Keeping a Journal 4: Why A Journal Is Important for Me

August 20, 2014 at 10:59 pm | Posted in Culture, Experiences, Mental Health, Writing and Life | 8 Comments

Writing a journal

Journal writing is an important part of my life. Not many days go by without my writing something – whether it’s a short note or, as it usually is, several pages.

So what makes keeping a journal so important to me?

Writing in my journal makes me feel like I have a friend I can talk to, a friend that doesn’t judge me but accepts me as I am.

I am writing to and for myself – nobody else. So my journal is – or should be – a safe repository for my innermost thoughts. I can write freely and without censorship – or censure – from anyone else.

writing journal

I must write. It is a compulsion that has grown over the years. Now, I don’t feel right if a day goes by without my having written something.

I work through my angst in my journal. Instead of writing an email to someone or making a phone call or saying something face to face that I will later be sorry for, I set it down in my journal. Once I have worked through it, I have settled down and I have a better idea what to do – if anything. Much, if not all of the stress has been worked out on the page.

Journal, cup, glasses

I can use my journal to make a more rational decision about something.By writing the reasons for and against, I can see why I should or shouldn’t do something. I can work out my thoughts much more clearly, because I am not arguing against a person, but just assessing the pros and cons of a situation without anyone trying to persuade me one way or the other

Keeping a journal makes me face myself. By writing my thoughts, needs and desires, I can see more of who I am. I can see when, how and why something gets to me. I can see what my real motivations are, what I really think about people and their actions.

Keeping track of your life

To record my life – like many, I want to be here when I am gone. To do that, I have to make a mark somehow. If my boxes of journals survive – or if only one of them does, and any of them are read by someone – then I will still be around.

I write the first thoughts I have about a poem or a short story, and will sometimes even draft a whole poem in my journal. From there, I take it to the computer and work on it.

What form does my journal take?

Back in 1990, I moved to a remote area in Central Australia to teach at a small indigenous community. At that time, there was no telephone communication with the outside world, and the mail plane came only once a week, on Friday afternoon.

Bundles of letters

Because I was living and working in a completely new environment and had a lot to learn to adapt to it, I had little time to keep a journal. It usually happens, even now, that when I am most involved in interesting activities and places, I have less time to write about them. This was the case back then. Because I couldn’t phone my kids or my parents, I wrote to them. Then I photocopied the letters and pasted them into my journal. They provide an invaluable record of the first eighteen months of my ten years in Central Australia. But when the telephone came to that remote area, the letters stopped, and because I was still working 12-14 hours a day, the record of my time there stopped.

Nowadays, even though I prefer to write my thought by hand, using pen and a notebook, -and I still do write that way when I am putting down my first thoughts on a creative writing project, nowadays I write most of my journal on my computer.

Journal, laptop, book

I want my words to last, so I still have this strange attachment to the (literally) printed word. I see print as more likely to survive that any electronic records, so I still use a notebook – A4 size, 120-240s – and I write in the book by hand at times when I can’t use the computer. But I have also adapted what I did in that first year and a half in the Northern Territory. I print out my typed journal entries and paste them into the notebook. I also print and paste all my blog entries, and may even print out emails, letters and other items which interest me enough to keep.

Journal bundle

My current journal is number 45 of the set I began about the time I married my second husband in 2005. That makes about five journals filled per year. The older editions repose in three plastic tubs with lids, and I am afraid I will soon run out of storage.

Keep calm -write journal

Do you journal regularly? Why is it important to you? What form do your journals take?

(c) Linda Visman

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8 Comments »

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  1. I really admire you, Linda, for following the discipline of journalling. Must be quite something having a collection of journals as you have. I’ve journalled but it’s always been an on and off thing. 🙂

    • There have been years, Don, when I couldn’t journal, as I mentioned, and years when I just didn’t. I wish I had been able to, because there are so many important things I know I have forgotten – I have a poor memory. Perhaps that’s why I am now rather obsessive about keeping one, rather than disciplined.

  2. Wow, you are so organised. I have never kept a journal except for the year 1998 when I wrote a fictional one! I think you are right about paper surviving for longer than computers and emails.

    • Thanks for dropping in and commenting, Debbie. Obsessive rather than organised, I’d say! 🙂

      • Would you prefer, ‘structured’? Or ‘well-disciplined’?

      • It’s interesting how some of us keep journals and some of us don’t!

  3. I’ve never been a disciplined journaler, but I’ve always found it cathartic. I find writing by long hand inspires creativity, and that is how I start most project and then take them to the computer. I scribble notes all over the place and even keep a pad by my bed.

    • I like to write longhand too when I want to be creative. I do believe there is some sort of link between the brain and handwriting that isn’t there with a keyboard.


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