What do we discover when we sit down each morning to write in our journal?
And why do we keep filling up pages that we know may end up on our shelves or tucked away into drawers, never to be looked at again?
One reason we keep journals, I think, is to create proof that we exist, to announce, if only to ourselves, that we are here, alive, not an illusion or a figment of someone’s imagination.
The marks that we make on the pages of our journals are evidence of our being here, now, in this moment.
Another reason, I suspect, is that writing helps us discover what we’re thinking in this moment, to put into words the thoughts that swirl through our heads, to enjoy the process of thinking, to take joy in following a thought wherever it might lead, whether to a dry gulley or to an overflowing riverbed.
If you’re like me, you want to feel that sensation again and again, to feel like a child gazing up at the sky and daydreaming as clouds pass by, to lose yourself in the play of words, in your imagination, in the flow of ink, the sound of a pen scraping the paper beneath your hand, each day hoping to discover something new, some part of the world or of yourself that you’ve never seen before.
Another reason why we keep journals, I’d guess, is to preserve a faithful record of what we might be thinking or feeling from day to day, week to week, year to year, so we can look back (if we ever decide to look through our journals) to see where we were and what we thought about and how we felt at a certain age or on a certain date.
Our journals can help us remember what life was like, how we might have solved a problem or failed in an attempt to do something new or to remember how we were feeling during a challenging (or not-so-challenging) time in our lives.
Keeping a journal is a little like saving photos or news clippings to aid in remembering so the record of our lives is a true and complete record, not merely a facade but the truth underlying our existence.
Why do we keep writing? What draws us back to the page?
Perhaps it’s simply the daily joy that writing brings, or the sense of identity the act of writing gives us.
As long as we are writing—and continue to write—we are observing the world, exploring thoughts and feelings, learning something, which, when put into words, seems permanent and somehow resistant to the wind and change and the passage of time.
That’s every writer’s dream, I suspect, the secret wish each of us makes when we begin to write.
We pray that the discoveries we make each day on paper will endure long after we’re gone, and for as long as the pages of our journals survive.