A New Way to Think About Journaling

When I was nine years old, I went to Disney World, had a glorious time, and brought back a lot of souvenirs. Among them was a black and white Mickey Mouse journal. This is really the only artifact I still have from that trip, probably because it sits at the bottom of a giant cardboard box, with many more journals resting on top of it.

I’ve been a life-long journaler, telling the pages of my woes; moving, discovering boys, gaining weight, starting high school, unrequited love, health struggles, and deciding where to go to college.

I tried journaling my freshman year at Xavier, but it slowly tapered off thanks to a busy schedule, the introduction of Facebook to my daily life, and the simple fact that I mostly journaled at night and I was stumbling back to the dorm after a party on the weekends or too exhausted during the week to write.

I regret this in my post-grad years. I claimed I was busy, but I think I stayed away from journaling fearing it would force me to dwell on negative thoughts and out of sheer embarrassment. I felt like I had to tell my journal everything, and I did not want to rehash the details of drunken decisions. 

Recently, I’ve been reading up on writing and the importance of keeping a journal. It’s changed my perception completely. I had started journaling again about two years ago because I thought it would help with my constant life-questioning. Many articles encourage the writer to just write about what’s on their mind—hold nothing back, just include the date, and don’t get hung up on things like grammar and spelling, and don’t feel obligated to include anything. It was freeing to read those tips. 

But then there was one tip that struck fear into my heart. 

“Go back and read your previous entires.”

Yes, that’s right.

Re-read your diary.

It’s a cringeworthy concept, huh? I definitely thought so. It’s only recently that I’ve summoned the gumption to do this regularly, but I’m trying to make a point of it. All the sources said it would be good to mine those previous entries for a beautiful turn of phrase or an idea for future writing. I totally get the benefits, but it doesn’t mean I like to do it. It’s like a constant reminder of how emotional I can be, or about things that upset me and I got over. Plus, I can barely read my own handwriting sometimes.

Some parts of the creative, or artistic life are a process and won’t come easily. This is a thing that life seems to be teaching me over and over again.

How about you, lovely readers. Do you journal regularly? Better yet, do you ever go back and read old entries? Let me know in the comments below, or tweet me @EmHof.

Have a happy 4th! Until after the holiday weekend, I’m out! 

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One thought on “A New Way to Think About Journaling

  1. I try to journal pretty regularly. I find it also helps me with the “constant life questioning.” 🙂 But you’re right, reading old entries can be sometimes be painful. I try to think of it as learning to be kind to myself by empathizing with my past struggles rather than judging them.

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