The Benefits of a Dying Art

As a young girl, I did not consider keeping a record of my life until my ninth birthday when my neighbors gave me a small, pink book with the word “diary” printed on its spine. I recorded my first entry that evening and was faithful to scribble down a paragraph about my day for the next several nights until month-long windows began to occur when I didn’t write at all. However, by the time I filled that first book two years later, I was hooked.

Throughout the following years, I sometimes filled an entire book in less than a month because a night when I did not write was a rare occasion. That is until the work attached to the second half of my sophomore year was assigned and put the time I spent in my 21st journal on hold. Since then, my homework load barely allows me to jot down a skeletal outline electronically. What was supposed to be a temporary home for a couple of entries about a couple of days is currently a 671-page long document.

So, yes, journaling does take time (especially if you’re detail orientated, like me). Writing a complete account of my day can easily consume four hours, but it’s worth it.

My journals, 20 and counting

The pages of my journals are return tickets to moments otherwise gone, and reliving my memories through the words of my past self is one activity I rarely fail to enjoy. Over the years, I have found that journaling every day about everything allows me to sort out my thoughts, and so never fails to calm the sometimes bustling interstates in my mind. Organizing the cars in my train of thought has many a time revealed the simplicity of what, at first, seemed like a stressful situation. Reflecting on my day has also caused me to recognize patterns and connect ideas I would never have noticed in the noise of day-to-day life.

Because “detail” is pretty much my middle name, I do my best to record a conversation word for word. This habit has many a time caused me to realize that I (apparently) missed entire chunks of dialogue because I did not process words in time to react to them. Usually, these discoveries bring instances to my attention in which I forgot to say “thank you” and cause me to be more alert and engaged in all the following exchanges.

After compiling the facts, I record my opinions and reflect on the events that occurred during my day. This additional writing allows me to nail down precisely what I believe and why which speeds up my personal development. For example, I may read an entry from a month ago and realize, Oh, my. That was ignorant. Making a mental note never to do that again.

Journaling has also drastically improved my writing skills since I come home from school and put into practice what I learned earlier that day (like writing techniques or vocabulary). I find encouragement when I compare my first entries (from 2010) to yesterday’s because I can see the severe difference in my spelling, wording, and handwriting. I guess I have gained something from school. 😂

Reading old journal entries is also intriguing because I never know which younger version of my friends I’ll meet. I love those “wow” moments when I realize just how much history I have with a person. Sharing the long-forgotten memory the next time I see said person also never fails to be the highlight of a conversation.

Finally, journaling improves the accuracy of my memories. I have lost count how many dinner conversations have failed to stray too far from the truth because I jotted down the recalled anecdote the night it happened. Precise journal entries also come in handy if you find yourself in a friendly debate about an event you happened to record, and your friend needs more proof than your word when you express your belief that their memory has been altered.

For you, journaling does not have to be an elaborate, hard copy experience. You can download an app like Day One Journal and type up the main idea of your day. However, there is something about putting pen to paper that I, at least, will never tire of.