You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ~Ray Bradbury
I consider myself a very lucky person. I have many good things in my life, I have a wonderful family, a roof over my head, goodish grades in school, but most of all, I have a sincere joy of writing. I have kept a journal regularly since I was very young. The first time I remember really picking up a personal journal was when my grandmother died hen I was seven (I think. The memory is vague)
I know that everyone knows that writing is good for you. The first thing out of most therapists mouths if you go to counseling is “Keep a personal journal.” I know that, personally, writing has saved my life in MANY instances. I have struggled with depression for a good chunk of my life and Panic Disorder for a smaller, but still considerable, chunk of it too. I felt suicidal, and I would take out my notebook and write until my brain was empty. Writing can help you with anything though, from boredom to rage to insomnia.
Most of all, a personal journal is essential to anyone trying to find their way. Heres why.
- You will not be judged. No one is going to read your journal but you, unless you want them to. So you can feel free to open up for once. talk about how skanky you think that one chick is. Write out all the juicy details of that particularly sexy dream you had. Write pages and pages of literary crap for the fun of it. Don’t edit yourself. This can be scary and feel weird at first, but you get used to it. I promise.
- You will understand yourself more. I once had a really awful breakup. I kept telling myself that I didn’t care about that cheating sonofabitch it and that I was moved on. Then one day I was flipping though my journal. I literally had pages upon pages of me talking about how I was so over him. Hmm…..
- You will learn to see art everywhere. Keeping a journal is kind of like buying a really fancy photographer’s camera. There are two things that could happen. You could think that the camera is too scary and you will break it if you touch it, or worse, someone will see those stupid ugly photos you took. Or you can take that camera with you everywhere, and suddenly even small things like dandelions thriving in the cracks of a sidewalk has the potential to be a stunning and thought provoking image. Nothing is too small or insignificant to be beautiful.
- You WILL have inspiration. I often get these random intense urges to write fiction. I will sit at the computer, my fingers poised at the ready to create the next great American novel. Nothing comes out. I have no stories in my head, just the desire to write SOMETHING. This is when I take out an old journal. I flip to a promising looking page and read it. I am very often surprised by my own writing. A random boredom-inspired journal entry about the old lady that lives across the street could blossom into an idea. “I wonder why she lives alone, was she ever married, what was her husband like? Does she have kids? Why don’t they visit? Maybe they are captives or convicts or foreign politicians. Maybe she is a spy……”
- You will have SOMETHING: Do you ever look back at the past week, month, year, or whatever and think, “God, my life is so boring. I have done nothing interesting.” Well, even if your life seems boring, keeping a journal will make you feel much better about yourself because, even if after a month all you have is a journal full of your complaining about work. You FILLED and entire BOOK with writing. I can’t explain the cathartic feeling of flipping though a newly filled journal (even if it is just full of “boring” writing)
Keeping a journal is cheap. You don’t have to go out and buy a moleskin journal and a fancy cartridge pen. Personally, I stock up on spiral notebooks and composition books in the fall when they are a dime a dozen. In fact, i encourage keeping a personal journal in a cheap notebook. It keeps you from taking yourself too seriously. I have some very fancy pens, but I hardly ever use them because when I do I feel like I should be writing something worthy. Your journal doesn’t have to be worthy of anything. It’s just you. It’s you being bored. It’s you being pissed off. It’s you being sad. It’s you being creative.
It’s you being free.
(Originally posted on a previous blog on May 9, 2008