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10 Reasons You’ll Be Cooler if You Journal!

November 17, 2010

Whenever I ask people why they don’t keep a journal the usual response is, “I don’t have time.” or “I try all the time and I can never manage to keep up with it.” Both are valid excuses, but reveal a lack of understanding of the benefits of taking a few brief moments to spend some time with a journal and pen in hand. I began penning my thoughts during my family’s tumultuous move from the high desert of California to Crete, Greece. Prior to my move to Greece I don’t think I had ever left the country, though I had certainly already done my share of moving around. As I recall, the journal itself was rather unremarkable; probably a Hello Kitty key and locket job, designed for style and not necessarily service. But housed between the covers were all the first sights, thoughts and impressions of an undiscovered country.

1. It doesn’t have to take hours and hours.

The adorable One Line a Day Journal pushes back against the idea that journaling, by default, be a time-consuming activity. You don’t even need a special journal to execute the idea. Any journal will suffice.

2. A “journal” can be anything.

Even mention of the word “journal” conjures up the image of a fussy old gilded edge, extravagant paper contraption, usually given as gifts by well-meaning, but often clueless folks. The intimidation factor only often discourages people from cultivating the habit. It’s a reason why I generally believe journals are something a person should purchase for themselves. Beyond the whole intimidation piece, journaling is a personal decision and the tools someone uses should be selected with their own tastes and needs in mind. If you like fussy, by all means, have at it. If you like lo-fi or mid range, that’s new hotness too. Any way you conceptualize the journal you’d want to use is the right one for you.

Carrie writes by hand, though for some reason I selected this picture.

3. The content is only limited by your imagination!

D.I.Y Sara does a glorious art journal, which is just as much a record of her life, creativity and whathaveyou as anything Bridget Jones might write in her bright red notebook. There are all kinds of types of journals and certainly there’s a format that will speak to you.

4. It’s actually a lot of fun.

Journaling is a lot of fun. Whether you’re applying your nascent skills toward a screenplay or a collage or a sketch of your coffee mug, there’s a lot of fun to be had allowing yourself space on the page. Or even if you’re a pro. Journaling can be one of the few activities that doesn’t make your life worse and often makes it better.

5. It’s distracting.

Ever read something on Twitter that made you want to light your hair on fire? How about the endless freaking spamalicious emails forwarded to you by people who at this point should know better. No, Bill Gates is not going to give you eleventy billion dollars for forwarding a spammy chain email. Instead of going online and becoming another person I secretly schadenfollow take out your journal situation and get it all out – in anyway you do it – and get away from that keyboard. You will be so happy and spare yourself ample amounts of grief. Trust me; I’ve done the legwork.

6. Journaling’s like collecting sea shells at the beach.

Or diamonds in the back of an armored car. Whatever metaphor floats your boat. I keep a story idea journal, which is often just whatever tiny notebook occupies the bottom of my beast-of-burden bag. I love finding old ones and discovering great and sometimes hilarious tidbits and dialog and old grocery lists. Not everything discovered is thrilling enough to make it into a novel, blog post or art project, but hey, it’s sure fun thinking so.

Probably not going to want to write PRIVATE across the front of your private journal, like Harriet the Spy did.

7. Your thoughts are safe(r) here.

Everyday the internet reminds us how of the folly in thinking any online spaces we occupy are impervious to public view. They’re not. I treat the internet as though it was my parents’ headboard. If I wouldn’t splatter paint it on the headboard, I tend not to want to write it online. Now, granted, my threshold is probably a bit more saucy, cheeky than many, but it’s still a pretty good rule of thumb. Your parents’ headboard, of course, may vary. I won’t front; journaling is not a 100% safe activity. There might be prying eyes and clever individuals armed with Encyclopedia Brown-esque powers of detection and a heap of unstructured time who want to get at your celebrity lust lists, drawings of kittens, vengeful poison pen letters you’ve no intention of sending and Nobel prize speeches that will never see Stockholm and those people are busters. Scrubs, even! And I am fully of the mindset that snoopers deserve any reversals of fortunes visited upon them during their violation of another’s private journaling space. Snoopers deserve to find out you find their jokes unfunny, their cooking lousy and their breath more deadly than gunpowder.

