How Journal Writing Made a Writer of Me
My first writing journal was a tiny diary that I received as a birthday present when I was a little girl. I regarded it as a log and wrote a few entries chronicling my daily life. It was boring, and I left most of the good stuff out for fear that someone in my family would find it and read my innermost thoughts. Soon, I gave up on it entirely.
Then, in junior high, which is really when the writer in me sprouted, I was required by my English teacher to keep a daily writing journal. We had about ten or fifteen minutes at the start of each class session to write in our journals. Sometimes we were given topics or a question to answer pertaining to the literature we were reading (Flowers for Algernon, for example). Usually, we had free reign and could write whatever we wanted.
I really liked this particular teacher, who happened to be a student teacher, and I opened up a lot in that journal. I talked about my family, friends, boys, and the general goings-on in my life. Sometimes he would comment on my entries and he was always thoughtful and respectful of everything I had to say. Most days, I would prefer to spend the entire class writing in that journal. I could go on and on and on…
Keeping a Writing Journal
That was eighth grade, and during the following summer, I continued to keep my journal. The practice had stuck and I found that I couldn’t stop. I used a half-sized spiral notebook and it doubled as a repository for my poetry and an outlet for the teen angst I was experiencing on an hourly basis.
Later, in high school, another teacher had our class keep journals, almost always using topics and questions. Sometimes the questions were very general (What should happen to drunk drivers?), and other times they were very specific (Is MacBeth good or evil?). But about once a week we had “free topics” and I always reverted back to writing about my life. This teacher was the opposite of my eighth grade teacher – she was rude and confrontational. I remember once she actually insulted my boyfriend… in MY journal. But I secretly liked her too, because the insult was spot-on.
Journaling continued to pop up as I made my way though college. I kept literary journals, chronicling the many books, stories, and poems that I read as well as my reactions to the works. There were idea journals, dream journals, art journals, and eventually I drifted away from personal diary-type journaling. My need to use writing for expressing the frustrations of my teen years pretty much dried up, and I found a host of other things to journal about. I wrote about my thoughts on culture, politics, religion, and ideas for everything under the sun: books, films, websites, and more.
A Place to Write
I’ve gone through many writing journals since that first one, and I always have notebooks tucked away in every nook and cranny – they remind me that I always have a place to write, somewhere I can jot down my thoughts, explore my feelings, or work out the details of a story, poem, or blog post.
Writing poetry at a young age planted within me a love for wordplay, but journaling harnessed that passion and triggered a lifelong need to put my thoughts on the page (or on the screen, as the case may be). Whenever I reflect on my many writing journals, I smile when I remember that student teacher from eighth grade, and send him thoughts of gratitude for being second only to my mother in making a writer of me.
Do you keep a writing journal?