Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Writing to Think

I've been journaling since I was ten years old, and I think it's a big reason that I'm a writer and a sane person today. Really. It's the one piece of advice that I give to everyone: Keep a journal! Especially if you want to be a writer. But even if you don't. I honestly can't imagine getting through adolescence without writing about it all. How would I have figured anything out? For that matter, how would I figure anything out as an adult?

I write to think. I write to make sense of the world. To figure out a problem, a mood, a situation. When I first started journaling, I wrote about what I ate for lunch. I listed all the swear words I knew. I complained about my friends and my clarinet teacher and the unfair word on the spelling test. As I got older, I journaled about my dreams for the future. And boys. I journaled a lot about boys. I was always in love with someone who wasn't in love with me, but it was okay because I could write about all those desperate feelings, and somehow that made me feel not quite so desperate.

When you journal, you realize that whatever you're going through is temporary. You realize that you can get through it. That it will change. That there's something to learn from it. You get perspective, which is an incredible gift. And you give that gift to yourself. How easy!

Five years ago, when I had a snoopy preteen daughter in the house, I bought a little fire safe and put all my diaries in the safe. Three years ago, while we were away for spring break, burglars broke into our house and stole all our valuables, including the little fire safe. Yes, all my diaries disappeared. I was devastated at first. I would never be able to go back and re-read what I'd written. But you know what? I don't really do that anyway. I don't want to go back. I want to go forward. For me, it's the act of writing that matters. Because that's what helps me think.

Since the burglary, I've not kept a traditional journal. I've done it all online in a password protected document. But the document got too long and cumbersome, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to password protect a new file. But now I've found this awesome new website: www.penzu.com. It's an online journaling site, and it's free. It makes it so easy and fun to journal. And if you are just developing the habit, you can even sign up to get little reminders from them to journal on a regular basis. I highly recommend it!


Lisa Jenn Bigelow said...

My line is that journaling is cheap therapy -- and I mean that in a good way. Not that a person doesn't sometimes need professional help, but a journal really can perform a lot of the same functions! Writing out your thoughts gives clarity to your situation and emotions. You can say everything on your mind without worrying about boring or alienating your friends. And it's so darn cheap!

Brenda Ferber said...