“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” – Gustave Flaubert
This week, I took down all my old things from the attic to go through them, in preparation to move. One entire plastic bin was filled with journals, dating from the beginning of middle school through my first years of college. As I looked through the old journals, deciding which to keep and which to toss, I laughed, cried, and yes, cringed with embarrassment.
One journal had a drawing of a busty blonde in spy gear on the cover, holding a gun to her head. Underneath were the words “Blonde, 007! Open this book and I’ll shoot!” One contained the first short story I’d ever written, and another my hilariously accurate predictions of where my friends would be in five years. Another was full of burn-worthy poems from a high school breakup. Another documented the aftermath of a close friend’s rape. Reading through them all was overwhelming.
It was fascinating to listen to the way my voice changed over the years, sometimes sharply, other times only in gradual increments. Laying the journals out in sequential order, I could see the way my beliefs and worldview had slowly changed over the years. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t recognize my twelve year old self, the one who gushed over her favorite books and pasted pictures of horses into her journal. But sometimes she says some surprisingly judgmental things.
I still keep a journal now, which I carry everywhere with me. Sometimes I still write about my life, other times I use the journal to begin drafts of poems and stories. Some pages are filled with quotes from the book I was currently reading, others have pasted-in pictures from magazines.
If you don’t keep a journal, I highly recommend trying it out. Journaling is one of the best ways to grow as a writer, and one of the most fun too, because there are no rules! You only have to write whenever you feel like it, and you can write whatever you feel like writing, because nobody is going to see it! The longer you keep a journal, you might find the more often you want to sit down with it and write.
If you do keep a journal, have you ever gone back to read your older ones? What was your reaction?