Sometimes I get an idea stuck in my head like a song. There’s no melody, just this endless train of thought, which picks up passengers every time I click a link or open a book. Lately, journaling has both been the stuck idea and the means to exorcise it.
I’ve been journaling since I could hold a pen, and I have always kept a paper journal. Neither the journaling nor the choice of paper was a conscious decision, just a way of relating to the world. With a few breaks here and there, this habit has stuck with me through adulthood. As I’ve shifted to outlining and drafting professional writing projects on the computer, I began to wonder why I can’t digitize my journaling, too.
Somewhere on the internet, I once read a comment that said something along these lines: I stop journaling when I want to stop understanding myself. This socked me right in the gut.
Though there are many ways to ferret around for understanding, everything we write is a way to understand. Reading and writing have no truer purpose than opening our minds to the meaning of the mundane and true, the sacred and fantastical.
But journaling is not just another first draft. It’s where we examine the problems and joys of our lives, before we even understand them enough to speak them aloud or turn them into a story. Journaling must make a mess of ideas, because if it did not, we could ignore them or miss connections that appear in the jumble. We have to slow down enough to see our thoughts and feelings, identify them, name them and order them.
Because it is messy and slow, handwriting is up to the task of journaling; there are no uniform fonts and you’re not going to scribble 100 words per minute. You’re also not going to have a revelation every time you scrawl something in a notebook, but I think the process can help you reach an understanding about yourself, better than the structure provided by a keyboard and word processor.
Samantha is a writer and PR professional. Image courtesy of Samantha.