In the third grade, I received my first lined journal as a gift. The cover was blue with either a smattering of stars or hearts all over it, I don’t remember which, exactly. What was important were all the blank pages, dozens and dozens of them. A kid with her first journal can either feel completely overwhelmed by it or she can embrace it. I, unsurprisingly, embraced it.
During the first few months after receiving my first journal, I felt the need to write every day. Rereading that journal, the entries strike me as very funny. What I perceived to be catastrophic problems were mere wrinkles when compared to the greater world, but they were a big deal at the time. Other days, I simply wrote that nothing exciting happened on that particular day. That journal led into another and then another. Today, I have a trunk I keep in the garage filled with dozens of journals; I have no idea how many I’ve actually filled.
I certainly don’t write in my journal every day now. I have no interest in doing so, nor do I think I have something to write about each and every day. Instead, I use my journal as a therapeutic haven. It’s where I turn when I’m overwhelmed by a situation or emotion. It’s where I drop all the questions and thoughts that are swimming around in my head, where I can ask the questions I’m embarrassed to admit I’m thinking and work through solutions in my own awkward, convoluted manner.
As a writer, I sometimes forget to take time to do this. I write all day long—articles, blog posts, emails—so when the end of the day comes, the last thing I want to do is open a journal and become a wordsmith. But I’ll be the first to admit that it is so incredibly important that I set aside the time to do just this. Sometimes it’s a few minutes on the weekend or in the evening, and it often happens when I’ve got a layover or long flight. I’ve become so used to using writing as a relaxation and therapeutic tool that not doing so often causes unresolved feelings and thoughts to become overwhelming.
Likewise, when I get on a roll with snail mail—cutting out scraps, creating crafty stationery and writing letter after letter—I feel a lot calmer, much more at peace with myself.
I suppose we each have our own way of dealing with the stresses in our life, and for me, letting those stresses fall from my fingertips makes everything seem so much better.