8. Journaling is surprisingly healing

When I pondered what to do with old journals I wrote the following: ” I came across a couple of journals I kept after graduate school while I was on a hopeless and demoralizing job search. Reading the journals beamed me back to a pretty miserable time, which thanks to my fantastic writing skills, was faithfully and vividly rendered on the page. Those journals got stomped on, soaked in the bathtub and eventually burned to cinders. I contemplated backing over the journals with my car, but figured tire damage would mitigate any satisfaction experienced.” and while I certainly didn’t enjoy visiting the ghosts of disappointments past, I still was very aware of the healing salve my old journals had been to me. There had been times – if I can be so melodramatic for a moment – where it did feel as though my journal was my only friend. A terrible place to be, for sure, but they’ve been good friends. I have no license to practice medicine – dubious or otherwise – but I gotta tell you, nothing beats journaling (as you define it based on your needs) to making you feel better when things are stressful, fortunes are reversed and the damn oven keeps burning up your cupcakes.

Wonder if these two kept journals. Probably not.

9. It doesn’t have to cost a heap of cashmoney.

Sure you can spend all kinds of cheddar on journals that perform no more flights of fancy than the decidedly more modestly priced models, but why. Unless you are into that sort of thing – I tend not to be – there’s nothing wrong with a $.25 spiral notebook and a $.10 Stic pen! They keep thoughts just as well, and perhaps even better, given that people aren’t generally as curious about the contents of a nondescript spiral notebook as they are some gilded truffle of a notebook. Moreover, notebooks are something people are always trying to give away, yet don’t always have willing recipient. And shoot, if the lack of journal is a problem for any reader who leaves a comment, I’d be willing to send one from my stash.

10. If you keep it long enough it might become famous!

Anaïs Nin and a host of other folks have gotten all famous for the journals they’ve kept. I’m not saying that everything written is fame worthy, but you won’t know unless you give it a shot.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2010 11:21 am

    And I am fully of the mindset that snoopers deserve any reversals of fortunes visited upon them during their violation of another’s private journaling space.

    Agreed. Frankly I’d be a little flattered if someone wanted to read my journal. I mean, not that I invite snooping either, but I don’t sweat it or let it prevent me from writing. If anything, I sometimes hide things from my future self that I fear will be embarrassing to read, though it turns out unnecessarily cagey journal entries end up being the ones I deplore when I read them later!

  2. November 17, 2010 11:30 am

    Great post! I’ve never been very into written journals, though I made a few tries in younger days, but I have been keeping sketchbooks since high school and have always found it comforting and rewarding. I love looking through old ones and seeing how bad I was at drawing (reminds me that I’ve improved), or what weird or cool ideas I had for something. In most of the art classes I took in college I had to a “page a day” sketchbook, which involved “making a mark” of some kind each day until the book was finished- that could be a pen line, a written message, a pasted in image, a doodle, a ripped page, etc. It was challenging and I often didn’t actually stick to the “every day” part, but I always liked looking through what I’d done at the end of the semester and seeing what my classmates had come up with.

    If anything my blog is probably the closest thing I have to a written journal, since it’s a comprehensive log of every movie I’m watching and often reflects certain personal happenings that affect my movie viewing (living abroad, taking finals, working, oscillating amounts of spending money, etc). And I do enjoy doing it, frustrating as it is at times.

  3. November 17, 2010 11:30 am

    “Even mention of the word “journal” conjures up the image of a fussy old gilded edge, extravagant paper contraption, usually given as gifts by well-meaning, but often clueless folks. The intimidation factor only often discourages people from cultivating the habit.”

    This is what kept me from keeping a journal for so long, and even now I don’t call what I do “keeping a journal.” I have a notebook — several actually — where I jot things down I might want to write about later. It’s more an “idea” book than a diary. Anything longer than a few sentences I have to sit down and type, then it becomes a draft.

  4. November 17, 2010 12:33 pm

    Thanks for posting this! I’ve journaled on and off for years, but I think it’s been at least a year since I’ve written in mine. When I do, I like to always note where I’m writing and the song I’m listening to, just to remember the moment I’m writing.

    There are so many different ways to record your day or your thoughts, and in this day of FB/Twitter, its nice to write something and know its only for an audience of one (unless you get famous or are a victim of snooping).

    (Also, I grew up in the CA desert too—Yucca Valley to be exact. How about you?)

