’m glad I mostly stuck to that promise. They are convenient reference books for events that I scarcely remember anymore and offer especially fascinating glimpses into the mind of an imaginative, passionate child who spilled her soul and mind without inhibitions — a priceless gift to my now older and equally-in-love-with-writing self.

Living in an era steeped with technology and often feeling chained to the demands of my laptop, my journal is an old-fashioned must-have. A physical book with tangible paper that absorbs ink and finger smudges and dirt stains is irreplaceable. Writing within the confines of two covers makes the words feel secure and private. I write knowing that the words belong to me alone; there is no secret audience, no judgement, no need to consider what others will think. It’s a place to fail and explore and try new things. It’s a place to store ideas and brainwaves, those little snippets of thought that are seemingly incoherent but sometimes extremely useful. Dreams, conversations, brief sentences, single words — all of these get scribbled down.

Writing by hand helps me to remember. The act of forming words by hand imprints and stores them in my mind much longer than if I simply tap them out on a keyboard. The slower exercise of hand-writing helps me to pick through my thoughts and be more succinct. Typing is too often like talking: easy to ramble, get off track.

Here’s a great blog post written by Lauren B. Davis on her blog, entitled “Journals & A Writing Exercise.” It’s what got me thinking this morning about my ongoing love affair with journals.  How many of you other writers/bloggers out there have personal journals on the side? Would you attribute your current love of writing to early exposure to journalling?


10 thoughts on “Keeping a Journal

  1. My parents began keeping a journal after they were married and still do to this day (47 years later). I love reading through them and re-living events. They are not deep nor particularly reflective, but are an account of the time spent, of the activities of the day and life events.

    Shaun and I began keeping our own journal the year P was born. I have re-read several years already. Its amazing what we forget over time.

    1. So many little things that happen that we forget unless we write them down! I’ve never regretted the things I’ve journalled and been able to relive!

    2. That’s an awesome idea, although now I have my blog as a fairly regular update on what the family’s doing so it would probably be redundant for me to journal about daily activities as well. Wow, 47 years is a long time to write about… good for them!

  2. It’s a great opportunity to actually write as well. I mean really WRITE, as in with a pen & paper. Nowadays we’re surrounded by technology to the point that there is rarely a need for traditional writing. We can text instead of leaving a note for our spouse, we can email instead of writing a letter, I can even use my smart phone to keep my grocery list and daily to do list! Journalling has always been my way of getting back to the basics, crossing my i’s and dotting my t’s, and working my hand muscles!

    1. So true — I miss writing by hand on a regular basis. I remember getting so excited about new notebooks and funky pens and markers at the beginning of school, and now that I’m done school, I don’t even have that anymore!

  3. I have always wanted to journal regularly, but it’s always been spotty. I have gone in phases…I kept a journal for my anxiety, one for my dreams, one for poems, but nothing on a consistent basis. I admire that you have always done it. I LOVE Anne of Green Gables! She was a life-changing character for me, for sure!

    1. I don’t do it every day, but as long as I pick it up a few times a week to write something — anything — even just a few lines, it keeps moving forward. I do admit to letting it slide more so ever since I started blogging regularly! There’s only so much energy I have to write on top of raising kids 🙂

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