Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Musings ~ On keeping a journal

Whether you journal by way of a blog, or putting pen to paper, or maybe a little bit of both, as I do, in my opinion, few things are better for your emotional health than consistent journaling. In earlier times, people, particularly women, often kept a diary. Perhaps it was their way of reminding themselves of their worth.

My first diary experience occurred as a teenager one summer. Back then, I thought a diarist simply recounted the day. Some days my entry was painfully brief: Got up at noon. Bored all day. That only confirmed my worst fear: Nothing was happening. Who needed reminding?

Following that slow summer, I didn’t write again until many years later when I’d just undergone a major operation. My sister presented me with a blank journal. “Here,” she said. “Maybe writing about it will help.”

It did. Journaling is now a centering point in my life, although at first, the process frustrated me. Aspiring to be the perfect diarist, I narrated my days, discussed issues and wrote about the people I loved. But such formality can stifle.

In time, I let go of what I thought a journal should read like. These days, I may jot down a poem, record an overheard conversation, or I might pour out my feelings like a frustrated child.

When my grandmother’s glass powder jar—the only keepsake I have that belonged to her—was broken because of someone’s carelessness, my grief surprised me. I never realized my feelings ran so deep until I filled eight pages about the incident in my journal.

What drove me to ramble on and on about the breaking of a simple jar? The same thing that drives all true diarists, however unpolished, to put such emotions in writing. Diarists know that feelings should not only be felt, but expressed. They know that the days of their lives should not only be lived, but recorded. They also know that there is true healing in putting to paper the experiences that make up our lives.

While in counseling many years ago, my therapist asked me to go home and write about a painful incident that had occurred a decade earlier, describing in detail the place, time of day, the clothes I wore, the emotions that surfaced—all of it—during that distressing event.

It was an excruciating task, requiring all of the courage I could muster. I cried. I screamed. I clobbered the notepad with my fists. But when the words lay quiet in front of me, when I forced myself to write down every agonizing second, and identify every emotion that rose up in me, there came a moment of certain release. For more than a decade, I had dragged the pain around like a ball and chain. Now, for the first time, I began to let it go.

I suppose you could say that journal writing is, in a curious way, one’s private therapy, a conversation with oneself, a way to identify feelings and thoughts that otherwise might be left like unturned stones upon our souls, heavy and oppressive.

Many resist putting intimate thoughts to paper, afraid that someone might discover their writings later on. But it is this—the discovery—that propels me to write with transparent honesty.

Does that mean I spill my guts about every detail of my life, recording every miserable mistake I’ve ever made? Of course not. But in years to come, should my daughter be interested in understanding who her mother really was, the emotions she had and the way she handled life’s difficulties—or didn’t, in some cases—it will all be there, between the pages of my journals.

If she reads closely, she will see that life can be enjoyed, even when trouble knocks at the door. She will discover that obstacles can be overcome, if only she perseveres. She will learn that during our trying times is when we come face-to-face with who we really are. And should we not like the person we see, we can seek to start over, to set things right, to become the person we want to be, with the help and grace of Almighty God.

While my journals may not be great literature, they hold the stories of my life. Like a patchwork quilt, they come together in bits and pieces, revealing the myriad colors and textures of my world, and bringing me a bit of comfort on long, rainy days.

This post taken from my essay, "Diary evokes honesty," as it appeared in The Dallas Morning News. All rights reserved.


  1. I have always wanted to keep a journal but for some reason just can't get myself to do it. You are so correct in thinking that many of us "journal by way of a blog". I just wish there was a way to preserve a "hard copy".

  2. @ Corners of My Life - There is a way to preserve a hard copy of your blog. I've done it the old fashioned way, by copying and pasting into a Word document, then formatting and printing it in a size that will fit my "real" journal. I sometimes even print a few of the photos with a certain post, but I don't copy all of my posts in this way... just the ones that help chronicle my present life.

    There is also a way to print a more professional hard copy of your blog. I believe it's called "Blog2Print." You could probably Google that, or Google, "make hard copy of blog" and find good information.

  3. Heloo Dayle...Nice post. I would imagine most writers journal. I know I started writing in a diary in middle school and did it on an almost daily basis until I was in my early 50s. Then, after all those decades and boxes filled with "diaries," I switched to Gratitude Lists. This latter exercise I continue to the present.

