Like any over-imaginative child growing up I began compiling my ideas through writing, whether fiction or not. There was something satisfying about being able to solidify any of my thoughts with a story or in a notebook that I could one day look back on. That obsession is still going strong and I find myself reaching for my journal whenever things are getting a bit difficult or confusing in life. Throughout my many years of journal writing, there are a few things I have learned about the process and what it can teach you about yourself.
THINKING THINGS THROUGH
My journal has been a confidant for many years of my life—through transitioning from pre-pubescence to awkward adolescence and all the way to the present day where it sits patiently in my bedside table. It has watched my writing develop and my ideas grow, but most importantly, it has helped me discover things about myself by merely letting me figure them out on my own.
Much like writing a rough draft of an essay where all your main points are jotted down messily with the hopes that every theory will be better articulated in the later drafts, your journal is a place for you to unload your thoughts without having to impress anyone reading them. Being a very quiet person growing up, it was nice to have an outlet where my problems and issues were accepted and substantiated visually on a piece of paper, allowing me to read all my points/problems and slowly realize that maybe they aren’t that big of a deal, or draw a conclusion about what my next steps should be to resolve these issues.
If there is one reason to start a journal it would be the sense of release and understanding you give yourself within the lined pages; no judgement or betraying your trust by telling others. It is a place for you to step back from who you are and reflect on who you once were and discover who you could be in the future.
PURGING YOUR ANGER
We all have one of those days—the ones where we feel like pulling our hair out or snapping on someone who has been getting on our nerves. Working in an office environment with a group of people daily can send me into spirals of anger and frustration, but I have always turned to my journal as a means of purging. Imagine your best friend only they can’t talk back and tell you that you might be overreacting. It’s just you and all the words you would have liked to say to that annoying co-worker without any of the repercussions that might follow.
Referring back to my previous point, these are the best times to sit down and write out what you are feeling because there might be a solution you haven’t thought of in your fit of rage. Or, if a solution isn’t available at that time, releasing all the bad energy is just as important and helpful.
This might be the best and worst reason to keep a journal. On the one hand, you get to re-live the kind of person you were at 12 years old. On the other, you get to re-live the kind of person you were at 12 years old. There’s nothing funnier than looking back at an older entry, to when spelling wasn’t very important and crushes on irrelevant celebrities were. Pictures are one way to remember yourself, but being able to pry into your mind as a child helps you realize how much we change and mature throughout the years. Did you ever end up dating the person you were obsessed with? Or accomplish a task that felt like the end of the world back then? I also find it interesting to see what you thought was important and worth writing down all those years ago compared to what you write about now.
TALKING TO YOURSELF (WITHOUT FEELING CRAZY)
If left alone for too long, I would probably start talking to myself. There are just times when I feel like I am the best, most exciting and hilarious person to be around—something I think we should all feel about ourselves. However, that mentality is not socially accepted and so I’ve resorted to talking to myself through the written word. All my journal entries are essentially Kat talking to Kat about something that happened to Kat. As bizarre as that may sound, after a while, you begin to build a persona with your journal writing and create a flow with your words that I believe aids in developing natural dialogue in fictional stories. If you can talk to yourself in a cohesive and effortless manner, why can’t your fake characters? When you generate a back and forth dynamic with yourself about your own ideas you can then mould them to your liking in a controlled environment. That might be the best way to really figure out who you are and the direction you are planning to lead yourself in.
Any other tips you have for staying self-aware?