Dear Diary...

[my inner-workings, in paper form]

Keeping a journal is one of those things that our society tends to make fun of- the idea seems to be that those who are actually living life don't have time to sit around and write about it. That journaling is for fifteen-year-old girls sitting around on their pink bedspreads in head gear and acne cream lamenting about how the popular boy made fun of them in the cafeteria. Or that keeping track of one's life in writing is narcissistic, or at best unnecessary.

I've been keeping a journal since my seventh birthday. I know I've probably mentioned it hear or there in passing, but I have to admit to being a tad bit, well, embarassed, of it. Shame no more.

My aunt sent me my first journal for my seventh birthday, complete with combination lock. It took my a couple of years to write through the entire thing, and many of the entries were angry ones, directed at my sister for "getting me in trouble," my mom for making me do too many chores, or a silly crush on a boy in school. My entries were very inconsistent from ages seven to about twelve, but then I started writing more regularly, probably because this marked the time where my dad's bipolar disease was out of control, his suicide following shortly thereafter. Oh, and I finally got my first boyfriend (obviously because I stopped wearing my glasses all the time and spent my allowance on Pantene Pro-V shampoo). Since then I've been more or less consistent (maybe one to four times a week), although there are some serious gaps, especially in college.

[after this first one they were known as "journals"- diaries are lame]
I never go back and reread old entries- it's pretty uncomfortable. I do love the process of selecting new journals to write in, once I've completed one. During my youth most of them are obviously very cheap and brightly colored, while in the past few years I've been willing to shell out a bit more for more "mature," understated ones. Lines are a must, as blank pages result in crooked writing and graph paper is just weird. I have yet to decide what I want done with them when I die. There will probably be too many to put in my casket with me, so I'll probably have to have them burnt in the huge chest I will one day buy to store them all. 

I've been very lucky that I've had no horrifying stories about people finding my journals, and that I live with a man who respects my privacy so much that I can leave them out in the open and he won't touch snoop, not that I generally do (he even has Kurt Cobain's journals that were published and refuses to read them, saying it's an invasion of privacy). When I lived with roommates I made sure they were hidden, usually folded up in sweaters, in shoe boxes, or tucked in the back of messy drawers. From what I know, they've remained for my eyes only.

The big question is why, I'm sure. The simple answer- therapy is way too expensive and time-consuming. The long answer is that over the years some shit (both life-changing and in retrospect trivial) has gone down and I haven't wanted to burden people with my problems, so I've turned to writing instead (seldom are the pages of my journals filled with happy, mundane things).  Putting things down on a page allows me to organize my thoughts and find solutions- it's incredibly cathartic. I feel better after even fifteen minutes of writing and it forces me to look at what's happening in life through a different lens, as opposed to sitting around letting my thoughts chase one another around in my head. 

And I'm not the only one who feels this way. Many famous people and successful writers have kept logs of their life. Take Virginia Woolf, Joan Didion, Dave Sedaris (he's been writing every morning for over thirty years), Jonathan Franzen, CS Lewis, Anne Frank, and Frida Kahlo. Oh, and Doogie Howser. I'm in good company. 

Research shows that journaling has major psychological benefits (so, basically, I'd be even more fucked up if I didn't do it). Apparently writing can strengthen brain cell connections, reduce stress by making you come to terms with problems, and help you be happier if you make an effort to include some good things on occasion. It can also help improve your memory.

So, there you have it- I'm one of those people. Judge away.

Have you ever dabbled in journal writing?


  1. I used to journal when I was younger, but I was always petrified of someone finding them and reading them. When I moved out of my parents' house not that long before my wedding, I decided to actually read them (why?!) and decided I really didn't want to keep them. I've occasionally regretted the decision to destroy them, but it was so embarrassing reading most of the entries, I just couldn't imagine reading them again and thought nothing good could come of having them just hanging around in piles. Before they bit the dust though, as I was reading, I tore out some favorite entries from the early days of dating my husband and made a little book for him as a wedding gift. It seems kind of dorky & sappy looking back, but I think he liked having an unfiltered glimpse I was choosing to share at how I was feeling back then. And thankfully those entries were not mortifying, especially considering that the relationship lasted, lol

    1. Greetings from California! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break.

      I really like the info you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G ..
      Anyways, awesome blog!

      Regards, Daniel from

  2. I used to journal a lot when I was younger but now, I've stopped more or less. I find it terribly stress-relieving to be able to write in a journal and let everything go, unburdening myself. I almost never read my past entries, which mostly seem trivial or too uncomfortable. By writing everything down, I feel a lot lighter and I'm able to look at things with a much clearer mind than I would be if I weren't writing it down.

    Sometimes I do want to journal more, but I'm afraid of someone finding them and reading them. I do miss it sometimes, when I'm frustrated or sad and want to have the cathartic feeling of journaling.

  3. I always carry a journal (lined) with me. But it's not for any deep personal reflections. More for noted on books I'm reading, blog post ideas, lists, and occasionally observations. If we go on vacation I always log what we do every day. I keep them dated. They are definitely NOT private or embarrassing. Just notes.

  4. Replies
    1. Oops, didn't get my whole comment on there. Anyway, I've never known anyone to make fun of journaling. Most people say they wish they made time for it when I mention that I journal. I've often wondered if I should get rid of my journals. I don't spare any emotion in them and I'm not sure I want anyone ever reading them even after I die. So why do I keep them? I guess, like you say- it's cheap therapy!

  5. I was a major journaler during middle and high school. Journaling to me back then is what running is to me now. It kept me sane. In college I dropped the physical diary in favor of writing a Xanga (aka old school blog). Oh, how I wish I'd kept up with the paper and pen. My Xanga is so long gone, and I'd love to flip through the pages of writing and see what was in my head. Every now and then I'll stumble on an old writing assignment or note that I wrote (Stephen and I have saved a large chunk of embarrassing notes to each other. They are all folded up origami style and stuffed in a box). It's funny to see what my grammar was like more than anything.

    I got a journal for Christmas (it's leather! With an owl stamped on the cover!). I haven't written anything yet because it's so pretty that I only want to write genius thoughts in it and I haven't had any yet. Ha!

  6. ah. So reading old entries was where I made my mistake. I destroyed all my journals from Grades 6-8 a few years ago because I read them and was mortified. Now I regret it. They were freaking archives!
    Love journaling. My biggest problem is I write one entry in bad handwriting and it feels like the whole thing is ruined. hah. issues.

  7. I've been journalling regularly since I was...12, I think (I got my first journal when I was 8 but it was sort of all over the place and I didn't like that it was all over the place so journalling until 12 was a bit here and there, lol). I also found myself thinking about why I've been journalling ever since and same here, it helps organise my thoughts if there's a problem, work through whatever anxieties I'm having (I also realised that over the years my journals primarily are a conduit to direct my frustrations), recollect the good stuff that happened over the course of the day.

    I also made the mistake of reading some old entries from my high school years. OMG the mortification; not that they were really crazy or anything but in retrospect it's interesting to see how different my thoughts and feelings are now. (But rather than destroying my journals I just sealed them away in a storage container with my other high school stuff. Best left there, I say).

    Love that pic of all of your journals lined up! :D