On Keeping a Journal

The first journal I ever owned, I called my diary. I was 12, fumbling every Sunday night with a flashlight in the back seat of my father’s Expedition on the drive home from Santa Fe, trying to put pen to paper for no other reason than I loved to write, and knew I had to. If I forgot my flashlight, I would do my best to write by the light of passing streetlamps, straining my eyes to keep the letters straight.

The journal was small. It had a dark blue embroidered denim cover and a bronze clasp on the front. I enjoyed the way that it felt in my hands, and how I could carry it everywhere with me without the spine bending or breaking. I enjoyed the secrecy, and the idea that it was a sacred space for me and me alone. I enjoyed stepping out of my life for a few minutes and writing about whatever I wanted– fictional or true– letting thoughts and nonsense flow from me like flood water.

I picked up journaling again in 2015, just after graduating from college, and found with some bewilderment that I had no idea what to write about anymore. It had been so long since I’d really written for pleasure, after drowning for years in academic essays and reading. At a loss, I did something I hated: I wrote about my day, and the weather, and the shows I was watching, and the boys I liked.

I now affectionately refer to this as “the brain dump”– the near stream of consciousness method I use to begin journaling.

Every Saturday, I sit down with my hardcover journal and begin, by hand, to write about my week. What begins as rambling quickly becomes prose, and what begins as tedious over-analysis of my week becomes insightful memoir. A seemingly indulgent opening of the mind, turns out, is the window opened to let in cool, fresh air. Through my journal, I gain some weekly insight into how I am feeling emotionally, psychologically, and physically. And as a woman who puts her head down through instability, grits her teeth through pain and discomfort, looking at my thoughts written clearly in pen is a needed reprieve from the slog of “dealing with it.”

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