Confessions of a Journaling Junkie
Hi. My name is Sandy, and I am a journaling junkie.
Since the age of 9, I’ve filled the pages of blank books with observations, memories, fears, and dreams.
Inside these books are detailed, at times mortifying, scrawls about dramatic friendships and clueless ex-boyfriends, bullying bosses and feckless colleagues. I’ve written through each phase of my life — from elementary school to college, first dates to marriage, and into to the joyful-yet-at-times-infuriating stage of parenthood.
The completed journals live in a box stashed away in my office closet. They’ve followed me cross-country — twice, and the box gets heavier as I complete one book and start another.
I’ve read numerous blogs about the importance of keeping a journal. (Because, when in the throes of writer’s block, one way for a writer to feel accomplished is to read posts by other writers about writing.)
I didn’t know when I started journaling way back in the ‘80s it could make me more productive, successful, and happy. I simply wanted a way to privately and thoroughly analyze my crush on Michael J. Fox.
Over time, however, the benefits of journaling have crystallized; the act of writing in a journal is no longer just a way to pass the time or hash out my plans to marry a sickeningly rich rock star (looking at you, Nikki Sixx!).
Journaling is now a priority in my ever-growing to-do list. A few reasons:
It’s Cheaper Than Therapy!
I have 33 years of journaling under my belt. That’s around 12,000 days of self-exploration — free of charge! (Save for the cost of the journal itself.)
My journals have been my go-to in times of stress.
When my mother forbade me from seeing Poison in concert, my journal was there for me.
When I was in my twenties, broke and living alone, my journal provided a figurative shoulder to lean on.
When my grandmother passed away in 2007, my journal collected every remembrance I could muster.
Now, in my forties, as my career takes a U-turn and the road ahead seems paved with obstacles, my journal provides respite from the stresses of life.
From childhood to near middle age, the journals have been a constant in my life and have passed no judgement.
Being able to pour my heart out — to share every embarrassing thought or need without filter — has been enormously beneficial to my mental health. I’ve pulled myself through some very dark times simply by putting pen to paper.
I can honestly say I might not be here now if I didn’t have that outlet.
It Preserves (My Take On) the Past
The pages of my journals contain my take on countless arguments, events, and relationships. Incidents that were at the time significant are described in minute detail — every who, what, where, when, and why.
But, as years pass, memories fade. Specifics become hazy. Timelines shift. Moments that were once mountainous are reduced to rubble by the passage of time.
Reading old journals brings it all back into focus.
Some entries are painful, some are downright ridiculous.
That Poison concert? I literally wrote,
“My mother doesn’t understand I would sacrifice ANYTHING to see them!”
Had I not kept a journal that little gem from 12-year-old me would be lost in the Memory Dump.
My journals remind me, in stark black (or pink or red) and white, who I was, where I’m from, and what has led me to be the woman I am today — good, bad, and in-between.
It Fulfills My Need to Write
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.
I loved creative writing in elementary school, and I’ve spent much of my adult life writing professionally.
The act of writing is crucial to my health. When I go too long without doing it, I feel…off. Much like working out and eating veggies, writing is something I must do, even if I’m not in the mood. I always feel better when I’m done.
I can always come up with something to write about — that is, something to complain about — be it career or family or weather or politics. (Though I try to avoid journaling about world affairs. It just depresses me.)
Further, writing by hand (my preferred method) enables me to tap into the right side of my brain, which gets the creative juices flowing, which enables me to write more artistically satisfying work. Writing begets writing, as they say.
The takeaway: Journaling is good. If you aren’t doing it already, I encourage you to start.
Just grab a pen and a book and start writing.
My preference has always been the Canson Artist Sketchbook, as I prefer to write on unlined blank paper. Or, if you’re the type who stares at a page with no clue of where to begin, you can look for a journal with writing prompts. A few of the most popular are Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration, Prompt Me: Creative Writing Journal & Workbook, and You’re Weird: A Creative Journal for Misfits, Oddballs, and Anyone Else Who’s Uniquely Awesome.
If you prefer the e-method, there are dozens of journaling apps available, some of which offer reminders to gently nudge you to get off your lazy ass and start typing. You know, if you need that kind of help.
Don’t feel bad if you skip a day or even week or, hell, many months between entries. Don’t worry if your writing is terrible and you can’t spell and you can never remember if it’s there or their or they’re.
No one else is reading your journal (unless you want them to or you have nosy relatives, in which case you may need to invest in something more secure), so no one is going to judge.
Well, your future self might, should you choose to re-read your work years from now. But don’t worry about that. Future You will have just as many laughable issues as Past or Current You, trust me.
So give it a shot. Get writing.
I promise only good will come of it.