I have kept a journal on an irregular basis since I was about 10 years old. I don’t claim any sort of amazing foresight or discipline in doing this. I’d attribute it mainly to the fact that I talk a lot but can also (sometimes) recognize when I’ve finally worn my listeners out. I probably turned at age 10 to writing in a journal to spill out the REST of my thoughts. Whether that lessened my verbal output is doubtful, but on and off I’ve kept it up over the years and that has provided a lot of insight as I flounder through middle age.
Journalling, along with meditation, appear to the be the trendy ‘mindfulness’ activities circa 2018-19. It’s clear that taking some time for SELF reflection in the era of social media has value. I can’t tell you where I heard the idea that Facebook is everyone’s highlight reel first, but that’s it – it forces an artificial positivity to writing, which doesn’t allow for examination of failures and sadnesses. Sure, people will mention their cat died or that they felt crummy, but typically you won’t wrestle with purpose or mortality on Facebook. Journaling and meditation let you do that. If you begin to write with the idea that no-one – not friends, not family, maybe not even you – will ever read it, it’s freeing. I am always surprised what ends up on the page.
I wrote on paper for 10 years. At one point, I was using an Excel spreadsheet, believe it or not. Now I use an app, although I wonder if that’s ideal, since it FEELS a lot like posting on Twitter or Facebook. But the idea, regardless of the medium, is that each day I try to make a brief summary of the activities of the day and how I felt about those activities. It’s not that easy. Pick up a piece of paper write now, and write a few sentences describing your day and how you felt. I find that the overwhelming feeling is usually “eh, OK” or whatever you’d like to call that emotion. Oscar Wilde says it this way: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” Journalling can point to the fact that you are, in fact, just existing. I struggle to write on the days I simply exist. I would argue this is the greatest single reason to journal – to separate the transcendent from the mundane, in an honest fashion, in a way that writing on social media cannot. This blog post is almost like a public journal entry in that I could not have told you that’s where I would end up in a post talking about the benefits of journaling, but here I am. Writing allows you to put a filter on your experience, and to use that filter to determine when you are alive. But that filter is harder to expose in public. My advice? Pick up a blank notebook and write down how you feel right now, and see where that leads.