The Right Reason to Write…Or Not?

My journals since 2000, minus the most recent one.

One of the most interesting things that I will bequeath to Elizabeth (and other children we might have, if we decide to) is my stack of journals. I have ever journal that I have kept since entering college in 2000. I had one when I was a kid but destroyed for reasons I can no longer remember. I love writing here but it will never replace a paper journal. Which leads me to other thoughts.

Why do I need this? Why do I have the need, the compulsion to physically write down my thoughts?

I like writing. I like seeing the words flow out of my pen. Sometimes I don’t know my own thoughts until they are voice and, at the same time, I’m not comfortable voicing them to another living soul. My journals are the reliquaries for my emotions, for my thoughts, my failures, my joys, my despairs, my memories.

I write things down so I can remember them, remember that feeling in that moment for that reason. I wrote down the progression from theatre goer to script contributor for the American College Theatre Festival back in 2001 (though it’s not nearly as glamorous as it seems) because I wanted to remember every step. Every important date of mine and Ben’s beginning relationship is written down and my students were stunned to see that I could recite them all, which even on which date (first date, first kiss, officially a couple, engagement). I wrote down the date I first felt my daughter kick in the wee hours of the morning, the date that we found out that we were indeed going to have an Elizabeth and not a Jeremiah. I write these things down because they are important to me and so that, in my old age and inevitable senility, I can read back and, even if I don’t remember it, I can relive the warmth of it all just a little bit.

I write to hide. Like a friend wrote for his character not too long ago, “I know we’re supposed to feel, but feelings and actions are two different things…” he says. “Isn’t it better, sometimes, with some emotions, to stuff them away til later? Not forever… just til later?” I write to stuff those feelings and thoughts away so I can put on a happy face to the world or least one that doesn’t provoke questions and uncomfortable confrontation. (Oh, but I hate confrontation.) My journal holds those feelings, locked away from anyone else’s eyes. I’m a private person anyway and, though I am way past the journal-with-a-lock days, it is rare to never that I will offer you a peek at my journal. I always keep it near me and my mom was very good about reminding me to take it with me when I left the TV room and put it away. In my journals, My journal serves no other purpose than to keep my secrets and those parts of me that I wish to remain secret and private, ie, the perfect place to hide. Then, with the release valve hit, I can face the world with at least some bit of a lighter heart, maybe.

I write to know myself. Like I said, I sometimes don’t even know my own mind until I start writing it out. Sometimes I don’t like what I am thinking but it’s still does me good to find out just what that is.  And giving myself the space to admit that I don’t like the way I am thinking or feeling is helpful; there’s no one there to contradict me and I am able to be brutally honest with myself about myself.  I may not always be able to be so with people but my journal allows me a place to at least try to be honest about myself and learn about myself.

I’m not saying that there is feasibly no other way that I could gain a depth to myself without my journals but, for me, I think that this has been one of the best ways over the past 13 years. One that I don’t think I’m going to give up any time soon.


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