Keeping journals

Last week in her post for Wonderful World of Writing, Carol spoke about paper and doodling and it made me think.

I don’t doodle enough. What’s even worse though is that paper has taken a back seat to my computers. And this is bad.


I’ve been keeping paper journals since I was about 15. Within those pages are traumas of teenage years, a whole load of angst and some inappropriate-ness. That’s over 15 years of my life documented. The more recent ones contain a mix of novel planning and scribbles about life. The older ones contain scripts and really awful fan fiction, plus tales of crushes, young love and the journey into the beginnings of a tortured soul. Ok, maybe not the tortured soul thing, but even back then I was a broken romantic and tried my hardest to get what I wanted without being a complete idiot about it. Sometimes with catastrophic results.


The lastest one is a chronicle of my depression and family – things I can’t put on any blogs because they are too close to my heart. They’re like my innermost thoughts leaking out on to the paper. There’s something about having a pen in my hand that makes me want to write it all, say everything, not hide behind the distance of the screen. It also contains planning, a few poems and some truths I would never admit out loud.

I’ve always been worried about other people reading my journals (not that I should be worried about this – I can barely read my writing at the best of times, let alone expect someone else to be able to decipher my emotion-addled scribbles!) but as far as I know apart from those I let read them, no one has ever braved sticking their nose in. Good job too. A lot of it makes me cringe. A lot of it provokes old memories, both good and bad.

Journal keeping seems to happen by accident. I love notebooks. I have a huge collection of them (fifty or sixty probably and I love them all dearly.) I never intend to write myself into oblivion but I start, get commited and have to finish.

It’s a great creative outlet. I find that I can flow a bit better after I’ve written all the crap out of my head. There are a couple of caveats:

Every now and again I do fall into the feedback loop of solidifying whatever is pissing me off by writing it out and then can’t get rid of it for days. It’ll bug me until I can’t take it any more. At this point, I tend to abandon the journal for a week or so.

Also, if I do planning in my journals I find it hard to keep up with what I’ve said because I can’t take them everywhere with me and I tend to write stuff on the spur of the moment. I’m still in the process of fixing this problem.

I always thought I would like my kids to read my journals. This is before I had kids, of course. Now, I’m not so sure. I don’t really want them to be able to delve in my head like that. I definitely don’t want them to ever feel the way I felt during most of my formative years so I’m not sure encouraging those thoughts is a good idea. Maybe I’ll clean some of it up and publish it some day.

My favourite journal lives in the loft. It’s unfinished and is the journal spanning ten years of sporadic writing. It’s definitely one to keep locked away since it contains some very dark secrets about my life. (Or lists of boys I fancied many years ago. Maybe both.)

Journal writing is something both my daughter and I enjoy doing. We like to sit down and write together, sharing notes and words (obviously I don’t let her read the more sweary parts!)


Have you ever thought about keeping a journal?

Linking up to the Wonderful World of Writing at Virtually All Sorts

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8 thoughts on “Keeping journals

  1. Yes, I’ve also kept a journal many years ago. I say a ‘journal’ but it was more a place to write down at least 1 thing I felt positive about each day. I got the idea from a self-help when I experienced the black dog, the big dark cloud that is depression. I found it immensely helpful and yes, I did read parts of it back a couple of times. Then we had work done to the house and moved out, so literally just binned a load of stuff for practicalities. I’m pleased I did bin the journal in truth (not least because, like you, I’d never want my daughter to stumble upon it). I’ve moved on now (not to say I’m ever blase enough to think I’m immune to depression – I’d never, ever be that naive). Journals really can be amazingly therapeutic and I’d encourage anyone to write one. Great to have you linking up again Chrissie, thanks!

    1. I like the positive thing idea. I find it too easy to fall into negative thought patterns. I say but too much and make excuses. I think I would probably be crafty enough to be able to turn a positive into a negative though, stupid brain. I can’t bring myself to part with those old books. Some of the stuff in there is hilarious. Other bits show just how loopy I went at points (no wonder I was “that weird kid”, although that still applies.)
      Depression is a bitch. I’m glad you’re through the worst of the dark days. Thank you for inspiring me to write about the old books. I forget they’re tucked away under the bedside cabinet waiting to be scanned into a computer somewhere. x

  2. This post has brought back memories for me because I used to be a prolific journal keeper. My first is from when I was eight – I must dig it out again because last time I read it I found it hilarious (and sweet). I wrote most often between 14 – 18 but have chucked most of them out because they made me cringe so much! They were full of endless wittering about (almost always) unrequited love – and of course lists of boys I fancied! I kept a few though. One has love letters from my first boyfriend in it . Awww. But I could never stand the idea of anyone reading them because teenage thoughts are just so overblown and ridiculous. Mind you – from the POV of my writing – they could have provided useful insights into the mind of a teenager so perhaps I should have kept them! Now, my writing is my journaling in a way even though I never write on paper! Interesting post! xx

    1. Oh, you have to have a list of boys. That’s mandatory. We write some rubbish when we’re young and think we know what the world is all about hahah.
      It does help if you ever write YA to have that voice to fall back on. It’s very cute that you’ve kept the love letters. Xx

  3. I keep a dream diary for all my dreams (obvs) and in there also go some of my very private thoughts. Its private and personal. It’s mine. I think journal keeping is a great habit and something I really want to get back into again. X

    1. I tried keeping an online dream diary during my pregnancy with my youngest but things got weird. Dreams are important, especially for a writer. They can give us so many answers! Now you have the writing desk to do it, too xx

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