This is Why Keeping a Journal Is a Gift to Yourself

Art journal

I was having a conversation recently with one of my close lady pals about keeping a journal. She’s an artist, and I’m a writer, so our notebooks look a little different. Hers are filled with sketches, collages, magazine clippings. Mine are pages on pages of black and blue ink, bad poems, and dramatic musings about the challenges in my life at any given time.

We started talking about how at times we are shy, we hold back in our notebooks.

What if my pages end up online for the world to critique? Or *gasp* what if my MOM found it?

Why is that? A journal is a private place to be fully yourself, to say anything, to spill out the thoughts that tumble around in your head all day…

I think I’m afraid someone will find my journal, open it, read it, and then I will be exposed! I will be naked and completely vulnerable to whoever finds my words. Or worse, what if they pull a Mean Girls and photocopy all my precious secrets and post them all over? Or worse, what if my pages end up online for the world to critique? Or *gasp* what if my MOM found it?I’m afraid my journal isn’t well written, that it’s mostly comprised of trash writing, stuff I wouldn’t even show my best friend.

Our journal is how we converse with ourselves creatively, how we vent, how we divulge, confess, make ourselves laugh and cry.

Maybe my journal doesn’t follow the correct rules of journaling, or maybe I don’t talk about the right topics in my journal, maybe I focus too much on my relationships and not enough on my passions and political views; maybe my journal isn’t “good enough.” As we talked more, it became clear that journaling is an important act for each of us. We both journal religiously, the pages filled with the stuff that makes us who we are.

hands journaling

For me, starting a new journal is one of the most satisfactory feelings. Opening to that first crisp page, writing the date with a good pen. The beginning! The next best feeling is filling that journal, every last page marked by me, until the binding is worn, and the last sentence is closed with a fat period. The end!

So I made a resolution: write what feels right, keep writing, don’t hold back.

The more journals I fill, the more I realize that no one really cares what I write in my journals. And I mean that in a good way. My journal sits by my bed, closed, but no one is going to open it. And if they did, they would definitely fall asleep from boredom. The person who cares the most about my musings are me, myself, and I.

And that is such an empowering realization! Now I have the freedom to be truly open, candid, and creative in my notebook.

The more journals I fill, the more I realize that no one really cares what I write in my journals.

I encourage you, my friends, to journal like no one is reading. Journal because in two, five, twenty years you will have a record of who you were, what was probing you, what was frustrating you, what elated you. You will have your own memoir, something “sensational to read” as Oscar Wilde puts it in The Importance of Being Ernest.

When I read over my old journals, I am often embarrassed, I roll my eyes, I scoff. Because who did I think I was? What was I even thinking? But I’m also impressed with myself, because I’m always growing, learning more, maturing, and in my hands is proof of that. My journal.

Using an actual paper journal also feels somewhat novel now that we all have blogs or websites or just use our social media sites to vent or share or muse. In this age of public sharing, the privacy of a notebook feels almost sacred. Not to mention, spending a few minutes away from a screen each day has about a billion health benefits. So grab a notebook, a pen, and get started!

Here are some quick prompts to get you started on a journaling adventure:

– What is power? What makes you powerful?
– Write for twenty minutes about a moment when you felt proud of yourself. How do you define success?
– Where do you want to be in ten years? What are your goals? Where do you want to go?
– Doodle your name and surround the letters with positive adjectives/phrases that describe you.
– Cut up magazines and use a glue stick or tape to make a funky collage in your journal.
– Put on your fave pump up jams and free write for thirty minutes. Play with different genres of music to see how they impact your writing; find what feels most inspiring to you.

Happy writing!