  5. Hsofia permalink
    November 17, 2010 12:38 pm

    Hurrah for this post! I’ve been keeping a journal since my classmate Kisha gave me one for after winter break in, I believe it was 1986? Most of them cost in the $4-7 range. A lot of them are filled with complaints of loneliness and not being understood, but I’m always amazed to read about events and people that I had completely forgotten about. It’s so easy to think “oh I’ll remember this,” but truth is the mind may very well decide it has more important things to do.

    I journaled about my first year and a half of dating my now-hubby. Some of my most treasured entries! Ive also come across journals of when we’ve almost separated since being married – all of those have been helpful for maintaining (or getting) perspective. Journaling has been priceless for me, and I regret the intermittent periods when I neglected to do it.

  6. November 17, 2010 1:16 pm

    Thanks for the reminder.

    I would have probably kept a journal since I was 12 except my mom and grandmother found it and read it, so I stopped for a long while after that. And I might have kept one in college, except I had roommates until Senior year.

    Journaling is just a great memory device. Sometimes just a few words can bring back a moment, a day, an experience in a way that you might not have had, if you didn’t write it down as you were thinking about it, soon after it happened. In that way, it’s like a pushpin to your past.

    Really, our memories are a lot like attics. Everything is up there, but sometimes what you’re looking for isn’t easily found, so you have to poke around, try to consider stuff, wander through areas and lift up other things to dig down deep. Journals definitely help with the organization of it all!

    Thanks (again) for the reminder!

  7. November 17, 2010 3:46 pm

    10. If you keep it long enough it might become famous!

    Though probably not in your lifetime.

    I’ve kept journals at various times in my life, and your present such a convincing argument that I think it’s time to start again.

  8. November 17, 2010 5:46 pm

    I love my paper journals. I have discovered that at 33 being without one at all times makes me feel naked and awful.

    Occasionally I put some of the more fiction flavored writing exercises in a wordpress blog that I have. But most I just collect and put away.

  9. November 18, 2010 8:51 am

    Oh my goodness, y’all make my heart swell. I’ll be back to respond to these great comments. ❤ ❤ <3.

  10. lucy permalink
    November 18, 2010 10:42 am

    I love this post! In the past, journaling helped me a lot with my mild depression. Unfortunately, when I gets worse, I fall out of it or start doing it more infrequently, which sucks as I feel it would be nice to have some sort of record of my thoughts, feelings and actions while I’m depressed. Does anyone have any tips for the depressed journaler?

  11. November 18, 2010 1:20 pm

    I love this post! In the past, journaling helped me a lot with my mild depression. Unfortunately, when I gets worse, I fall out of it or start doing it more infrequently, which sucks as I feel it would be nice to have some sort of record of my thoughts, feelings and actions while I’m depressed. Does anyone have any tips for the depressed journaler?

    @Lucy – I find when I’m too depressed to write straightforward narrative, lists work better for me. I make lists of anything. Things I need to do. Things I don’t need to do. Clothing I should buy or burn and so forth. I also list things I’ve done, like books I read and at my worst, I used to find it soothing to write out the episode titles from “The X-files” in order from season 1 to season 7.

    Sometimes, my lists cause me to want to comment on them and that’s when my feelings, thoughts and such seep out. I find this helpful. What do you think? Also timed rants are good too. I set a timer for 10 minutes and go buck wild. By the end, I don’t always feel “better” but sometimes I end up making myself laugh with some angerlicious unintentionally humorous turn of phrase. And for the moment I’m okay. String a bunch of those together and it helps me get though more stressful times when I don’t feel as though anything “conventional” is working/helping.

  12. lucy permalink
    November 19, 2010 11:59 am

    Thanks snarky’s. I really like your suggestions — especially the lists and the timer bits. I’ve been toying around with the idea of lists for sometime so it’s nice to hear that it works for you. And I’ve had some success with writing nonsense and then allowing bits of my sincere thoughts to come through. But I think writing lists (and the timer) might provide me with more focus. I’ll definitely try to make some time to try them out.

  13. November 19, 2010 3:34 pm

    Wonderful post 😀 (thank you so much for the mention! **blush**)

  14. athousanddreams permalink
    November 20, 2010 1:03 am

    i love this post
    i especially enjoy the way you’ve taken down popular notions of what a journal should be, it feels more freeing, to me at least
    thanks for the reminder

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