I’ve been collecting my thoughts in some form of journal on and off since I was in 9th grade. My earlier “journals” were mostly poems written for my first love in a red spiral bound notebook. They ranged from syrupy sweet lines of boundless affection to angst-ridden tales of woe penned after he had the poor judgment to break up with me following 10th grade prom. Then I wrote verses swearing off musicians and promising I’d spend the rest of my life in solitude.
Yes, I was a bit melodramatic back in the day.
Since then, my journals have changed in both content and container.
While I still write poetry and essays, my journals also contain rough sketches, lists, book ideas, workshop suggestions, observations, and self study.
I’ve kept journals in 3-ring binders, writing tablets, plain black journals with lined pages and, for a very short time, on the computer. With all due respect to Doogie Howser, M.D., journal writing doesn’t seem the same when done on a computer. These days, journal entries are written in beautiful blank books of varying styles, colors, and sizes. A tiny version is always tucked in my purse, ready to record my life on the go.
I’ve purchased many journal books, but others hold special memories of the friends and family who gave them to me. Some journals are significant because the words in them chronicle turning points in my life or in the lives of loved ones. Each one is an important part of who I am.
The photo above shows a few of my favorites.
- The Book Woman journal was a Christmas gift from my mom, who passed away in 2002. She taught me to love books, read newspapers, and to believe in my abilities as a writer. I miss her and treasure this journal she bought for me more than a decade before I wrote my first book. She was my best friend.
- The leather journal embossed with a Celtic cross was a Christmas gift from my sister Kate and her family a couple of years ago. We share a passion for our Irish heritage and a love of books. This journal has nice thick pages on which to draw illustrations and diagrams in addition to words.
- My daughter Elizabeth has never been much of a journal keeper, but she loves finding perfect additions for my stockpile. The small purple journal with the beaded flowers was one she received as a gift in middle school. I found it tucked in a box after her move to Louisiana and added it to the collection she’s given to me over the years, including the pink and gold book she tucked inside my Christmas stocking last year.
- I love cats and receive a great deal of comfort from my trusty kitty Bellamy. Last summer I chose a journal with a kitten on the front to take while traveling to Ohio to deliver my brother-in-law’s eulogy. The journal helped me find the right words for a tough occasion.
- Sometimes I get stuck in the middle of writing a book and need to journal my way out of the mire. The blue and pink floral journal is where I wrapped my head around Gram Parsons and his contribution to country rock music. I dug into the lifestyle of career musicians and also discovered a few things I didn’t know about myself.
- The silver and black journal was a recent birthday gift from a friend who helped me rediscover my love of journaling by taking me along on an artist’s retreat to Asheville, N.C. a few years ago. Our friendship has been through the fire over the years, but it has grown stronger too. I love this journal and the woman who gave it to me.
- While in Asheville, I experienced a beautiful act of kindness from Mel, a young woman I barely knew. The trip was a turning point for me on so many levels and I began a journaling frenzy on that mountain top. One morning, Mel came into the kitchen of the log home holding her journal and the message imprinted on the leather jumped out at me: “There is no room for fear when you have faith.” I complimented the journal and told Mel the words were just the message I needed at that point in my life. The next thing I knew, Mel was tearing out the few pages she’d already used and placing the book in my hands. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I filled every line in that journal with heartfelt words.
- This year I reconnected with a childhood friend I’ve not seen in decades, but she was one of the first kids I met when my family moved to Florida from New Jersey in 1971. Since reconnecting, we’ve installed a wood floor in her condo, cleaned out my closets, trimmed hair for each other, solved life’s problems, and laughed – a lot. Never underestimate the value of someone who makes you laugh. She gave me, In My Humble Opinion and the chuckles continue!
For me, journaling is playing with words, examining thoughts, making sense of the world, preserving memories, and being at peace.
Each journal I own represents a specific time in my life. I cherish every one of them.
Post Script: Remember the guy who broke my heart in high school? We reconnected nearly 30 years later. We’ve been married since 2007. We’re still making beautiful music!