It’s something a lot of people want to try but have no idea how to get around to. We’ve all got a spare notebook lying around somewhere- sometimes it’s a beautiful one we don’t want to somehow screw up. Well, as someone who has been journaling for about 7 years now, I figured it’s something I know a little bit about.
Here are some things I wish I had known before I started journaling.
1. No one is going to read what you write. If you have to show some things to people, then you can make them as rigid and boring as you want. However, for the majority of what you write, no one is ever going to have the privilege of seeing it. So if you only ever pick up a journal when you’re angry and it’s pages of scrawled expletives, let it be. If you write crap poetry, that doesn’t matter. When you write, be real and honest, feel free to express every little part of yourself and record every fear, because you’re doing this for you. A journal is a mirror, not a window.
2. Be honest and real. Following on from the first point, there is nothing worse than reading something you wrote a few years ago and knowing that you were lying. When I was younger, I would find myself writing a boring point by point account of my day, afraid to actually look into myself and express what I felt. As I’ve gotten older, that has definitely changed. I used to buy day to a page diaries so I’d feel accountable, but I’ve come to realise that some days are just boring. Now I’ve got a blank one which I can pick up on any given day and really let rip to. A journal is like a best friend who won’t judge you for gossiping. Write your true emotions so that if and when you look back on it, you can get the most out of it.
3. You never have to read it again. Journals are super helpful if you’re a reflective type. How have I changed, what was I feeling, how did I grow through that experience? But sometimes you can admit you will never read what you have written again. I have two journals that are just pages and pages of over thinking. Angry scrawls written in the heat of the moment and anxious scribbles analysing every detail of an issue, just so I could squeeze my thoughts out of my head. I’ll never go back and read those things- it would be pointless to- but at that time, I needed an outlet, and writing was really helpful.
4. You can’t screw up. I think the scariest thing about a beautiful journal is that we’ll write something and it will be “stupid”. A cliché teacher thing to say is that there are “no silly questions” because you dared to ask. A similar cliché is that you can’t write anything stupid because at least you actually wrote something. The first diary I was ever given [I’ve still got all of these, a good excuse for why my room is so messy] was a glittery, spiral bound notebook with daisies on it. In it, I wrote [in blue pen, an absolute travesty and my first mistake as a writer] the details of my day. My first ever diary entry was about a day trip to my Uncle’s place. The thing is, I don’t regret this. I was eleven! It’s what I was thinking in my eleven year old mind, and it’s what was important to me. I can see how I’ve evolved in my writing since then, because I just kept going, and growing. Your writing may seem silly now, but it’ll be precious to you when you read it again in twenty years.
5. Lastly, just keep going. If you don’t journal for two months, that doesn’t disqualify you from starting again. If you make a spelling mistake, DO NOT USE WHITE OUT [a weird little ism I picked up from an English teacher of mine- let everything in your journal be raw and imperfect, like it is in your mind. Also, he just didn’t like white out because it takes time and interrupts the flow]. If your hand writing is atrocious, you’re not being marked. As long as you can read it, or even if you can’t, the worth is in the writing itself.