I’ve been writing in journals for around ten years now, and while I don’t think I’ll ever be someone whose journals are worth publishing, I do think it’s one of the most beneficial habits I’ve cultivated over the years. Journaling allows me to find solace in paper and ink much like reading does, but in my own words rather than another person’s. It’s offered me a number of benefits since beginning, and while my approach has evolved in some ways, in others it hasn’t, but in all this time, I’ve learned a few ways to use journals to my advantage.
It’s not much of a trade secret to know that one major benefit of keeping a journal as a writer is collecting inspiration from it later on in ways both big and small. You can get whole plot lines from your own life for fiction or have a handy reference to look back on if you’re working on a memoir. To be honest, though, I don’t do that as often as I would like to or should, but I do hope, now that I’ve pulled out some older books, to start looking into them for insight on different projects.
Oftentimes, I use my journal as a sounding board with myself, writing down the thoughts floating through my head at any given moment, mundane to others, monstrous to me. Sometimes I don’t understand anything more clearly than I did beforehand, but at the very least I’ve gotten these thoughts out of me and onto the page, making them less intrusive and making me a little calmer. If I’m lucky, though, at least some thoughts, feelings, and ideas have been cleared up for me, so those twenty minutes spent writing until my weak hand cramps are edifying.
Similar to the above, journaling can help you organize your thoughts on certain subjects. Getting things onto the page makes them more appealing and workable for visual learners, like myself, so having a physical reference to what you’re working with does wonders. Sometimes you may not want to go back and look at what you’ve written–it’s embarrassing, it’s depressing, it’s any number of things–but the opportunity to see what you’re working with and reference it over and over is invaluable, both in taking inspiration for your writing and discovering how to exist day to day in the way that is best for you.
I pulled out my stack of journals just for this post’s photo, and a bit of flipping through, scanning the pages, was a mix of humorous and sad. Some entries were so naive, even in more recent years, that all I could do was laugh; others, though, were so painful, a deep hurt slipping through the lines of ink. I wouldn’t consider a single one a masterpiece, but I do consider them all valuable, if only in getting me through one day and onto the next.
Do you keep a journal?
What is your approach in writing in it?