Every time I hear or read the praises of journaling my anxiety goes up and I feel I’ve lost out. The over-achievers that harp on journaling, the die-hards who swear by it – they say that the practice of daily journaling yields riches of life and craft that cannot be summarized.
I’m 49 years old. Am I going to start keeping a diary?
There is something attractive (albeit a little strange) about those few of you who have kept a diary since the day you learned to write and have an entry for every day since the first day of second grade. You can go back and read what your childhood mind was thinking on any day in 1976.
But what about the rest of us? We all agree that journaling is important for a writer, but the idea of beginning to write a daily entry seems self-absorbed, pointless, and above all, mind-numbingly boring.
Then several years ago I heard about the practice of specific, purposeful journaling.
Here a few very good examples.
The Reagan Diaries. Ronald Reagan began keeping a daily journal the day he entered the White House and stopped the day he left. It is said to be in simple chicken-like scratches and full of misspellings. And highly personal at times.
The Genesee Diary by Henri Nouwen. Nouwen needed some time away from the rat-race and so he entered a Trappist monastery in Genesee, New York. The book has become a classic on solitude – and marked the beginning of what became Nouwen’s legacy as a monk and a beloved teacher and writer.
Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. Here we have a journal that became a classic of American travel writing – and that provides a first-rate primer on how to write as a contemplative and transient observer.
In the next two posts I will offer a couple of solutions to this problem of journaling. There are two types of journaling that I’ve incorporated into my writing life without turning the practice into a part-time job. These are keeping a Commonplace Book and a Travel Journal.