Keeping a Journal: Decades-Long Practices of Writing Things Down
I have a dozen close friends from my hometown. Some I've known since kindergarten. When an obscure fact from our childhood needs to be dug up, whether for fun or for something practical, I am often the one people turn to, for help with jogging memory. "How do you *remember* that?" someone will ask.
I believe it's because I have kept a journal for most of my life. The photo is from my "Hello Kitty" Diary, which is the first of the now hundreds of journals I have kept throughout the years. I think I retain the memory of things because I live through it multiple times by journaling. First is the experience itself, then the process of writing the memory, then a third exposure to it when I re-read it, so I retain the occurence better that way.
Why I Write
That's not why I write though. There's a great quote from one of my favorite writers, Flannery O'Connor, to help illustrate why I am drawn to keep a journal:
|"I write because |
I don't know what I think
until I read what I say."
I love the freedom in expatiating in my journal. I just spill out everything in my head, from the personal to the political and anywhere else. I'll make a To Do list what I need to do that day. I'll doodle. I'll hand-letter a quote. I'll keep a log of what I'm reading or writing or watching. I'll take notes on sorting out finances. I'll write a poem, or a recipe, or diagram an idea for the garden setup. For whatever reason, the haptic act of journaling helps me process everything I'm experiencing.
Analog and Digital Journaling
The kinetic experience of pen-and-paper journaling is important for me. I don't have as much a connection to content I create via typing-only. Like this blog post, if I wrote it by hand first and then transcribed it, I would retain it better and I would be more deliberative with the content. I think that is why almost all of my poetry is handwritten first. My handwriting is also part of the artistic experience of creating for me. I have really distinctive handwriting that is, if I do say so myself, very pretty.
See? All curly-q'ed and nice. I'd like to publish a book of my poems as I have handwritten them some day because with some there's an artistically visual effect of the way the words are written on the page. Something to consider!
Some people set goals and have certain things they want to write every day in their journal, and those are useful things to do. But the best thing about a freestyle journal is how very free it is! I don't necessarily write every day, though I try to becuase I find I think and feel better when I do. And I don't always have a set subject in mind when I write, though I do find it useful to do online challenges on a theme, or to log things that made me laugh and things I am grateful for--studies show that contributes to happiness. The thing that compels me to journal the most though, is that it is a natural and free way for me to express myself exactly as I want to.