I have been keeping a journal on and off my entire life. When I was younger, it was always in a small bound book that closed with a lock. Since I don’t have siblings anywhere close to my age, I cannot guess who the lock was meant to keep out. On my 18th birthday, my brother’s then-girlfriend, now-wife gave me a small, hardcover journal which I still write in, albeit only every two or three years. Every once in awhile I read through it and am somewhat amazed at the somewhat circular paths my life has taken.
Then came the era of on-line journals. I had a diaryland page for several years, but started neglecting it when all my friends made the switch to livejournal. The livejournal era lasted for awhile, and eventually I had several different and rather helpful filters, such as “local” for making plans with people, and “dreams” for those who want to hear about that insanity. Then came facebook, and livejournal got neglected in favor of more frequent, but quicker and shorter updates. Yes, facebook has notes, but they never quite seemed as good a substitute for a journal. So alas, my journalling went through a huge lapse.
While this blog is obviously focused on my writing, and not a personal journal, I think the two are very closely related. I have also heard it said that keeping a journal has many health benefits. While I’m not sure that I buy into that 100%, I have noted some perks to keeping a journal, some of which are writer-specific.
1. It is somewhat a protection against losing memories. For example, if I were to glance at my old dream journal, I could tell you that on this day in 2004, I had a dream that involved a redneck and two opossums. Reading the entry, the memory of the entire dream comes back to me. And let me tell you, this was a dream that was so hysterical that I actually woke up laughing. And no, I can’t tell you what it was–you would have had to be there. Not that all memories of redneck/opossum dreams have to be treasured forever, but say my husband and I cannot remember where we went to dinner when we were celebrating our five-year anniversary. By looking back at old entries, I can find that out right away, without having to discuss for an hour whether it was a French place on the Upper East Side or an Indian place in TriBeCa.
2. Another thing I like about keeping a journal is it tends to get the creative juices flowing, so to speak. When you are given free rein to write about anything and everything, paired with the private or semi-private nature of keeping a journal, you may feel free to explore subjects you haven’t before. While this may not actually lead to a short story or novel, you may look over an entry later and see something you could work with. The aforementioned dream journal is of particular importance here. Setting aside the redneck/opossum dream (for good this time, I promise) often my dreams are very vivid, and tell a somewhat coherent story. Sometimes so much so that I will wake up and spend a few minutes thinking about how the dream should end and what I would change about it if I were to have artistic license to my own brain.
3. When you have added journalling to your list of things that you must do every day, you are setting a good precedent of getting into the habit of writing every day. I have even heard of writers who count their journalling towards their daily word count. Personally, I don’t do this, but I could see how it would give one the boost needed to continue writing, especially if you are beating yourself up over not being able to meet your daily minimum over the course of an entire weekend. Not that I just did that, of course.
As anyone who has ever suffered from writer’s block (I think that’s all of us) will tell you, any writing is better than no writing. So get out those journals, whether they be the Lisa Frank with dolphins and unicorns, or electronic type, and get to it!