Photo showing 13 journalsI have kept a journal since I was about eleven years old. Writing has always been an outlet for me, and a journal serves me as a way to release and cope with stress as well as to document mundane moments or celebrate the personal triumphs in my life. It is a place to experiment with styles and formats, although I confess I did this more in the past. Since grad school poetry has taken a backseat to other stiffer modes of expression, something I hope to change in the relatively near future.

Photo of journals stacked on top of each other

The bindings tell their own story.

I have finished every journal I have ever started, with the exception of a very first attempt from 1995 which functioned as much as a notepad as it did a journal. After a second “start” in 1997, though, each journal is complete. In middle school my handwriting was tiny. So neat and minuscule, I could never now replicate it. My entries became into letters to the important people in my life. A couple of my friends then also kept journals, and we would spend hours reading entries to each other. In high school I crafted elaborate collages of images and quotations to illustrate the day-to-day descriptions. I was not the healthiest version of myself in high school, and one horrible day I left my journal at school. Thank goodness two friends found it, and both denied reading it but from their concern-tinted voices and eyes I knew they had. I felt mortified but mostly grateful that they had found it and not someone else. In college my handwriting changed to the hurried but legible scrawl that it still is today. At the busiest periods I didn’t write as much.  Still don’t. So, for example, there isn’t as much about the time I spent living in France and later Thailand as I wish.

Photo of two journals

These two journals are remnants of my time in Thailand. The one on the left was a gift from my husband, purchased from a journal-maker in Bangkok. The one on the right I brought to Thailand with me, but the painting on the cover was done by an umbrella artist in Bo Sang near Chiang Mai.

I don’t write as much as I did when I was younger. I have had only three journals since college. But I always have my journal on me just in case, and would feel uneasy without one. Almost all of my journals have been gifts. I haven’t received a new one in years, actually, and that hardly matters because I still have empty journals that people gave me well over a decade ago. There has never been any method to my selection process. I don’t use them in the order in which I received them. I tend to just choose whatever journal feels right at the moment. At one point I liked to reread all of my journals once I completed one, but have long since stopped doing that. Less time and more journals. However, I did go 20140113-125735.jpgthrough and number them, as well as add the start and end date to each journal. That way I can easily figure out which journal to look in if I ever want to reference a specific event. Two days ago I finished my fourteenth journal. (In the first picture, you may notice there are only thirteen journals. I didn’t miscount, one is just in a different box that has yet to be unpacked.)

Lately I have been wondering about the relationship of blogging and journaling. Things like, what proportion of bloggers also keep journals? How many used to but stopped after they began to blog? If I were a middle schooler now, would I still have that circle of friends to share journals with, or would we have jumped to a blog or online journal format instead? I’m sure someone has written about this and even studied it.

Do you keep a journal? How have your own journals changed? Share if you’re willing!

Photo of journals packed in their unglamorous bin.

Packed away again in their unglamorous bin.


6 thoughts on “Journaling

  1. Alex – I’m so impressed with your collection of journals. I was heartbroken during college when the two or three journals that I kept when I was in Vietnam for a semester abroad were lost in the mail. All of those memories gone! One journal exercise I did once was with a friend who did a chain mail type journal with a group of her friends. We were each to keep the journal for a time, make entries in whatever format we chose (write, draw, include a CD, etc), and then send it along to the next friend of hers on the list. She got it back after about a year – what a gift for her and us who got it along the way.

    • Sarah, wow, I can’t believe those journals were lost! Heartbreak indeed! I love the story of the group journal that found its way back to your friend. What a great idea! It has got my wheels turning…

  2. I started writing in a journal when I was in second grade, but the plan of writing quickly fell off the path I intended on.

    I wrote daily when I was in high school, daily pages filled with taped-in memories, cards, and letters I received. This was the same time I started blogging, with a rudimentary blog on LiveJournal.

    During college I was so busy and swept up with the time that I barely wrote. I started a journal with a now ex-boyfriend where we were going to share back and forth our days. It wasn’t until I read his journal, accidentally on purpose, that I realized it was a bad relationship where we both wanted out. I’m glad we had that exercize, but man, did it hurt.

    Blogging became my outlet in graduate school and it is what I clung to after graduation. I also started writing in journals more and more at that time. I wrote in a journal I wrote to my friend and sent it her way for her birthday. I wrote in a notebook to an ex-boyfriend to forget about him. And I’ve been writing in a journal, for myself, for the first time in years. I’m trying to write daily, but knowing that it is always in my bag is a really odd comfort blanket.

    I love writing and love to hear about how others get involved in blogging and journaling as well. I hope you find a few good stories to share.

    • Tomissa, thank you so much for sharing your experience. I’m intrigued by the interchange with blogging. Early journals of mine are likewise filled with cards, pictures, and postcards purchased while traveling. I sometimes think I should get back into the business of adding some images, because it adds visual appeal and makes those early journals fun to flip through! I love that you have shared journals with friends and important people in your life, and glad to hear that sometimes a journal has helped you realize some truth or heal. I, too, find writing to be cathartic. I hope you continue to enjoy writing for yourself, and I know exactly what you mean by the “comfort blanket!” I think your goal to write daily is a noble one, but for what it’s worth I’ll just throw out there that if you miss days, don’t worry about it. The biggest holdup I encounter in writing in my journal is the feeling that I have “missed” some important thing and need to catch up. In the process of waiting to catch up I miss other things and then it just becomes a vicious cycle. I find that the times I just let myself write whenever I feel like it/have the time and don’t hold myself to a schedule or the need to “catch up” are the times I end up writing more frequently and getting more down. Sometimes this means once a month or so (and sometimes it has been even less to be honest–grad school, haha), but I’m a firm believer that there’s no wrong way to keep a journal! Enjoy and have fun! Also…never underestimate the power of a good pen!

  3. Pingback: Secret #2: Picture book coming! | Puddle Reader

  4. Pingback: Secret #2: Picture book coming! | Alexandra Hinrichs

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