Unless you’ve spent your entire life in a social void, you should know you never ask a woman past twenty-five what her age is. That said, you can assume I’m past that age (though not quite OF the age) when my age is all that obvious. So when I say I’ve been keeping a journal since I was sixteen, know I won’t be insulted if you take for granted I spent my teen years in the other century. (And don’t be a smarty; I mean the Twentieth.) In any event, I’ve been keeping one for a long while, and believe me when I say, it’s been my salvation for all those years in between.
Sometimes your significant other or your friends just aren’t enough as a sounding board for your troubles, and let’s face it, your honesty. There’s always that intrinsic filter that keeps your guard up just a little, and that’s where writing it all out can be such a release. A journal can also work as an external hard drive for your memory, a place to record what’s happened without all the exposure and potential future regret of all those impromptu social media postings (you’ll be the only one who knew you were sauced when you wrote that). But there’s one more purpose a journal serves, tailor-made for a anyone who considers themselves a writer: the fact that journals are specifically intended to be, well…written in. And just that fact that you’ve decided to keep one should be a commitment to keep on writing.
But just because you have one doesn’t mean you will, though here’s a bit of impetus beyond my mantra, writers write: a journal’s very existence will compel you to write OR ELSE. Case in point: my journal, a simple 4 x 6 leather-covered notebook, has a meaner stare than any animal of prey. I have never seen anything, inanimate or flesh-and-blood, that can produce such an overwhelming rush of guilt when ignored, ten times worse than your mother can when you’ve forgotten her birthday. And it doesn’t even matter if I keep mine in my desk drawer. Somehow, you’re always aware it’s there, as I swear, at times I could almost hear it calling to me. So sooner or later, you end up writing in it, and the crafty thing that it is, will then make you feel like you’ve actually accomplished something, and you know what? As the pages pile up you know actually have. You wrote.
But journals are more than just tableau rasas for inner angst; they’re repositories of sketches, plot points, anecdotes, snatches of dialogue, characterizations, and any number of tidbits you can draw from later on in your writing. I take mine with me whenever I travel, and some writers I know bring along a separate volume just to record that specific trip. After you’ve been keeping one for a while, you’ll find out an event just doesn’t seem fully realized until you’ve chronicled it, making it so much richer when you do. But most of all, for all its neediness, you’ll know it’s always there for you, ready and waiting to receive your genius, a touchstone into the writers’ world, one we can always access, with no judgments on our genius, and most importantly, no rejections ever.