    Writing is as a part of me as breathing and without it, I think, I would truly perish. Or, at least, my life would be one huge hole without much quality.

    I thank Almighty God for my ability to write. Susan

  4. I have journaled off and on thru the years and it is truly therapeutic.I recently came on one of the roughest times in my life and realized I had not written in months, and my blog was born!
    I even wrote about journaling as therapy!

    Great post Dayle!

  5. @Bernice - I read your wonderful piece. I agree. The most therapeutic journaling comes about through handwritten entries. It's hard to explain, but it makes a big difference. Whenever I hit bottom, or need to work through something serious, it's handwritten all the way.

  6. Dayle, I began the journaling experience through my blog. It too has been a way of sharing "some" of my heart. After being diagnosed with the thyroid condition and dealing with side effects, such as forgetfulness, journaling no doubt will continue to be a part of my life. I am beginning to make plans to journal with a hard copy also, described over @ Ann's ~ A Holy Experience.
    Thanks for sharing "your journal".
    IN HIM,

  7. As another journaler, I read this whole post while nodding my head a little. My most dramatic ones to reread are the ones written after my first daughter was born. The highs and lows of a mother totally in love with her child while fighting post partum depression at the same time make for the full range of emotions.

    When I rereaad it though, what I see NOW is a whole lot more high than low and a whole lot more thrill of the tiniest thing than stress over some tidbit which probably seemed very big at the time. I've been able to forgive myself a little for being what, to my recollection, was a basket case.

    GREAT post Dayle.

  8. Dayle, I love this post. I have journaled for a few years. I do occasionally look back at them. I write insights from the Word in them, too.

  9. Hi Dayle! I would love to be involved in a quilt blog party. Just let me know when. I'm hoping I'll be able to participate in Simple Pleasures this week too (need to get inspired). :)

  10. Wonderfully said, Dayle!
    Many years ago I kept a journal (of sorts), then felt soooo betrayed when someone I trusted found it, using some of the contents against me. It was years before I wrote anything not password protected!
    Love how you brought up a journal as being a legacy to your daughter!

  11. Dayle,
    Loved your post about journaling. You know from a former post of mine that I journaled for about 10 years - years that were very stressful for me. I also too writing classes at the same time and my teacher called my writing "introspections" and they were good for me.


  12. Great post...totally agree. I am seeing this used more and more for healing. I have encouraged a friend, who has more than enough hurt on her plate right now, to journal. She was hesitate and now she is seeing the healing it is bring.
    Then just recording God's goodness...or words He gives us...I just wish I was consistent.
    Thanks for encourages me to continue!

  13. Hello~
    I am so glad you stopped by. You have such a lovely blog. I am going to peek around and stay awhile. Your home is beautiful. SO glad to meet you.

  14. Hi Gal,
    I have journaled since the late 80's and still love it. I have bunches of journals that I hope will bless my kids one day and am going to have my blog made into a book. Nothing more precious than hand written stuff though. I am enamoured with vintage handwritten things regardless of who wrote them!!
    Have a blessed Wednesday!

  15. I, too, kept journals in my teen years. I let it go for some reason. Now I think blogging helps to get some of those feelings out. But I do every now and then write a letter to myself, for myself and no one else. It's the best way to let it all go.

  16. I love this...I had gotten away from honest journaling and found myself "religious" journaling...being a phoney on paper. God spoke to me about that, and so did you!

  17. OH, THANK YOU!
    Since I've started blogging, I forget to actually use a pen and paper and hand write in my journal.
    I have several journals that I have filled through the years, and so I am capable of it.
    It runs in my family to write:
    I have read and re-read several of my grandmothers journals-some of it is written in shorthand--she said she did this when she was mad at my grandfather so he couldn't read it, LOL!
    I can read shorthand, and he was usually drunk.
    Anyway, that's a journal entry thought for me right there, isn't it?
    Well, I love your post and the reminder.
    The greatest journal on the planet was given to us by our loving Father, the Bible.
    So, it's only natural that we, in His image, write, too.
    Isn't it?
    Love and Hugs to you!


Dear Readers, I adore your company and your comments. If you ask questions here, I respond to them here, so please check back when you have a chance. Kind regards, Dayle