I first began keeping a journal in seventh grade for an assignment in my Humanities class, and I’ve kept one pretty regularly ever since. These days, I have four journals that all serve different purposes.
- My nightly journal is a paper Sierra Club weekly calendar with fairly small spaces, just enough to write five lines of prose in small script. I use it to reflect back on the events of the day and any highlights. It gives me a sense of completion and personal significance, like my day mattered to me. It counted. On the rare nights I skip this, I find it hard to recall what happened on the day I neglected, and consequently I have a sense that I would lose days completely if I didn’t jot down what happened in them. It verifies my life for me, I suppose.
- My project journal on my computer is an ongoing series of brainstorming notes for whatever novel I’m working on. It’s different from an outline because that has the results of my brainstorming. The journal is messy and wanders. How often I write depends on when I’m working and how muddled I am. I often go back to review these entries and underline or highlight sections that can guide further exploration. Sometimes my Aha!’s come from this journal.
- In my purse, I carry a small, palm-sized notebook that serves for emergency journaling, like when I’m waiting for a friend at the local café or on an airplane when electronic devices are not yet allowed. The pages include book recommendations by friends, shopping lists, story ideas, guest drawings by nieces, ponderings, talking points, shirt and shoe sizes, and anything else I might want to remember for a moment or longer.
- Finally, my main journal is a document on my computer where I can write as long as I want about whatever I want, whenever I want. I don’t write in it every day; only when I feel like it. The most recent entry is always at the top so I can jump right in without having to scroll anywhere. This last journal is where I figure things out for myself, lie to myself, twist around my words, and explore my emotions, relationships, and dreams. Conversing with myself on paper reminds me who I am by perpetually articulating my thoughts. It helps me feel whole, and nourishes the writing of my novels.
Four might seem like an overabundance of journals to some, but for me, four are just right.