When I turned thirteen, I was seized by an epiphany that forever changed my life: adulthood causes amnesia. If I were to avoid the adult-onset cluelessness that clearly plagued my parents, I needed to carefully document my life and create a reference manual for later. If I wanted to remember anything, I had to archive everything.
So I began a journal and faithfully filled it with universal gems of observation such as, "I HATE when parents bug me about boys," and, "I really love horses."
Insightful revelations like these continued and I dutifully recorded them. As the years passed, my journal writing evolved. Journaling became less about capturing the life I had, and more about creating the life I wanted.
It's been 22 years since that first determined entry, and journal writing has remained central to my life. I still write daily. And I still hate when parents bug me about boys.
Daily journaling enables me to develop my voice as a writer. It provides comfort and helps me make sense of a confusing world. It assures me, like an old friend, that I'm making progress. Through journaling, I've gained a depth of self-awareness that I doubt I could've cultivated any other way. In a lot of ways, journal writing saved my life.
I survived quite a few rough patches because of my journal. Adolescence is tough for every kid, and I was no exception. I was a weirdo and totally incapable of fitting in. At twelve, I was nearly six feet tall - and to make matters worse, I couldn't play basketball to save my life. When I actually spoke, nobody my age understood the words I was using. I felt like an alien.
I could have turned to shoplifting, cow-tipping, or drugs, but instead I wrote constantly and feverishly. I remained hopeful that I'd eventually find others who spoke my language. And I did. When I surreptitiously landed on the Writer's Corridor of my freshman college dorm, the other aliens welcomed me home with open arms.
My myriad journals - over a hundred at this point - also serve as an indispensable written history that I often rely on for research. Because I have OCD, my journals are all labeled and indexed, each with dated entries, numbered pages, and a table of contents. I've created a private Library of Congress, and I use it frequently as a knowledge base.
I make time for journaling every morning. I spend at least an hour writing at the café before work each day. I know that's an absurd level of commitment. But I'm a big believer in writing daily - not just when you feel like you need to. For me, writing only when I "need to" amounts to crisis management and mere damage control. Regular journaling enables me to live proactively and to create my life from the ground up.
And allotting that time just for myself makes me feel important.
Daily journal writing also allows me to efficiently identify problems and make necessary changes. Sheer boredom serves as a powerful catalyst for conflict resolution; I quickly tire of rehashing the same issue day in and day out. The vast majority of my lifestyle upgrades are made because I'm sick of listening to myself complain.
Recently I've ventured into the amazing world of art journaling. I've always dabbled in mixed media and collage, but combining those with journal writing is brand new and exciting. It's incredible how three-dimensional my journal entries become when I add images, texture, and colors.
I firmly believe that journaling can benefit everyone. The biggest misconception is that you have to be "creative" to keep a journal. If you can make a sandwich, you're creative enough for journaling. I encourage everyone to give it a try - just grab any paper handy and write about your thoughts or surroundings for twenty minutes.
There's nothing to it, but what you get out of it can change your life.
KRISTIN DONOVAN has kept a journal ever since she discovered boys. Her website, Journaling Saves provides inspiration and encouragement for journal writers of all levels.