Confessions of a part-time journaler

Confessions of a part-time journaler

I'm an irregular journaler.

I journaled for the first time in months this morning. About two years ago, I decided I would try something called Morning Pages, a concept I learned via Tim Ferriss, who got it from Julia Cameron, who wrote about it in her book, "The Artist's Way." You're basically supposed to wake up and before doing anything else, write three pages longhand without stopping. Personally, three pages was difficult. I felt like I was trying so hard to write content that didn't reflect the same things I had thought of all the days before and I felt this weird, judgey journaling pressure (I swear that's a thing) to have interesting and normal stream of consciousness that I began dreading it. So, I created a variation where I just wrote a page because that felt right. It felt doable. I kept that up for the better part of a year. This might sound weird to a lot of writers because many swear by it, but last year was the first time I had ever filled a journal. It felt good to do that, although I'm not quite at the point where I think I could read what I wrote and find it somehow profound and enlightening.

The journal I wrote in today was one I tend to write in sporadically. I have assignments in there from my community college days, my chicken-scratch attempt at devising a budget, some super dramatic writing that I'm sure was warranted and in line with my emotions at the time, and there are some birthday entries, too. I enjoyed reading through pages that documented being on the cusp of 23 and 24. I was emotionally inconsistent because, well, I'm emotionally inconsistent but how many of us feel the same about ourselves and our lives on our birthdays or even on a daily basis? How often do we feel good and undeniably happy about what we're doing and who we are?

I turn to my journal on the mornings or days that I need to vent without speaking. There might be a tendency for people to feel like journaling is black and white, that either you're a dedicated user or you're not. It's not like that. You don't need to have a set regiment to find something that works for you. Whether that's changing up how many pages you write or how often you write, adjusting what has worked for others to suit what works for you, is completely valid. If the future-you becomes awfully embarrassed by something past-you wrote, you can always do what I did in my early teens when I found my middle grade diary. Overcome with embarrassment by my shameful penmanship, I recopied a few pages before realizing it was stupid and proceeding to dump the whole thing in the trash.

So what I'm trying to say is, don't do that. Do nothing. Your past is important, and it's important to know how you used to see and think about it.

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  • Stick with it. Have you read others' journals? It can be enlightening for me, and I've kept what I call a diary since 1975. (Yeah, I started early.) One of my favorite books is "Dangerous Work" by Arthur Conan Doyle, written when he was the ship's doctor on an Arctic whaling ship, long before he was an author. He kept a log which sometimes had dramatic stories -- I'll never read the Sherlock Holmes story about "Black Peter" the same again -- but sometimes had just a note, like July 19, 1880: "Blowing a gale all day. Nothing to do and we did it."

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    I have read a couple of author's journals and you're right, they are often enlightening. It's incredible that you've kept a diary for over two decades. I bet there's some great stuff in there. I will look into "Dangerous Work," I had no idea he served as the doctor on a whaling ship. Thank you for sharing, Margaret!

  • In reply to Mahjabeen Syed:

    You'll love it, Mahjabeen. It's revealing and funny, with half in a photographed, handwritten version and half in type. The photo version includes Doyle's drawings, which are amazingly detailed. The book includes background about whaling that helped me understand that whaling was like going to the gas station for us -- an important source of energy -- as well as an amazing adventure.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    I look forward to it :)

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