Why Your Journal is Not Your Diary
Sep 19, 2019
If you were lucky as a child you had one of those fancy diaries, engraved with mysterious symbology, and fastened with a very important feature: a lock.
And not just anyone could open that diary—only the one who had the key. That way no one else could know your secrets, your sins, your confessions, your hopes, or your dreams.
Sound dramatic? Welcome to the inner world of a child who one day would grow up to become a writer.
But back to you.
If you [this time I really do mean you, not me] ever had or wanted a diary as child, you’ll remember the connotation of secrecy. After all, that was part of the fun. Key information documented about yourself for yourself.
It’s tempting to see the daily practice of journal writing as the same as writing in a diary. After all, it is a private place to record your thoughts. And if you’ve ever had a fight or even a misunderstanding, it really is a great place to practice your reaction or even an opportunity to rip the page out and burn it instead. And if this is working for you—therapeutically responding to the events of your life with words—keep going. We all need a place where we can do this, and I am sure that Kyle wishes I was more of a journal-processer and less of a verbal-processer on my off days.
But I also think the randomness and the lack of direction is a reason that some people don’t journal at all.
So today, I’d like to offer you another way of thinking about daily writing.
What if writing about your life, especially your cornerstone stories, could help you understand it? What if this writing could provide insight and give you direction? And what if the daily practice of reflection gave you opportunities to discover the stories, events, and on-going experiences you want to remember, forget, or do-over?
Want to give it a try? Here are some prompts about the value of place in your life.
Where did you grow up?
What do you remember most about the place (s) where you lived?
How do you believe this place has shaped how you see yourself and how you see the world?
Where do you live today?
What do you like most about it? What do you dislike about it?
If you could change anything about where you live what would it be?
What’s keeping you from making that change?
How do you live in your home or space today?
Do you wake up early or stay up late?
Are you orderly or disorganized? A little of both?
Are there any of your routines or habits that feel connected to the experience you had in the place where you grew up?
Would you like to make any changes in how you're living in your space?
What's one simple change you could make to your environment today that would align more with how you want to live versus how you are living?
Review your writing from Day 1-3. Choose one story from your life that speaks to the topic of place—it can be historical (childhood home) or present day (your new apartment). Find a memory that represents your association and record it here. Tell it however it occurs to you, but remember that stories can be as simple as beginning, middle, and end.
Like diary writing, you may feel a sense of privacy in your answers. And that’s okay. Nobody but you ever has to read it. But I believe the answers you provide here have a profound effect on how you live, whether you know it or not. And it’s my belief that when you take the time to know yourself and connect the stories from the past with how you move in the world today, you gain power.
Because what is private or hidden—what is inside us—finds its way outside. Others can see it even when we can’t.
If you want to live a more intentional life, a life where you experience more freedom and more control, the stories that have shaped your identity are an excellent place to start.