Editor's Note: In this multipart series, Signature and Rita Jacobs, PhD will walk you through finding the inspiration and motivation to start – and keep – a journal, and will later offer some approaches to transforming journal entries into memoir.
There are myriad reasons to keep a journal. If there weren’t, there wouldn’t be so many journals started and sadly abandoned because the journal writer runs out of energy, ideas, time or impetus. And yet, I often find people are in my journal-writing workshops because they want to begin again. They just need that extra bit of inspiration or support or a jumping-off place to establish a journal-writing practice that doesn’t run out of steam.
That’s what this series of weekly columns will be about -- finding the inspiration and motivation to keep your journal. And, perhaps, if you are so inclined, you might want to transform some of your journal entries into material for the memoir, story or essay you’ve been meaning to write. But we’ll get to that.
In the first of these columns, I’ll be discussing some of the reasons for keeping a journal and in the second I’ll explore the difference between writing for yourself and writing for a reader. From there on out, it’s writing prompts, ideas and suggested approaches to getting your words on the page.
But first, eight good reasons to keep a journal:
To find comfort, solace or friendship: For many of us, a journal is a place to turn when we don’t want to or can’t confess our thoughts to another person.
To create a record for the future: Recording what has happened to us is a way of keeping track of victories and/or failures. My advice is to remember to write about the victories!
To explore your creativity: Having an idea, overhearing a conversation, noting a melody, capturing a moment you’d like to revisit are among the many kinds of things you might want to record for creative exploration.
To help heal relationships: An argument with a loved one is often best dealt with by yourself on the page so that you can figure out how to proceed.
To maximize time and efficiency: Breaking down a large project into component parts in the pages of a journal can make a project more manageable.
To use in the therapeutic process: Often insights and observations come up in the therapeutic process that become clearer after further examination in a journal.
To explore dreams and develop intuition: Dream journals help you to remember your dreams. In fact, the very act of writing them down brings more detail to mind. Try writing the dream you’d like to have before you go to sleep and see how that affects your dreaming.
To get in touch with your feelings, to ventilate, to try on new behaviors, to track the patterns of your life, to record travels, to explore fantasies and on and on ….
Yes, I underestimated the number of reasons for keeping a journal, and that’s because there are as many reasons as there are journal writers. But maybe one of the above has triggered something in your mind, or focused you a bit more so that you can sit down with your journal and start to think about the kind of journal you would like to write.
Virginia Woolf wrote about her journal, which she called a diary (and the words may be interchangeable):
“What sort of diary should I like mine to be. Something loose knit, & yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace any thing, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds & ends without looking them through.”
Your first writing exercise: Write about what your journal will be like. Will it be full of detail? Full of ambiguity? Is it a repository for feelings or a place to map out actions? Are you keeping a record for the future, a compilation of random ideas or using it as a therapeutic or creative tool? Dream a bit about your ideal journal.