I think I’ve been writing in a journal since I learned how to make words happen with a pen and paper. In the beginning it was just drawings (because art is another way of taking stock of our lives), and then it was words, and now it’s a combination of art and words and photos — but mostly words. The types of journals I write in depend entirely on my mood: in high school it was simple spiral-bound notebooks, or pretty little bound volumes — whatever I could get my hands on, really. For years, in law school, I only bought journals from Oberon Design, which has an amazing online shop. Two years ago I was in the airport, desperate to write in something, and picked up a Paperblanks product. I loved it so much that I kept returning to them until just recently. Now I use Moleskin notebooks because I like the feel of the paper (very thin, almost sheer, I love how the pen pushes through so you can feel the texture of your writing when you touch the page). Sometimes I’ll stop writing in a journal midway through, and switch over to another notebook — then return to the other, months or years later. Again, moods and circumstances change what I want to write in, and if you think that’s odd — well, maybe it is. But journals are very personal, where I unleash my deepest fears, desires, what haunts and moves me, where I lay down the law of my life, what my dreams are, and will be. That’s, like, heavy. Not any notebook will do.
There’s an interesting piece in the New York Times, called “Recording Our Lives in 2012″. In one of the related essays (called “Journals Are a Complicated Gift”), I read this:
In one page of his many journals, Kurt Cobain wrote “Don’t read my diary when I’m gone.” Underneath that he contradicted himself: “Please read my diary. Look through my things, and figure me out.”
Figure me out. Figure you out. That’s the whole point of journal-writing, right? We record our lives, what’s important to us, ultimately searching for a deeper understanding of us, me, you, the world. Actually, strike that — we’re writing about our journey toward a deeper understanding.
This is all related to something else I just read: a few words from Anais Nin on how emotional excess is essential to writing and creativity:
You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.
I love that.