No two people use a private journal the same way.
For the last four years or so, I have used journaling as a form of therapy. But I don’t end up writing about current events in my personal or professional life as I’d like to. Once, reading through old journals, I literally found an entry that said: “Something amazing happened today. But I’m not going to write about it, because I’ll never forget it.”
Uh, sorry, self. I definitely forgot it.
But I would have loved to be able to look back on that moment and remember something good that happened to me, during a period in my life when not many good things were happening.
This is what I do: I reflect. But there are people who write down their thoughts to get them out, and they never look at them again. It’s their way of dealing with the everyday.
Whether you have a journal or not, whether you like to look back at your past self or prefer not to cross paths with him or her, always take the time to write about what’s happening to you. The only good piece of advice I ever got from my therapist in college was to keep track of the good in your life. Because when there’s nothing good in front of you, there’s always something good to look back on.
You’re not a writer because writing is cool or easy or the only thing you’re good at. You’re a writer because it’s how you process thoughts, and emotions — it’s how you make sense of the world. It’s your best form of communication. If it weren’t, you wouldn’t still be writing.
Write to remember. Even if you believe, in the moment, you’ll never forget.
Write about the good times and the bad. Write about the people who love you as well as the people who hurt you. Write about things you don’t want to mention out loud. Write letters to people you can’t confront in person. Write down your memories, whether you want to remember them or not. Because someday, when you take the time to look back on your life, you’ll want to see how you’ve grown, where you’ve been, the things that have changed, the events that made you who you’ve become.
I have overcome some of the most difficult obstacles in my life as I’ve written about them. Some things are personal — you don’t have to share everything you write with every person you know. Sometimes, you need to see your thoughts written out on paper. It makes them seem real — or in my case, just as irrational as they often are. I can’t imagine where I would be now without a box of journals in the back of my closet to remind me that I’m not who or where I used to be.
Use your words. They’re not just for show. For some, they’re a lifesaver.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.