For most of my life, I’ve written in a journal. Writing has been a wonderful outlet for me. With paper and pen, I’ve been able to verbalize my feelings in a way that I cannot otherwise. I’ve been able to unravel problems, record memories, and meditate on important thoughts. I’ve always thought that journalling is a blessing and a virtue. We’ve lugged my boxes (and boxes) of journals from one house to another; I’ve gotta save them for posterity.
But today, I’m jaw-dropped about journalling because I’m looking at its ugly underbelly for the first time.Â Breezy Brookshire asked an important question over at Raising Homemakers and linked to an article that points out the many negative aspects of journaling. It – wow – just got me thinking about all of the time I spent pouring my heart out to an unfeeling, unresponsive journal when I should have been practicing the fine art of trusting another human being, not thinking about myself so much, forgiving more quickly, moving on more quickly, and not indulging in so much boy-craziness. (Truly, even my earliest journals are jammed pack with “boys and best friends”, “boys and best friends”… Surely there was more going on in my brain than that, but it’s all I wrote about, so I’ll never know.)
I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Years ago, one of my sisters said that she never wrote down the yucky, negative stuff that typically makes its way into journals. “Why would I want to write that stuff when I could record the good stuff?” she asked. I thought she was chicken. It turns out, she was wise. I just can’t believe it has taken all these years for me to see the light!
I realize now that my journal keeping habit affected the first few years of my marriage in a negative way. Instead of learning how to confide in Ryan and work through problems together, I’d escape to my journals. I’d complain that he didn’t really know me or understand me, but how could he if I was not exposing my heart to him? Wouldn’t ya know, it never even dawned on me, that perhaps my journalling was to blame. I can see that as time has gone on and most of my writing happens through my blog, I’ve stopped journalling as much and have grown (little by little) in my ability to express my feelings and thoughts to another human being… instead of to a pretty page.
Both Breezy and Femina challenge the writer to invest in writing more for others than for oneself, which is a wonderful challenge. Of course, I will always believe that personal writing is very useful (it really does help me to get unwieldy thoughts out of my head), but I can see now that it must be practiced with care and good will.
So, if you keep a journal or know someone who does, consider these thought-provoking posts: