10 years of journals.

Earlier this year, I started polishing up the first draft of Fourteener Father, which I wrote last November. Because the time span this memoir covers was so vast (20+ years), one of the details I needed to flesh out had escaped my memory. It did not, however, escape my journal. Knowing the date I climbed the mountain in question; I used my journal entries of the nearby dates to nail down the detail I had forgotten. However, I was surprised to learn an interesting fact when flipping through my old journals. I have been journaling for over ten years now. That’s a decade of my life written down and kept for posterity.

Now, there’s been plenty of changes in my life since I began writing to myself on January 1, 2007. I’ve graduated college with a Bachelors and a Masters degree in Engineering, moved to Alabama, written numerous novels, moved back to Colorado, dated and eventually married my wife. These simple, daily logs contain a lot of life. So, what was the point in filling out blank pages on (almost) 8 entire journal books?

A lot can happen in ten years.

Part of the reason I started journaling was so I could get some of the many ideas trapped in my head out onto paper. For me, the simple act of writing something down helped me to remember it, even if it was a silly idea or whimsical musing. While I don’t necessarily use it for this as much as I would have liked, when I go back and read some of these entries, a lot of them involve documenting the activities of the day. They also include mention of some of the activities I’m looking forward to (or dreading) in the following days. Some days I have plenty to write about, and others are quite banal, but I wrote them nonetheless. I wrote every day because I developed the routine.

So, even though my daily writing routine was never part of a writing project, it did help me with a few things. First, it kept my handwriting (somewhat) legible. I could have typed these journal entries into a word processor, but something as intimate as my life felt safer in the paper clutches of a physical journal. I may type these journals up sometime, so they’re easier to search through, but part of the charm is going back through them and reading what I had to say at the time.

Daily writing helped to clear my head.

Secondly, writing about my life every day helps me to condense it down into a single-page format. Suddenly, my worries don’t seem so significant. Being able to vent into my journal has helped me to figure out what I’m particularly irked about. In committing my frustrations and insecurities to the page, I can release them and allow them to (hopefully) not bother me any longer.

While this whole exercise might seem pointless to you, let me leave you with the single and best lesson I have learned through a decade of journaling. If the point was just to document my life, I have a spreadsheet with a history of every purchase I’ve ever made (even if it’s only capturing seven years at this point, and not ten). While this is good to trigger the memory during tax season, there’s no story behind it. The main point of journaling is to show the journey of life. We all struggle with some challenge. We all have hopes and dreams. We all have fears. For me, there’s no greater joy than to go back and read years of my frustrations with the dating scene, only to know that the entry for July 22, 2013, would change everything.

What do you do to document your life story?

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