The nice thing about any kind of journal is that there’s no wrong way to do it, and no one proper thing to write about. I keep my journal in my computer. It’s much easier for me than a notebook. I prefer typing to longhand—too slow. My journal is a catch-all for story ideas, notes about people and the things I learned during conferences I attend, and progress on my book. It’s also filled with remarks about things I observe when I’m out and about town. Journaling is such a habit now that I wouldn’t feel the day was complete if I didn’t leave a comment.
As I was about to enter junior high, my brother, eight years my senior, gave me a diary for my birthday. He gave me a piece of advice along with it. “Don’t write anything in this that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the local newspaper.” I’ve kept that in mind. Years later, I tossed that diary in the trash. I regret doing it. Although I doubt there was anything of significance in the contents, I’d like to be able to go back and read what that girl had to say about her world.
I kept a diary during my early high school years too. I ran across it the other day and read a few pages. Not very inspirational, mostly comments about the amount of homework I had, the movies I saw, and the boys I was dating, and not much about what I was thinking. But with only five lines, what can you say? I did a lot of homework and complained about it almost every day.
After my marriage, not long after graduation, and the birth of my children, I had no time for a journal, though I sure wish I had kept one. I also wish I’d kept a journal when I was in nurse’s training. Some very interesting and funny things happened.
I’ve kept copies of the letters I’ve written over the years, and in a way, they are a journal too. I’ve always been a letter writer, mostly to my favorite aunt, but also to cousins in Wisconsin where I was born. When I got my first computer in 1984, I began printing a copy of my letters for a file. The file is pretty thick now, and though I rarely read them, I know they are a record of the ups and downs of life. I was doing a lot of genealogical work then, and I wrote numerous letters related to that. Now I keep my copies in a file in my computer.
My first real writer’s journal started in 1991 because I was taking a creative writing class at the local college. It was a requirement for the class. We had to turn in our journals once a week for review and comments from the instructor. From that point on, I knew that journaling would be important to me.
With email, twitter, Facebook and blogs, I sometimes wonder if journaling will become a thing of the past—like letter writing. I hope not. Do other writers keep a journal? I’d be curious to know how many do.