Journals Are Like People

I’m a writer. I have to write. When I’m not actively writing, I can feel the bars coming down around me, and the caged animal emerges. I also like to read what seasoned writers have to say about their writing practices. Some of them instruct the younger generations of writers to practice everyday. Without fail. A must. You’re not a real writer and you will fail if you don’t set aside time everyday to write. Some of them state the opposite: write when you want and when you feel inspired. Don’t, for god’s sake, make it a chore. I am a writer who does not write everyday, just many of the days. What works for one person may not work for another.

There are a million ways to do a thing. Correction. Infinite ways.

Writers are like journals. One type of journal may work beautifully for you and feel like pulling teeth for me. I’m under the impression that lots of people want to keep a journal, but don’t. I’m also under the impression that we tend to think of one thing when we think of a journal. Dated, daily entries. Thoughts and feelings. Events from the day. But it’s come to my attention that there are as many kinds of journals as there are writers, or people.

I journal when I’m having a hard time sorting out my thoughts or feelings, when I want to remember something important or poignant, and I sometimes journal with prompts. My little cousin’s journals are full of bullet points. Every night, they list the things they did that day in short phrases next to bullets. As in:

  • Got breakfast with Amber.
  • Went to the library and studied.
  • Met friends on campus.
  • Got food for dinner at Sprouts.
  • Did chores around the house.
  • Made dinner with Jordy.
  • Watched a movie together.
  • Read.

She says this helps her mentally review her day and process how she felt throughout. It reads as dry and direct, but what’s going on in her brain as she writes is anything but.

A medical doctor once suggested I keep a “headache journal” so I could pinpoint triggers and patterns in my headaches and migraines. I didn’t do it, though I have managed to figure out how to prevent them (naturally, without medication) through years of experimenting. People also keep journals to tap into their own mental health journey. When we write things down, such as our thoughts, we are able to understand ourselves better and see meaningful patterns in our lives.

My sons have a beautiful book called The Hike by Alison Farrell, in which three sisters take a hike and keep a nature journal, sketching and recording notes, thoughts, and questions. What a beautiful meditation, to observe nature closely enough and slowly enough to record it.

Some other journals I’m familiar with are style journals (seriously, what not?), habit journals, and meditation journals. There are so many ways to put yourself down on paper, and there are so many benefits to doing so. Journaling forces us to slow down and reflect, a practice we aim to cultivate at Juniper Station. I encourage you to jot something down and reflect. There’s no pressure. Your practice is not a failure if you set it aside for a while. It’s just there for you. What kind of diary keeper are you?


Photo by MJ S on Unsplash