One upon a time, a long, long time ago (we're talking the first year of the Nixon Administration here), I decided to keep a journal. I took out a sharpened Number 2 pencil and a red spiral bound notebook and poured out my feelings on how miserable I was as an eighth grader in my midwest Junior High School.

Decades later, I still keep a journal. I don't write in it nearly as often as I did when I was in high school. It's been nearly three months since my last entry. Yes, I plan to write something, maybe today, if I can think of something worth recording. Looking over my high school journals, which I've carefully saved in a blue binder, I once had plenty to say that I thought at the time was worth recording.

I wish I hadn't. Reading it now makes me cringe.

I don't know when the act of writing in a journal became known simply as "journaling." I think it has something to do with Oprah. Just typing the word into Google brings up this quote from personal development blogger Steve Pavlina: "Journaling is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to accelerate your personal development."

At the time I wrote my first entry, "accelerating my personal development" was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted a place to vent. And I thought my writing made me deep and spiritual and worldly.

Through the years, it's been my refuge and a yardstick to measure how far I've come, what I've left behind, what I've lost and what I've gained.

And it is also a valuable source for one of my most ambitious works. I plan to write a memoir about my friend Steve who died of AIDS in 1993. The last three years of his life, I was there,helping him out and doing my best to keep a bit of fun in his life. Those journal entries provide "a bit of the now" when it's become part of the long ago.

I really hate the word "journaling." I say if you're too lazy to use the required number of words to express the activity of recording your thoughts and feelings in a journal, then you're probably too lazy to keep it up to the point that it's any use.

Do I recommend keeping a journal as a writing tool? I don't know. For me, it's always been what I do, whether I was working on a book or not. I like to think the act of stringing sentences together in an effort to make sense of what's going on in my life certainly helps.

But I think what I like best about writing in my journal is the chance to sit quietly and reflect, then take pen to paper and write it all down. Just for me.
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Published on September 26, 2011 08:27 • 149 views • Tags: aids, eighth-grade-angst, journaling, memoir, oprah, personal-develoment, steve-pavlina, writing
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message 1: by Nancy (new)

Nancy I'm so old that that blank book was called a diary rather than a journal. Mostly I wrote in those diaries when I was miserable and didn't when I felt fine. If anyone were to read my diaries, they would not reflect the "real me"--just one extreme.

I do have a bit of a "journal" now but it is mostly nature notes with an occasional remark about my life. I doubt if anyone serious about "journaling" would consider it a Real Journal.

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