I’ve kept at least one journal at a time since middle school. I remember my first journal my mom glued the first two pages together because she noticed I mentioned a boy. I have 6 or 7 middle school journals I keep at my parents’ house in Houston. I keep them there to save space. They’re too embarrassing to want to look back through them. The rest I haul with me every time I move. I think journaling is a great tool. I refer back sometimes to certain journals and it’s also a great memory and record keeper. I have a thematic system of journaling where I reserve certain journals for certain things. This helps with keeping certain things organized and therefore easier to go through. Here’s a little peek through some of my paper journals.
I keep “everyday journals” as a general journal/catch all. These are the journals I write in when I’m trying to sort through some emotions, when I need to vent, when I need to recall some details of certain days I want to remember, where I write my pros and cons list to help with decision making, etc. Sometimes when I don’t have any other journals with me, I’ll use an everyday journal. For instance, if I’m reading a book and I don’t have my reading journal at hand to jot down notes, I’ll just use my everyday journal. My everyday journals gets a lot of use.
I’ve used journals to take notes during conferences or speaking events I’ve gone to. Here’s a peek into a journal circa 2003 with notes from a bioethics conference held at Texas A&M.
A lot of my journals are from friends. Here’s a few, all used as everyday journals.
The Pooh one was a gift from Hillary senior year of high school. She wanted me to “think” in college and not go too crazy. The middle puppy one is the most child like journal (beating out Pooh) I’ve ever owned and it was a gift from Thomas which he got in Taiwan. All the pages had different puppy prints on them. See below for a few glimpses of the printed paper inside.
A hat I wore at Brandi’s 23rd birthday a couple of years ago.
I often use hotel notepads to write my entries on when I’m staying somewhere. It helps with browsing. At a glance, I can know where I was when I wrote something.
I’m on my third collage journal. I used to have a lot of magazines around and freshmen year of college I started to keep a collage journal. I cut up magazines of pictures that caught my eye, reflected my mood or present circumstance or desires. It’s pretty cool to see what I’m visually drawn to through the years.
Do you save your stubs and you have no idea what to do with them? You can glue them in a journal. I have found that sometimes I forget what movie I’ve seen with whom, so I now jot it down next to the stub. Sometimes the movie goes along with a side memory, for instance if I saw it after a horrendous day or if I fell asleep during the movie, I jot that next to my stub as well. I only have one of these so far and am about to finish it. I used a journal that was a Christmas gift from Selina way back in 2005.
I collect quotations. I’ve been bad the last couple of years but I’m slowly recollecting. I refer to these books a lot when I send out letters and greeting cards. I like to mail my correspondence with an aptly chosen quotation on the back of envelopes.
Sometimes I find quotations and I just cheat and glue them into my journals. The middle snapshot on the left is from the room service trays when I stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta a few years ago. The snapshot below that is taken from an Oprah magazine.
Since I’ve been doing more book reviews on this blog and am utilizing my Good Reads account more often, I’ve used my reading journal a lot less. Also I tend to have access to my everyday journal more when I’m in transit/ am reading in transit, so a lot of reading notes get written in everyday journals. However, I still love having a reading log. It’s not only nice to see some excerpts all in one place but it’s interesting to see when you’ve read what book. I also label the header of each page with the name of the book to make browsing easy.
My Best Advice for Journaling
I regret that my first quote journal did not have any dates written in it. My first TWO collage journals did not have any dates on it. Dates are very useful when you’re putting your past into context. Sometimes people date without the year; don’t forget to date the year. I also leave the first page blank of every journal and when you’re done you can write the dates the journal started and ended on. I do this to my photo albums too.
What if you’re not consistent?
I like to encourage my friends to keep a journal and many of them tell me they don’t because they’re not very good about keeping consistent. It doesn’t matter how often you keep it. I have journals that take me three months to fill and other journals that take me years to fill. Sometimes a year will go by before I revisit a journal. If you allow yourself the liberty to journal as freely as you want, as little as you want, then you’ll find a few sparse entries a year is better than nothing at all. When you flip through randomly, those 3 or 4 entries you managed to write, even when very spread out, is still a nice little window and glimpse into your past.
This journal took me a few months to finish.
While this one took me a couple of years.
What if you’re not eloquent?
So I’ve read a few journals. Mark Twain’s. Sylvia Plath’s. A handful more of journals of these writers and yes, they’re very eloquent and deep, and they’re not embarrassing when reading. At worst, they’re a little convoluted. That’s another freedom you should grant yourself. The freedom to just mind dump onto your own personal pages. Most of us are not professional or talented writers. Most of us will not be published posthumously. Allow yourself the freedom to be stupid in your journal and you’ll find it won’t be such an anxious activity. You’ll find when you get over the irrational pressure of writing beautiful and eloquent entries, you’ll actually be able to write more often and with the higher frequency, who knows, you might find yourself to be a talented wordsmith and just needed to exercise your writing muscle. So just do it!
I close with one last snapshot of my current loot of journals. All of these are in progress.