When I was 11 my parents decided to take us on the mother of all road trips. I’m not sure why the road trip was connected with writing in my mom’s mind, but it was. She bought me a notebook and encouraged me to write, as she did, about where we were going and what we saw along the way.
I probably rolled my eyes. The classic eye-roll was a skill I was working towards mastering at age 11. Looking back, I realize that my skepticism was because I had bought into many of the myths about journaling. Have you encountered any of these?
Myth 1: You have to write every day.
Truth: No, actually, you don’t. You can write once a week, once a month, or whenever you feel like it. That’s like saying if you play on a playground you have to play every day. A journal is just a playground for your pen.
Myth 2: You must write everything that happens to you in a day.
Truth: Yawn. For most people most days, this would be repetitive and dull. Events are not typically riveting. What we learn, how we grow, who we grow with—these are the things that happen on the backdrop of events.
Myth 3: You must write Dear Diary at the top and fill the page with sappy emotional run off.
Truth: Please don’t. There’s a place for knowing what you’re feeling, but major focus on self is not helpful.
Myth 5: You have to keep it hidden or the whole world will want to read it.
Truth: Older or younger siblings (if they still live near you) may want a glance to find evidence they can use against you. There are ways to keep them from getting such evidence while still journaling (think codes and being vague in areas that relate to self-preservation). As for the whole world wanting in on it? Na. The whole world is rather preoccupied elsewhere.
Myth 6: You must use complete sentences, perfect grammar, faultless spelling, and beautiful handwriting.
Truth: Some classroom teachers may have asked for this, but a personal journal is the place for brainstorming, play, and rough drafts, not perfection.
At first I believed the myths. Then, reluctantly, I began to try filling a few pages in a small notebook. Now I’ve filled over a hundred blank books of various sizes. Eventually I became an avid writer. I have now been journaling about as long as the Children of Israel were taking laps around Mount Sinai. What inspired me?
Inspiration 1: My mom wrote.
Her journals were not at all like mine, but every day I saw her writing. It was normal life. It was what the most important person in my life did. For fun. Almost every day.
Inspiration 2: I was challenged.
That summer my mom was trying to get me to write, I read a Sunday School paper about keeping a Miracle Notebook. The very thought had me picturing blank pages that would stay blank. After all, I thought, God never did miracles for me. But then something happened. I got saved. I realized that was a miracle so I wrote it down. Later that summer while working in a Christian camp, I got to lead someone to Christ. Another miracle. More miracles followed. Amazing how it works. What you look for you often see.
Inspiration 3: I found Psalm 62:8.
“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” This verse became the purpose for my spilling ink all over so many thousands of blank pages every year since that summer road trip.
Don’t let the myths stop you. Find your inspiration. You never know who you will inspire.
Your mom did the same for me, only she said, “Write me letters.” I was really grateful. I have long forgotten what was in the letters, but I am sure that it was not really a letter that I wrote because at the time of writing life was really difficult. Thinking back on it, however, I am really grateful that she gave me the opportunity . Your mother loomed large in my life when my children were small, and they speak fondly of her even today.
I thank God for how He used Mom in your life. God’s grace was certainly evident in her. I love hearing about how she blessed you. Thank you for sharing. We never know just how powerfully God is using us in the lives of others.
I have been slowly getting away from these journaling myths in my own life. It is still something I struggle with because those myths have stuck deep in my thoughts. However I love writing, and im trying to journal more to keep doing what I love.
Thanks for this post! It was very encouraging.
Thanks, Karen. This week I was in a coffee shop and as soon as I pulled out my journal and started to write I could feel everything inside start to relax. I am deeply grateful God lets us do what we love in pouring out our thoughts on paper. Journal on, friend!
My writing life started in 10th grade when our English teacher, Miss Mason asked us to keep a journal that year. Like the request from your mom, I saw it as a dull assignment, but it actually became my career. I still have that first journal and occasionally go back and visit my fledgling self to see just how far God has brought me.
I am blessed by the writing you share with us. Please don’t stop.
Thanks, Millie. Praise the Lord for teachers and parents and all who get us started down the path God has for us. After all these years I still love writing. Thanks for your encouragement not to stop. The hard part at present is deciding how to prioritize projects. I’m asking God for wisdom!