Reasons to Keep a Journal. And Why I Stopped

Sometimes I am highly tempted, unreasonably tempted to pick up a pen and a diary. The kind of diaries I used to use. Pretty, inspiring, thick with a lot of space to play with words. Space where you can be whoever you want to be and have nobody question you at all.

There is an old timer’s charm about journaling. It is intensely romantic and personal. It is an experience of being you without anyone trying to dictate their thoughts or opinions on you.

If done right, journaling is an art; a process of self-discovery that can reveal your deepest secrets to yourself.

I truly believe in the power of good journaling. There’s only one way of looking at the world and it is through our own eyes. And since we feel and experience different things at different times, we are prone to partiality and deception. Our senses are untrustworthy, our mind can easily mislead us. And while journaling is not a response to that, it is a means of examining events of our own life from a perspective which may be coloured in a different hue from the one we were caught in when we were actually experiencing that event.

What I mean is simply this: you could go out today and have an ice-cream with an old friend, chat for an hour and come back. You will have impressions, memories and thoughts buried within you. If you try to reconstruct a part of that experience on paper, you might discover reasons why things felt the way they did. They might make sense in a different way this time around. Who is to say whether what you see the second time is right or wrong? The only truth is your own. Your journaling will offer you an alternative.

This wouldn’t work for everyone all the time. I once told someone to note down their feelings about an experience they valued and it seemed as if the task was not beneficial for them at all. But stay at it long enough, it will have the desired effect. Long term personal evaluation is a necessary part of understanding your own journaling requirements.

You can be your own eyes and ears because you have the power to control  your own narration. If you truly are writing for yourself, you are freeing yourself from the control of other people. For once, you can be honest.

It isn’t easy for most of us to let go of the skeptic manner in which we choose to view everything and everyone around us. This is a mechanism to protect ourselves from self-harm, of course. If you can learn to be free from the fear and choose your journal to be a sort of sanctuary for your thoughts, it can be a divine experience where you’re writing for yourself, understanding yourself.

Letting go of negativity can be an important part of journaling. Your anger, hurt, fear, mistrust…all of it can find an outlet on paper. Why this is important is because there are so few opportunities for us to accept ourselves just the way we are, with all of our imperfections. We have been taught to be perfect or to strive to be perfect or to worship a Being who is perfect and hence superior to us.

We are not perfect beings. We were never meant to be perfect beings. We cannot be ideal and we cannot live in an ideal world. We can only learn to love ourselves. I don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t try to improve upon what we have. The first step towards becoming more than we are is to accept what we are, in this moment. That acceptance can lead to change.

But this too, does not always seem true to me. Sometimes acceptance leads to complacency. I am this way. I am flawed. Why should I not be happy with what I do have? Why would I want to change it? Why should I want to make the standards of the world my own? I can easily be a rebel. I can be okay with being different without caring about what does or doesn’t matter to others.

There is wisdom in these words too because there can be no universal standard of judgement. We can only hope to find our own.

We can only be our own judges at the end of the day and journaling can help with that.

And we add to ourselves through our creativity. Creative processes are mostly solitary pursuits. We may engage in them as a group but when we are really beseeching the universe to storm us with ideas, we are alone in our own thought bubbles. Whether you want to write or draw or doodle or just brainstorm, a journal is a great place to start.

But I am afraid of the rawness that journaling brings. When my grandmother died, everything she had ever had and valued as possessions was left behind in a room. Among other things were a collection of her diaries. I don’t know where those diaries are now but I don’t think anyone got a chance to read them.

This is it, though, I thought to myself. You’ll die one day and you’ll leave behind a truckload of journals which will be open to the whole wide world. Anna Nalick’s prophesying words ring in my ears,

‘And it feels like I’m naked in front of the crowd, coz these words are my diary screaming out loud and I know that you’ll use them however you want to.’

I cannot let that happen.

But that wasn’t the whole story. It took me almost another year after that to give up what was to be nearly eight years of intensive journaling. I cannot do it. I would rather be here, talking on a blog, using it as a personal vent, being fully aware that it is visible to anyone who wants to read it. This is akin to climbing on top of a stage in a crowded room and yelling on a microphone. Half the people won’t listen because it’s boring to listen to speeches. But there will be someone paying attention. Just knowing that these words are visible gives me the strength to write things in a particular way. So now I am sort of controlling what goes out into the world. I could pretend to do the same on paper but that would feel like hypocrisy. Here, I am talking about things which matter to me and yet in a way I feel invincible. I don’t know how long this will work.

I know I can’t stop writing. I have to write somewhere. Shouting out into the vacuum scares me. This is the perfect alternative.


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