I kept a diary every day of my teens and well into my early twenties. I still have them, except for a six month period I tore out and burned over a boy. As I’ve been reading them a number of things have crossed my mind:
- They are nearly all about boys
- My emotions were all over the place
- They do mature as I get older – the voice changes
- They don’t have much detail in them about what life was like at the time
- They should never ever be published
This got me thinking about journaling today. Journaling can be good for everyone, but there is more than one approach. Here are some different journaling styles to consider.
The Emotional Journey
My teenage diaries fall firmly into this category. The journals chart the emotional development of the writer. They are of little to no historic interest and are extremely personal. Emotional journaling is cathartic. If you are dealing with complex emotions in your life I’d recommend giving this a go.
The Social History
My friend Leila Cassel had an aunt who kept wartime diaries. They are a brilliant and insightful social history. Whilst they include personal stories about Mrs Jones next door, these tales are woven together with anecdotes about rationing, the Blitz, and life in North London in the 40s. They also contain something of a mystery. These diaries have inspired her to write a novel, The Girl in the Hat Shop, which is coming out in autumn 2016.
A social history journal is a gift to someone in the future. Who knows, an entry written today might provide the spark for a best-selling novel of tomorrow!
The Physical Journey
I have CFS/M.E. Unless you’ve had M.E. or know someone who has, it’s quite a difficult illness to understand. One way to explain to people would be to journal a physical experience of it. Others have done so with cancer, dementia, depression etc. All have been powerful and evocative testimonies that have gone a long way in spreading knowledge and understanding.
Again, a more personal style, but with less emphasis on the emotional journey, and more on what you did that day. This is a fantastic journal if you are prone to forget things and want to be able to refer back. It’s also a great keepsake. When I’ve written diaries like this they are stuffed full of theatre tickets, shopping receipts, notecards from people, pressed flowers. These little trinkets act as memory-joggers and I have a fantastic time reminiscing as I turn the pages. I even squirted my favourite perfume, Venezia by Laura Biagiotti, on one page. I can still make out the scent today if I give it a good sniff!
The Writer’s Journal
Snippets of conversations overheard at the bus stop, descriptions of people, places and things. A writer’s journal is full of nuggets. They are literary collection boxes to be emptied and counted later. They are scribbled down on the fly rather than reflected on at length at the end of the day. What writer doesn’t carry a note book around with them?
The Blended Journal
The majority of diaries contain all of the above to varying degrees. There’s nothing wrong with a blended journal. There may be times in your life – particularly when you are grieving – when writing out your feelings can be healthy and helpful. If something significant happens in history – like the lunar landing, discovery of DNA, or the invention of the smartphone, then it adds spice to your journal to write about it. If you have broken your leg it would be odd not to mention it. Write those funny conversations down! Save those ticket stubs of films you really enjoyed. I’ve still got mine from the original Bridget Jones!
Above all have fun. I have bought myself some beautiful journals over the years and some great coloured pens. My only tip is don’t write in yellow. It fades into obscurity on white paper over time. Otherwise be bold. Who knows, your journals may help you let go of painful emotions, provide inspiration for a future novel, help others understand a misunderstood illness, aid you in remembering the good times, or all of the above. Let’s get started. What will you write today?