Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why I Journal: 21 Reasons


Journaling is often described as a lost or dying art. Maybe it is. I lack necessary statistics to prove or disprove that hypothesis, but I don't know many people who do it. My mom. My mentor. A couple of my friends.

The reason for this, I think, is that journaling is a discipline before it's an art, and discipline is dying.

It's understandable, if you think about it. There are countless demands on our time and energy. It's kind of a miracle you're even reading this post right now. The mere act of reading demands your time and mental real estate, and what you're reading is about yet another discipline in addition to the ones already on your plate. Not to mention, this particular discipline reeks with the odor of your middle school classroom and all its unpleasantness.

I mean, what adult wants to assign themselves homework, right? (Besides me.) Who has time to doodle in a notebook for 20 minutes several days a week--or ever--when they're already trying to exercise, eat healthy, pray, read more books, and organize their homes while working, parenting, and sleeping enough to stay alive? Not to mention keeping up with The Voice and scrolling the Facebook newsfeed...

Adulting is hard. 

But you know what I've learned about myself? I have time to do the things I want to do. I always have. When I was a full time music student, a part time piano and voice teacher, a children's minister, and had a 30 minute commute (minimum) everywhere I had to go. When I was a working mom. When I was so sick I could barely pick up a pen.

I want to journal, so I do.

But WHY do it?

 

Throughout the centuries, people have journaled for many reasons. To preserve history, for one. For entertainment. For posterity. The written word is longer-lasting than the human body, so people write what they want to be remembered.

Today, psychologists tell us that journaling is good for our health. It relieves stress and depression, and strengthens immune cells. Some research indicates journaling actually relieves the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

But I don't journal for those reasons. As a believer in Christ, I don't feel pressure to be remembered. And I don't write as a perk to my health.

I write because I must. I need to write like I need to eat. Well...almost.

(I realize I am not the norm.)

That being said, I do have reasons to journal in addition to blogging, Facebooking, tweeting, texting, emailing, and novel...ing.

My Journaling History

 

I began to write poems, short vignettes, and various tidbits as soon as I could write. My parents kept some of them.

I began a formal journal in the 5th grade. Mrs. Pilgreen assigned a writing prompt each day, and required us to write a three to five sentence paragraph in our speckled notebooks. (To this day, I still love speckled notebooks.) Overachiever that I was, I often filled the page.

Mostly, I wrote lies I wished were true fiction, but my 5th grade classroom is where I learned the basics of journaling. Which is to record important events, thoughts, and feelings.

Since then, I've tried various forms of journaling--scrapbooking, blogging, Facebook, even food journaling. Art journaling was a FAIL. For obvious reasons.


But I always come home to the old school long-hand journal.

When I Write

 

I write when I have something to write about. But not always.

I could write every day. Inspiration is everywhere. In God. In Superman. In my little gingers. In nature. In the things I read. In what people say. In how people are. I'm always watching, observing. It's what writers do.

Just kidding. Sort of.

However, I don't hold myself down to a schedule. I don't journal every day. Unless I want to. Which sometimes I do. But other times, I go weeks or even months between journal entries. 

What I Write

 

There are all kinds of things in my journal. A record of events and how I feel about them. Random thoughts. Quotes. Bible verses. Meditations. Prayers. Dreams. Visions. Prayer lists. Gratitude lists. Cute things my kids say. Goals. Proudest moments. Darkest secrets.






My journal is my confessional and my trophy room.

Which brings me to...

Why I Write

 

I'm a pretty open book. Chances are, if you ask me something point blank, I'll tell you the truth and probably more of it than you want to know

BUT any time I present a part of myself to the public, whether that public consists of one person or a thousand, I edit. At least a little. (You do it, too, even if you're unaware of the fact.)

You'll find the fluffiest, most cuddly version of Melissa Keaster on Facebook and Twitter. Or in a scrapbook. You'll get a peek beneath my skin on my blog and in my fiction. But my journal? That's where you'll see the good, the bad, and the ugly of my soul. Which is why some of my journals have warnings in the front (i.e. "Do not read without my permission unless I am dead"). I do the least amount of editing there, which makes for interesting (and sometimes entertaining) material.

Journaling is where I get to be as honest as I know how to be, but that's only the foundational reason I do it. Here's an arbitrary list of other reasons off the top of my head:

  1. To process life with integrity
  2. To remember God's faithfulness
  3. To help others remember God's faithfulness
  4. To record prayers and answers
  5. To record prophecies and their fulfillment
  6. To record goals and progress
  7. To collect favorite quotes
  8. To capture my wrestling matches with God
  9. To find out what I think about things; sometimes I don't know until I write
  10. To contemplate Scripture
  11. To get my words out (I have a lot of them.)
  12. To have a safe place for my wildest, weirdest thoughts
  13. To write the things people may not have time, interest, or patience to hear
  14. To tattle on people to God (Yes, really...though you should know--any time you tattle to God, he always turns it around on you.)
  15. To remember cute things my kids say
  16. Blog fodder
  17. Novel fodder
  18. Because sometimes people can't handle my joy, sorrow, grief, or passion, but God and blank pages can (Tip: Keep a tissue or handkerchief handy; you don't want to blot the pages with tears.)
  19. To leave something of myself for my kids and grandkids to enjoy
  20. To show my descendants how God loves us from birth to old age and beyond
So yeah...I've got reasons. And maybe among my reasons, you'll find reasons of your own.


What about you? Do you journal? What are your reasons? If you don't, do ya wanna start? Need tips? Encouragement? Accountability? I'll be happy to help you along.

I love, love, love comments, so feel free to drop me a line and ask for my help. I'm supposed to teach a journaling class soon, and it would be great to get in some practice beforehand!







2 comments:

Kaslynn said...

I love journaling! And journals... a little obsessed with pretty blank books. I journaled almost daily in my preteen/early teen years. I journaled about mundane life and all the things God was teaching me. It was such a treasure to look back on those times years later when I was unsure of the authenticity of my faith. Looking back on those entries I knew without doubt I had heard from the Lord and I was His.

I'm also known for many 4+ page "letters" that help me process feelings and complicated situations. Most of those get destroyed. ;)

Talena Winters said...

There were several things in this post that gave me a good giggle, so thank you for that!

I started journalling as a teenager, and I'm sure it was the most productive coping mechanism for helping me learn to deal with conflict. And all the reasons you mentioned. Once I started blogging, I rarely journalled. I recently found my "current" journal, with an entry every few years (usually when I am in great distress.) The most recent post is from when we had just adopted Levi, so, uh, yeah. Time to journal seemed a little harder to find after that, I guess. (Although I do remember trying to video journal a couple of times while I was holding a sleeping kiddo. That didn't work out so well, though.)

Anyhoo, I love this tribute to journalling, and I still love to do it in whatever form I can manage. And thanks again for the laughs. Now, back to my novel...ing. ;-)