For many years now I have kept a journal. Writing in it day after day is important to me. My journal is a private space where my thoughts can reside. It is a place where I can explore my world and what happens in it. I value the insights and gifts that journal writing brings me.
Writing in good and bad times
When good things happen, I describe them in my journal. I write about things like seeing inspiring paintings, watching birds flitter in my garden or holding the gentle weight of my infant nephew as he falls asleep in my arms. In writing about these things, my focus is brought more closely to them. I search for words to express how it feels. I think about what it means.
In darker times, I also write. On miserable days, I can pour all my sadness, frustration and anger on to the page. I can rage and demand and wail and complain. Often my head whirls with questions that have no answer. Still I must ask them. I scrawl in my journal all my doubts and desperation. Then I close the book and I close my eyes. I take a deep breath and try again the next day.
My journals are a record of my life. But reading back through them can be strange. Some of the moments I describe return to me so clearly. Yet other entries record events of which I have no recollection. It is curious to be reminded of what I have forgotten. If I hadn't written about these times they might have disappeared from my mind forever. But would that really matter?
Reading back can also reveal that after years or even decades, I'm still wrestling with the same difficulties. My words record similar thoughts or feelings over time and I keep asking the same questions. Becoming aware of this can be very discouraging. It is as if nothing has changed. Even when I see these twisting tangles and patterns, I can not unravel them. So begins a new journal entry. I write hoping to find a way out of confusion. Each word I lay down forms a path. I hope it will one day lead me somewhere clearer.
Lyrics, poems, pictures
Many of my journal entries contain fragments of song lyrics that drift through my mind. I read poetry and write down the lines that echo or express my mood. Dreams, too, are recorded and pondered. But more than words are stored in my journals. Images from magazines, exhibition catalogues and newspapers are all found in their pages. I stick in stamps, ticket stubs, scratched notes, feathers. All of these add texture to my journals. But writing is still the most important thing.
Not everyone who keeps a journal uses words, however. Some journals may contain no writing at all. Artists keep visual diaries in which they sketch and draft ideas. They gather inspiration as colours or shapes. Other people take photographs, make audio recordings or create collages from the scraps of daily life. Even drawing a scribble or doodle a day can be a kind of journal making.
Valuable and meaningful
Keeping a journal is vital to who I am. Through it, I try to understand my life, my longings and my regrets. I believe writing in my journal is one of the most valuable and meaningful things I can do.