Every single person that will come across this post is guaranteed to understand stress, be it in their work, their studies, their schedules, or their relationships with others. Recently, I have had some trouble with each of these and I found additional stress in trying to juggle them all. It was after the sudden passing of one of my family members that I rediscovered the importance of journaling, which used to be one of my main outlets for handling stress. Whether your forte is fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry, I believe there is potential for journaling to become a starting point for any genre.
- Catharsis. Personal journaling is, to me, an incredibly cathartic experience. Like with any project, getting my thoughts down on paper helps to clear my head and organize my thoughts in a constructive way. The main inspiration for this blog post was actually an event I felt the need to write down my thoughts for: the funeral of for my great aunt. I had a lot to chew on from the stress of starting school and the sudden news of her passing, and on the day of the event I had moments where I was feeling reflective and found the need to write down my thoughts once I had the chance. Putting my focus into writing kept my thoughts from becoming too overwhelming. In a way I was able to say the things that I needed to.
- Point of View. I’ve been keeping sporadic journals throughout the course of my life, the most frequent being from around the time when I was in middle school. I look back on these and marvel at the way in which I used to write, including how I found the need to write in code sometimes on the off-chance my journals would be discovered by someone else. Now, as a writer at the age of 20, I sometimes find it difficult to recapture a voice meant to be from a younger perspective. That is where holding onto old pieces of writing can come in handy: in a sense I have captured my past self in words. Even if you haven’t kept any works from as far back as I did, there is still potential to start journaling the thoughts of your current self and use that to draw from in the future. Perhaps there will come a time where your mentality shifts, such as a mind-frame that comes from the loss of a loved one–it can sometimes be hard to capture that voice from raw memory.
- Remembering Events. This may be obvious, but it is still worth mentioning. It can be extremely beneficial to write down events that seem important as they occur. Personally I have trouble looking back even a few years ago to try remembering what happened to me and how I might have felt about it. The past has a tendency to become muddy, or can become affected by hindsight: for example, I can remember some details about my first breakup, but without consulting the things I wrote down about it I can’t even ground myself in which specific year that it took place. Was it the year I was on the speech team or the year I joined the strategy game club at school? All three of these events have a lot of weight to me, but I only know when one of them occurred. There is also merit in keeping track of events should you ever be asked to record autobiographical information; I believe that the more grounded in time you are for that, the better.
- Inspiration. Always write down the things that come to you or inspire you. This has less to do with “personal” journaling and more with keeping an ideas journal. I imagine most writers out there have this in some form or another but I would like to emphasize my personal belief that a writer should have something to write on/in at all times. Inspiration can come in the strangest of ways and can also disappear at a moment’s notice. I found my latest inspiration at a funeral, feeling motivated to jot down my thoughts on the program as soon as I could get my hands on a pen. When I got home after the event, I typed up some paragraphs that were reminiscent of a CNF piece, even though I usually write fiction. Whichever route I choose to go, I have the material that I need to make something meaningful.
I encourage everyone to consider journaling as a tool to help better their writing. While you may not need it as a stress reliever like I do, there is still benefit in using it to organize your thoughts and tie down fleeting ideas. If you write what you know, you can’t go wrong; and I’d argue that journaling your current thoughts, feelings, and perceptions will reflect what you know best.
Meet the blogger:
ALEX WERNER is currently a junior studying creative writing at Hamline University. Her focus is fiction and she enjoys the fantasy sub-genre the best. In what free time she has, she likes to draw and hopes to be able to provide illustrations for her writing in the future. Her dream is to eventually publish her own novel.