On keeping a journal

I love the idea of a carefully kept journal. In my imagination it’s always a leather bound book with crisp, thick, cream-colored pages. And in my perfect dream world, I write in it every day.

My reality is much different. As a child I filled notebooks of various sizes with my thoughts, crushes, and obsessions. As a teen I poured my heart into a “secret” LiveJournal blog, and then deleted the whole thing out of embarrassment. As a college student I kept a semi-public LiveJournal that was originally meant to be a showcase for my writing but turned into a diary. In between all this I’ve kept various blogs, travel journals, heartbreak journals, and writing journals.

The thing that nags at me is this: If I’m a writer, really and truly a writer, why have I been unable to keep a continuous, organized (or even semi-organized) journal of events, my thoughts, and writing notes and inspiration?

If you examine my journals, you can see that each one is its own, self-contained representation of my life at that moment. Different journals and methods of keeping a journal have served different purposes: catharsis for heavy emotions, recording my travels, organizing my story ideas.

A little bit of chaos breeds a kind of creativity that can’t happen in sterile, perfectly ordered spaces. You need to get your hands dirty to make a clay pot, and the same theory applies to pretty much everything worth doing.

Life isn’t a perfect, careful, ordered thing. It’s chaotic and messy and full of mistakes. If you think about it that way, a perfect, carefully kept journal could never be a true reflection of life—at least not my life.

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