Keeping a Journal 1: What is a Journal?

July 18, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Posted in Mental Health, Writing and Life | 4 Comments
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My Journal- child's

Often the words ‘diary’ and ‘journal’ are used interchangeably. It is confusing at times to know exactly what a person may be referring to when they say “I must put that in my diary/journal’.

Are they going to put in the date of an event for future reference, or are they going to write some thoughts about it? Will they reflect on it or just record it? There is actually a slight difference between the two terms.

Appointment diary

Etomology (from Wikipedia):
The word diary comes from the Latin diarium (“daily allowance,” from dies “day”). The word journal comes from the same root (diurnus “of the day”) through Old French jurnal (modern French for day is jour).
The earliest use of the word to mean a book in which a daily record was written was in Ben Jonson’s comedy Volpone in 1605.

This is how oxforddictionaries.com defines them:
Diary: 1. A book in which one keeps a daily record of events and experiences.
2. British A book with spaces for each day of the year in which one notes appointments or information.
Journal: A daily record of news and events of a personal nature; a diary: [while abroad he had kept a journal]

And another online dictionary defines ‘journal’ as:
a. A personal record of occurrences, experiences, and reflections kept on a regular basis; a diary.

Journal 01

When I look at definitions – and here I am only referring to the personal forms and not such writings as The Wall Street Journal – I see that a journal is a diary. It is simply a less formal and more specialised kind of diary. It may be kept on a daily basis or less regularly.

So, if we say we are writing something in our diary, we are basically referring to the generic form. If we say we are writing in our journal, then we are writing in a diary of a certain type.

Now let’s confuse the issue of a ‘journal’ a bit more. Many people see personal journals as having many forms, depending on what they are used for. One blogger about journals sees at least fifteen types. I did a quick list of the types I could think of in a minute or two, and this is what I came up with:

dream-journal

Gratitude journal

Gratitude journal

– Daily thoughts journal

Travel Journal

Travel Journal


– Dream journal
– Travel journal
– Reading and/or reviewing journal
– Gratitude journal
– Personal development journal
– Project journal
– Nature journal
– Meditation journal
– Planning journal
– Creativity journal
– Writing journal
– Art journal

Art Journal

Art Journal

I am sure there are other varieties of journal that people keep. The journals may have few words in them – or even none. They may consist entirely of drawings and sketches, graphs, or photos of places the journalist has been (though the last is usually called a photo album).

They may simply be lists, jottings of points to remember, quotations of others, ideas to be followed up, places to go. Or they could consist of thoughts and feelings, memories, hopes or frustrations, spilled out on pages and pages of text.

Journals can be about anything

Journals can be about anything

Journals could be just one of the above or a combination of any or all of them. The main thing about a journal is that it reflects the writer, whether on the surface or the depths, depending on what they share with their ‘Dear diary/journal’.

Notebook

Have you ever kept a diary? Do you have a journal now? If so, what kind of journal is it? Do you keep more than one?

© Linda Visman

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4 Comments »

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  1. Great post! It’s always interesting to see the different ways in which people use journals/diaries. I kept a written journal for about ten years – just somewhere to write about every day thoughts and feelings. Then I discovered art journaling, which is now my main way of keeping a journal/diary.

    Over the years I’ve also had specific journals for dreams, travel, reviewing music and books, gratitude… but I’ve realised that (personally) my journal can be anything I want it to be, and now it contains anything and everything from my life!

    • Sarah, it seems that many, if not most writers and artists keep a journal of some sort. I certainly can’t see myself not writing one at all any more.
      Like you, my journal covers just about everything – and that’s part of the topic for a later blog post. 🙂

      • Looking forward to reading it!

  2. Until a couple of yeas ago, I kept a diary. But now I’ve simply dropped the habit. I think, though, that it’s a good idea to at least keep a record of the events that matter.


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