I spent some time Tuesday morning listening to podcasts with writers. In the meantime, I dusted off the boxes in my office and decided to put some order to my journals. As some of you know, writing for me is somewhat a compulsion. It is a non-optional part of my daily practice.
I hand write my journal. I am old-fashioned that way. The ideas that pour forth with a nice smooth pen on paper seem qualitatively different than what I write when I sit down to the keyboard. More raw. Less pre-meditated. Just me.
My intended audience for these journals is just me. I made my college roommate promise me that if anything happened to me she would have the journals burned without reading them.
I was a little embarrassed when I started sorting the piles of journals into decades. The sheer volume of the once-blank books that span the last 26 years astonished me. Think of all the wasted paper! All those poor trees have been sacrificed for my greedy writing habit…Then I was kind of amazed. I started to wonder about the periods when I had been faithful to journal at least weekly, or other periods when journals were either lost or not kept.
What happened to 2008-2009? No journals from that time. Mysterious.
Did I start journal-writing prior to 1992, the year I left home to go to Swarthmore College? I have a cute little lock & key style diary from when I was about 7 years old, a that I probably got from my Mom.
I decided to document via photos the journals I have kept. This is as much to illustrate my insanity as to be able to let go of these books at some point, as per my desire to live a more minimalist life.
My collection from 2018 includes 15 blank books (so far, since I just started #16 today). That is really embarrassing. But I suppose in a way, it is something I can embrace. I write. My days flow better when I write each day. I also seem to have less insomnia when I let it all out rather than letting it simmer.
When then if I want to work on a big project, a book idea? Do I keep writing? Do I perhaps use my journal as the “reward system” for after I’ve gotten my daily pages and work done?
Clearly it’s a habit that’s not going away. It feels like a lifeline to me, and I am sure I would need to spend a LOT more on therapy if I were NOT writing each day. Come to think of it, the gaps in my “years” of journals actually correspond to episodes of major transitions and/or clinical depression in my life: 1995, 2002, 2009.
Wow. Sh*t. Ages 21, 28 and 35. It seems I was due for an episode in 2016 at age 42, but it never arrived. I am giving credit to my consistent pile of journals and some proactive therapy. When you have tasted that flavor of darkness more than once you sometimes recognize the signs before it arrives again. Self-care is now a religion for me.
I told and AirBnB host back in September: I write because I must. Indeed. Apologies to the trees that sacrificed their lives for my mental health. And everlasting gratitude to you.