I am currently writing a memoir. The goal is to bring the reader into the experience. I need to recall scenes, where I can take the reader by the hand and show them what my world was like. I can take a walk and sometimes a memory will return that I can use, but sometimes I do not recall specifics and get stuck.
Enter the journal. I have kept a personal journal, or diary since I was 15 years old. I draw and write as a way to process my life. While not everyone is attracted to this method, I want to point out some of the therapeutic and creative advantages of keeping a personal journal.
Everything and anything goes. You cannot do it wrong. There are no mistakes. Nobody is grading your spelling or grammar. You can exaggerate, curse, pray, brag, write in anger or in love. Start where you are. Flow, spontaneity and intuition move you along.
Some advantages of journal writing are:
A healthy release for feelings and tensions
A place to advise oneself, clarify goals, and make decisions
A guide to find clarity in midst of a crisis or change
A path to self-awareness and self-knowledge
A device for discovering answers and direction
A technique to focus one’s energy on what is immediately important
A way to enjoy and profit from solitude
A place to record meaningful insights
A tool for taking a moral inventory
I am looking at a stack of journals right now. They have helped me navigate my life over the decades. The pages are filled with lists as well as poetry, angry ravings, conversations with God, gushing over crushes, drama, trauma, love and heartbreak. And lots of drawings. The bigger the knot I am trying to unravel, the more pages I seem to need. When I am sorting through a major issue, I usually end up using 12 pages. The last page always ends in a deeper self-understanding and usually a healthy direction.
Oh, and one last advantage of keeping a personal journal? As a memory aid. I need to find my college journal from the late 1960’s early 70’s. You know that saying, “If you remember the 60’s, you weren’t there”? That will not work for a memoir! I just hope that when I dig through this stack, the college journal isn’t just 70 pages of psychedelic peace signs. #FlowerPower.