8 Benefits of Writing in a Journal or Diary
Let me motivate you to continue writing in your journal, or if you haven't started yet, then let me tell you about all the wonderful blessings that will be added to your life when you start writing in your journal or diary. I hope that this article will motivate you and give you plenty of ideas-- you may not even need to use any writing prompts!
"I bought a small, brown looseleaf notebook, almost exactly the size of my small, brown leather-bound Bible, given to me by my parents for Christmas in 1940. These I kept together at all times. I wrote on the flyleaf of the notebook the Greek words meaning "For to me to live is Christ..." (Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity, p. 24)
The supple leather cover bends under your fingertips as you open to the first page; you inscribe your name in your own authentic scrawl.
Beginning a new journal is exciting. WIth nothing on the pages yet, there's no limit to the creative insights they can hold. The first few pages are easy to fill, and maybe each day is overloaded with more details, bunny trails, and fantasies than Alice in Wonderland, herself, could explore. But slowly the process loses its whimsey, and the real life has more events than the wonderland has room to record. And you are burnt out, your leather notebook is under a pile of papers or books --at least books don't have blank pages waiting for your genius to start doing its thing-- and your journal is forgotten. Not even half full.
My goal with this article is to motivate you to consistently write in your journal. I have struggled through the scenario I mentioned above, but I have also triumphed over it; and I want to help you to do so too. Below are eight reasons why I think you will benefit from consistently filling your journal, but I also really appreciate comments and ideas, or personal techniques that have proven to keep you motivated to fill pages of your own little leather notebook.
1. Your writing ability will improve. A psychological fact of life is that we fear rejection or disapproval from others, and we do better when we are not controlled by that fear. Journals and diaries are, by nature, not open to public scrutiny. Like the secret garden in Frances Hodgson Burnett's tale, your journal's front and back covers are high stone walls with a vine covered gate. This makes your little blank book a fertile ground for all the beauties of unique character that may not poke a sprout above ground in the Queen's garden, but will gladly flourish in their undiscovered hideaway. You may invent as many new words as you like, join together as many run-on sentences as suits your fancy, and fill your pages with as many excessive, flowery, pointless, pithless, extravagant adjectives as you desire. You will find that your enjoyment of writing increases, as well as your knack for it outside of your journal: for everyone loves reading a writer who loves to write a good read.
2. You will enjoy reading what you have written, even months and years later you will find yourself coming back to your filled journal. There is almost nothing so interesting --if you have written about things that interest you-- as your own journal. You are in the unique position of being able to read exactly what you would have said had you said it yourself! You are the writer who can appeal to your own sense of whimsey. You are the writer who writes what will entertain you most. You are the writer who writes a story you can relate to, for it is your own.
3. You will be able to organize frustrated thoughts and calm your outlook on life. This is especially true when your journal entry becomes a written prayer to God who rules over all circumstances. The freedom of His truth and the softening, calming influence of His lovingkindness will gradually redeem your situation and the solution will become clear. Many's the time I've gone to my journal with only a muddled head and tears ready to break the dyke; but as I write what is on my heart, God cleanses me and makes my mind and heart at rest. "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace." (1 Corinthians 14:33) Like a good conversation with an intimate friend or a restful night's sleep, writing in your journal will often have a clarifying effect on your perspective of life.
4. You have created a treasure that future generations will value. Yes, I know I told you that you didn't have to show your secret garden to anybody --and you still don't-- but you might change your mind about that after you watch the full-color, feature-length film recorded in your journal. These are the stories of how you have learned, grown, developed in faith and obedience to God. Are you going to keep this to yourself? What if someone could be blessed by this, and learn from your mistakes, joys, fears, trials, and triumphs? What young lady or young man wouldn't love to read their father's, mother's, or grandmother's story, told in their own words? At the very least, make a note in your will to bequeath your journal to a descendant who will cherish the story of his grandfather's life, told in his own words and from his heart.
5. You are on the front lines as a recorder of history. Historians highly value all sources that are considered "primary" sources: letters, journals, and eye-witness accounts. When you write in a journal, you are writing an historical account that can be considered a primary authority in your field. Years from now, people will want to know what a day in the life of "you" was like, though you may consider yourself an average person with an average life. If you are in a position of high authority or have a unique occupation, that will also prove interesting to future generations who wish to research your field or area of expertise.
6. You are joining the ranks of beloved and famous journalers of old: Anne Frank, Benjamin Franklin, Lewis Carroll, George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Harry S. Truman, C. S. Lewis (to name only a few). Another is Samuel Pepys, who kept a meticulous diary during the monumental 1660s, including both personal anecdotes and major events in London's history . By his private pen, we now have eye-witness accounts of the Great Plague of London, the Great London Fire, as well as descriptions of business, government, church, and family life.
7. Your journal will keep you encouraged and accountable as you work to meet goals. Log the progress, pains, and pleasures of your pursuits. Come to your journal each evening with something to record, a milestone reached, a struggle battled. When a day seems desperately devilish, read back through your accounts of similar days you've gone through. If past days were full of joy, then fond memories will be triggered and you will find hope to pursue that joy again. If past days were wretched, you will be energized by what you have already conquered and will be able to look forward with new determination to succeed. "Thru many dangers, toils and snares/ I have already come/ I shall possess within the veil/ A life of joy and peace!" ("Amazing Grace" by John Newton 1779)
8. At the very least, your journal can jog your memory if you forget what happened on a certain day, or aren't certain of the details of an important conversation or event.
How can you leave that journal dusty now? Push away the vines covering the gate. Duck under the narrow stone archway. Go write.
© 2009 Jane Grey