Journaling…

journal 1
Advice to Young Journal Keepers. Be lenient with yourself. Conceal your worst faults, leave out your most shameful thoughts, actions, and temptations. Give yourself all the good and interesting qualities you want and haven’t got. If you should die young, what comfort would it be to your relatives to read the truth and have to say: It is not a pearl we have lost, but a swine?”
― Rosamond Lehmann, Invitation to the Waltz 
“For any writer who wants to keep a journal, be alive to everything, not just to what you’re feeling, but also to your pets, to flowers, to what you’re reading.”
― May Sarton– “I should rather like to tear these last pages out of the book. Shall I? No-a journal ought not to cheat.”
― Dodie Smith

I cannot remember when I first decided to keep a diary. I know it was well before reading The Diary of Anne Frank (most girls I know began keeping a diary after reading that book) and I feel like it was probably around 3rd grade. I do know that as a child I was either outdoors, reading, or writing.
In my teen years I didn’t keep a journal. Or rather, I would begin a journal and then destroy it from fear of it being found. I was obsessed with Sylvia Plath’s journals and I feared that my tween journals would be found and publicly exposed. Delusions of grandeur are normal for 12 year old girls, right?
The earliest journal still in my possession is from when I was about 18 years old. I had already dropped out of high school once and I was back trying to finish (I didn’t, by the way). There was no place for me in my school’s social structure. I was an ex-homeschooled grunge girl kicking a drug addiction, but I was also in the “smart classes.” The smart kids didn’t want to hang out with me because I was a “bad girl” and the “bad girls” didn’t want to hang out with me because I studied and made good grades. I spent most of my day trying very hard to not cry, walking with my backpack in front of me to keep from being groped in the hall, and smoking in the girl’s bathroom. My best friend was no longer in school and I was awfully, terribly, frightfully lonely.
I decided to bring my journal with me — everyday — and anytime I was lonely I would write. I wrote a great deal that year.
Since that year I’ve consistently journaled in some form. There were years and times where I went silent, but for the most part I’ve journaled. At the very least I had a beautiful notebook to write down memories, thoughts, and feelings when the feeling strikes. My journals are inside a giant Rubbermaid container in the basement right now. I’d love to bring them upstairs and I’m on the hunt for a cedar chest or a trunk or some sort of large, stylish receptacle to keep journals and letters in. I still worry about someone reading them, but only because I let my feelings fly in my journals.
Once a year I pull out all my journals and read through them. It is all there: high school. college, having a baby, hospitalizations, etc…. I can read the fear and loneliness when I found out I was pregnant, I remember watching Hope’s first year with wonder, wrestling with who I am and what I want to do, all of my courtship with Sam, books I’ve read, films I’ve seen, and every insignificant thought and worry over my body.
I don’t write well in my journals. I wish I could write I Capture the Castle-like entries describing entire days. I can’t. It is more like a patchwork of recipes, memories, thoughts, emotions, memorabilia, etc…. that make up life. I love my motley pile of notebooks, I adore smooth line of pen traced across a page, and I crave the quiet stillness of writing.

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6 comments

  1. I’ve often wished I had the focus and consistency to keep a written journal, but alas, I’ve had to accept that my blog is my journal. That’s why I need to write more “personally” posts on the weekend so that part isn’t excluded. I admire you, chica! It’s a wonderful thing.

  2. I’m with Dodie Smith: those journals should be the truth. No cheating.

    I love journaling. I keep all of my 5-subject notebook/journals in a huge Rubbermaid bin, too, in my bedroom closet. Like skeletons in my closet, literally.

    And I started writing in 4th grade, also, but destroyed all of those before my senior year of high school, so my life in notebooks begins about 17.

    ~ Ruth

  3. I wish I more consistently journaled over the years, but my blog has more or less taken the place of a journal for me over the past five years. Some days I’m okay with this, some days I miss the books and books filled with my own thoughts, hopes, fears. Sometimes I try to journal again, but it never quite sticks. But who knows, one day that need might come back. I hope it does.

  4. I love those quotations — but I have to agree with Dodie Smith as well. If you can’t be truthful in a private journal, where can you? :)
    I used to be ridiculously guarded about my journals when I was in elementary school too! I would always be sure to mark them private, so that anyone that picked one up would see that and — like magic — stop reading. God, who did I think was interested in the peanut butter sandwich I had for lunch!

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