Many believe writing in a journal to be equivalent to starting off with “Dear Diary.” Yes, a diary is another name for a journal, but it doesn’t mean that you have to have one per se. That is unless, of course, you want to. A journal or diary is essentially a written record. Typically, a diary has daily entries in it, whereas journal entries may be less frequent. Nonetheless, it is a flexible tool at your disposal to suit whatever your needs are for it. A travelogue, food diary, a confidant, a timeline of experiences, failures, and successes – the applications are numerous.
Journal writing is not a new concept. Some of the oldest-known written journals date back to 9th century AD Asia. And if you consider the idea of sketch journals employed for recording events, then one can conceivably say that cave painting by early humans was a form of journaling!
While many people associate journal writing with writers and authors, anyone can write a journal and reap the benefits. Presidents, CEOs of big organizations, scientists, and other dignitaries have been keeping journals for centuries. Just recently, the journals of Carl Sagan, noted astrophysicist and author of a number of books including Cosmos, were released with notes, sketches and papers, by his widow, Anne Druyan to the Library of Congress earlier this year. Other famous diarists include Anne Frank, Carl Jung, and Franz Kafka. And who can forget the Diary of a Wimpy Kid – a fictional account by Jeff Kinney?
Journals have been kept for institutional purposes for many human interactions including business ledgers, military records, and government records. What’s more, researchers at the University of Minnesota believe that for the purpose of foreign language learning, weekly journal writing strengthens writing skills in the adopted language as well as enhance cultural interactions. There are in fact, many good reasons to keep a journal. What can journal writing do for us?
One can record one’s experiences, thoughts, feelings, opinions, or commentary on current events outside of the writer’s direct experience.
Journals provide information for a memoir, autobiography, or biography.
Journals can offer a first person perspective on a slice of history – whether it is a family history, history of a region, town, or event.
Maud Purcell for Psyche Central states that journal writing has several positive impacts on our physical wellbeing, as well as stimulates creativity.
The website, Self Esteem Health provides a list of twenty benefits of journal writing, including solving work and family problems, and making decisions for the future.
Emily Temple of Flavorwire.com notes ten famous authors’ viewpoints on the importance of keeping a journal. The authors include such notables as Virginia Woolf, Susan Sontag, C.S. Lewis, and Ray Bradbury.
Journal writing doesn’t have any specific rules – it is exactly what you want it to be. Individuals have devised a multitude of uses. Like bulleted lists to accomplish tasks? Check out the “Bullet Journal” – an analogue journaling system for organizing, recording and planning. Want to get into touch with your inner self? Try Lucia Capacchione’s The Creative Journal. Or perhaps you like drawing or sketching to express yourself? Take a look at Cathy Johnson’s Sketch Journal ideas. Or if you prefer a digital equivalent, there are free online journaling services such as Penzu.com or The Online Diary.
Whatever your purpose in keeping a journal, it is always eye-opening to look back on past entries just to see how far you’ve come. So what are you waiting for? Start enjoying the benefits of journal writing today.
Do you keep a journal or diary? What purposes has it served you?
Written by Marlene Martzke for English Classes by Skype