If I had to guess, I’d say journal writing is one of the oldest writing forms. Lewis and Clark used journals to record their journey and discovery of the Wild West. Charles Darwin used it to conclude his amazing scientific breakthrough of natural selection. Edison used it to jot down ideas that turned into hundreds of patents. And the most well known of them all, Leonardo da Vinci used them to explore his own curiosity. Without his journals, we would never know the intricate workings of the brilliant man.
Many famous people throughout history used journals to record their lives and justify their actions. But journaling was also a past time. In an age without television or radio, it formed an escape for quiet introspection. Like writing letters to one self, journaling offers us a means of self reflection. It is one of the highest forms of meditation and very therapeutic for stress relief.
I’ve been writing in journals since 2008. I have 8 volumes of various shapes and sizes filled with writing. If you’re new to journal writing or are simply toying with the idea, a question you might have is: What the hell do I write about?
I could simply refer you to the many apps and websites that throw out journaling prompts, but to me that’s cheating. Writing is personal. It is internal and must come from within. There are days when I have absolutely no idea what to write and that’s absolutely ok. That’s why I write journals, not diaries.
Most entries are logs of what transpired. Sometimes they’re detailed travel accounts. Most times they’re rants and complaints. I use my journals for emotional catharsis as much for recording memorable events.
Whether anyone reads them or not I have decided I care not. I’m an intensely private person, but I live among people who have absolutely no interest in such pursuits – which makes things easier for me. If privacy is a major issue for you, think of keeping a password protected Word doc on your personal computer.
My journal entries sometimes constitute summaries of what I’m reading, have watched, or learned. They’re lists of what I want to do: vacation plans, to-do lists, career goals, etc; Sometimes I start random lists in the back pages of “Books I’ve Read” or “Places I want to visit”. There is no hard and fast rule of what the journal should be.
Thumbing through old entries is something I generally avoid, but I forced myself to do that recently and discovered how much my writing has changed. I recognized the naive musings of a young girl and how they evolved into the deep ponderings of a mature woman. I can go back and asses what mental state I was in when I was doing my first engineering job and how that helped me conclude what Master’s degree I wanted to pursue.
Details. That’s what journaling offers me. Details, insights, and memories into my own life and self. Journaling should not be a chore. I’ve gone months without a single entry only to write ten – fifteen pages every day until the entire journal is filled within weeks! I keep my journals lined up on a shelf on the side of my desk, with the range of year on the spine or front of the cover. My habit is so well known that my younger sister even gifted me a journal for my birthday with a lovely letter inside.
Recently, I’ve noticed that my entries focus on the kind of person I want to become. I’ve begun feeling much more comfortable in my own skin and am learning to let go of the past. This free feeling is reflected in my positive entries about self and those around me. Although I still complain occasionally, they aren’t the meaningless, angry rants of an immature mind. Instead, they point out flaws and detailed incidents of what the other person did to cause me hurt and how I can overcome this without holding a grudge.
Your journal can be a powerful tool that can aid you in brainstorming ideas if you’re a writer, come up with new inventions if you’re an inventor, work through your problems if you’re in need of therapy, etc; Even on its own, it can make all of us better people.
But don’t take my word for it! Try it out yourself and see. Perhaps to you it will come to mean something else for you entirely! Why not make this a new resolution for 2017?