I’ve been thinking about my journals lately, about how long before I began putting words to keyboard I would put them to paper. Even at six years of age I took my little red leather journal with lock and key to Canada, recording every grilled cheese sandwich (and time I saw the Golden Boy), while constantly having my spelling corrected by my grandmother. It daunted me not one bit, for the urge to record what I saw, and what I felt, was far stronger than any reprimand.
I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. ~Oscar Wilde
One of the things I love to read best is my old journals. They are more significant than a scrapbook, able to take me back in time and place better than a photograph. The handwriting on the page, subtly changing as I grew from child to adult, brings me back to the person I was. The life I lived.
For any writer who wants to keep a journal, be alive to everything, not just to what you’re feeling, but also to your pets, to flowers, to what you’re reading. ~May Sarton
Writing a blog is not a substitute for keeping a journal. At least it isn’t for me. When I physically write, with my favorite pen, the thoughts seem to flow with greater alacrity. The inner critic is silenced, for I know the words will not be seen by strangers’ eyes. I am writing purely for myself in my journal, uncensored and uninhibited about expressing vulnerability.
It’s different with a blog. Somehow my writing stiffens up, and pales in comparison with those whose writing I feel is so erudite. It doesn’t flow, it doesn’t even express my self the way my handwritten words do.
Writing, then, was a substitute for myself: if you don’t love me, love my writing & love me for my writing. It is also much more: a way of ordering and reordering the chaos of experience. ~Sylvia Plath
Yet even a journal is not sacrosanct. Last summer I looked at a whole decade of journals, a box of memories I no longer wanted to remember. The entire carton went into the dumpster at school, and I cared not if mice gnawed the edges should they come across the discarded books. The mice, the rodents, the insects underground had more use for those painful words than I.
Will I live to regret that decision? Is it, as Dodie Smith suggests below, somehow cheating?
I should rather like to tear these last pages out of the book. Shall I? No-a journal ought not to cheat. ~Dodie Smith
As of today I do not regret it. Even though I am not foolish enough to believe that by discarding the journals one can also discard the pain, I know that half of the healing lies in the writing. Keeping the books perhaps, is not quite as important as putting one’s truth into words.
There is, of course, always the personal satisfaction of writing down one’s experiences so they may be saved, caught and pinned under glass, hoarded against the winter of forgetfulness. Time has been cheated a little, at least in one’s own life, and a personal, trivial immortality of an old self assured. And there is another personal satisfaction: that of the people who like to recount their adventures, the diary-keepers, the story-tellers, the letter-writers, a strange race of people who feel half cheated of an experience unless it is retold. It does not really exist until it is put into words. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh