When I started writing about journaling, my intent was to share few benefits and invite my readers to give it a try. Over the course of these weeks, however, my goal evolved.
Being a user of journals myself, I wanted to explore more why people keep one and why they don’t. So I did some research to understand how this practice fits in modern social phenomena. This article debunks some myths about secret diaries and give to such a tool a refreshing perspective.
Something you need to know…
This is the 3rd entry that discuss journal as tool, its different uses and benefits.
Refer to this article to know in details why I raised the topic.
You can also read the previous entry, that focused on shared journals.
Few reflections, some facts and one goal
We have seen some of the perks of keeping a journal for many aspects of our life. Each of them has its own benefit. When I shared my personal experience, I concluded that we can have it for various reasons. It can be the place where to record our memories, impressions, feelings. Or else, we use it as a tool for reflection and personal growth. And sometimes, both.
If we could survey the world population, how many people are really doing this exercise, in a form or another? How many are writing, drawing or recording their lives with creativity and method, perhaps without knowing that they are indeed keeping a journal?
“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary”.Pablo Picasso
There was an article that I was reading this week, that brings to attention some data that we have about the use of diary. Data, the article says, establish that people who keep a journal do it with the intent to improve the quality of their life. But among surveyed people, only a small percentage does it regularly. What is that so?
The first constrain coming to my mind (and sure to many of you) is the lack of time. Probably that is because the act of handwriting is too slow, or is perceived as a different task than typing on a keyboard. I can’t really agree with this. In the first place, I feel that I write much better and faster on paper than on the computer. My thoughts come up faster, plus I feel more freedom.
Then, are cases where people refuse to write so much because they needed to do it at school, and not for pleasure. I can agree with that, considering that I was also forced to keep a diary when I was 11. Nonetheless, here am I: having multiple journals, each one for a different purpose.
Let’s break through this old paradigm. It says: a diary is something personal and sometimes, secret; to keep consistency, one must write quire regularly; it is something that must be written.
I created a short survey about journaling experience. You can open and complete it in one minute, through this link.
When secrecy is still a value
Let’s make a distinction between a diary and a journal. We will intend the diary as our personal, intimate place to record memories. And we will consider the diary as a form of journal.
A journal is a form of recording that can have multiple purposes. For example:
- A diary of memories is where I would put pictures, emotions, thoughts chronologically.
- A memory journal is where I catalogue memories.
The method and the content are something specific in the first case. That is because of the purpose we want to give to the journal. Therefore, the journal can also be shared with our family, our co-workers and so on. All depends on what the journal is used for.
In many cases however, the journal does not need a high level of secrecy. A personal diary can be kept hidden (so many did in the past). That does not mean that people will look for it and, at the same time, you should can treat it as your sancta sanctorum and others must respect that.
“All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.”Gabriel García Márquez
Journals in the past were used as a tool to be remembered after life. The chronicles recorded by mankind talk of journeys, facts, discoveries. Only later, diaries became more a private thing. Despite many never considered to keep a diary, its functions are actually overtaken by social media (alas, not without concern). Even though, I cannot deny that for many, probably including you, being afraid of somebody finding and reading your diary can be a problem. But at the same time, you are maybe not ashamed of publishing your entire life on social media. In that case, you want to revisit your understanding of privacy.
Regularity or consistency?
When keeping a diary for the sake of good marks, what I hated the most was that the whole thing was a dull exercise. Writing down my daily routine every single day was boring, and I felt like I was wasting time. I was more interested in drawing and I was able to transmit more to people (myself included) with imagery and depiction.
Another thing that may stop people is perhaps the fact that they think of diary as a written form, only. But that’s because historically there weren’t other ways to record ourselves, other than writing. That does not mean that writing facts forbids creativity. First and foremost, journals are a great place where one can jot/draw/record emotions. And those emotions are generally vivid, colorful and can have many shapes – in those cases, words can feel limiting to the expressiveness of the self.
And let’s also consider that many people decide not to approach journaling because they suffer dysgraphia, or do not feel particularly creative into writing. They will never dream of doing it because it will just feel like self-infliction.
Rejecting the idea that keeping a journal or diary is something that requires lot of time and effort can be done giving ourselves freedom on content. In fact, journaling should be considered as giving time to ourselves. To reflect upon events. To externalize emotions. To do introspection. And as research shows, there is more than a meaning for doing that, and our mental health can benefit of it.
There are many forms of journals
We already considered the possibility to use other forms of diary other than writing, but we haven’t dig into it much.
One of the options is (among my favorite) to use the paper as a white canvas. Without a doubt, changing from a lined notebook to a one without layouts helped me the most.
One may think that it is extremely uncomfortable to write that way. I cannot care less about writing on a straight line; actually, it is a good mental exercise to try doing that without guidelines. But the greatest benefit of having a blank space with a pen at hand, is the possibility to do whatever with it without the obsession of the form. That is one less creative block we will deal with.
Second, and regardless of the layout of the page: a page can contain more than words. It can contain pictures, drawings, can be perfumed if one wants. Depending on the content of that page, we can associate more forms to the same memory, to strengthen it. Having good memories of our experiences and being able to recall what happened when is a way to enrich our life.
Finally, there are also the non-written forms. The first that comes to my mind is to have a photographic album – of printed pictures to be precise. That was the way my parents and grandparents used to keep track of their joyful moments. Shall it be considered a form of shared journal, too?
It is something many do, sharing their whereabouts on Instagram or having photo albums on Facebook. There are other forms of communication used for socials, too, that can be considered a good way of journaling. Think of YouTubers or podcasters: they speak about their passions, and their records have the potential to be forever available.
So, why not to try to record our own voice or videos of us as form of journals? Those forms also come with their perks. Emotions, moods and perceptions will be more vivid, because of our voice pitch, our expression, the words we are using in specific context. That is a far way richer format of journal that our ancestors could dream of.
I found this ultimate guide to audio journaling online. It contemplates many of the points I shared, and many other hints can be applicable to video journals, as well.
On the other hand, I have never tried any app for journaling or to keep a diary. But considering that people have a great preference to try apps, you may want to look for some. My preference is to the old fashioned paper. I like to have my thoughts on a white canvas, and fill it with depth and creativity any time I need it. You can try other approaches, as well.
My three blogs in a nutshell:
- A journal is used to describe facts, opinions, feelings, fantasies. Does not matter how much we put into it but what do we want to record.
- Journals may serve different purposes. Can be a tool for reflection, a working instrument or a creative activity. There are personal diaries and shared journals.
- Writing (or else) a journal enriches life because it brings us to appreciate and evaluate our memories, work on our emotional intelligence, think critically and know ourselves better.
“Know Thyself.”Engraving at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, also attributed to Socrates
Hey, I know you already have seen the invitation to complete my poll about journaling, but there’s a chance you did not feel like doing it until now. Once more I am going to share the link. Click here to participate anonimously.
- Bailey Karfelt. “Social Media: The Modern Day Diary”. eCornell #IMPACT, 2019
- Caroline O’Donovan. “Diaries, the original social media: How our obsession with documenting (and sharing) our own lives is nothing new”. NiemanLab, 2013
- Gordon Povey. “So, who writes a diary?”. Trisent, 2016
- Jawwad. “The Ultimate Guide for Keeping an Audio Journal”. Journaling Habit, 2017
- Siri Carpenter. “A new reason for keeping a diary” (Feature). American Psychological Association, 2001.