When I was 13 years old, my friend told me that her sister wrote in her journal every single day for 6 years. As the overachieving, highly impressionable junior high school student I was, I decided that I would do the same. I was the type who had to be the best at everything I did and if I was going to write in my journal, I was going to do it perfectly – never missing a day.
So my journey began. Looking back at my entries, they are largely filled with the ramblings of my failed attempts with crushes. “John [name changed to protect the innocent] texted me today!” or “I had thought Bob [no, I didn’t actually like someone named Bob] might like me, but I think he likes Suzy instead.” etc. Looking back, I don’t even remember who half the people I mentioned are and I highly doubt anyone will actually ever want to read the hundreds of pages of my messy, hand-written ramblings.
As I grew older, writing in my journal became less of an enjoyment to me and more of a source of unnecessary stress. I would find myself up late at night writing a couple of sentences before bed just in order to check off that I had written SOMETHING. My entries mostly consisted of sentences like this:
“I got up and went to class. After class I had a bunch of homework and I went running. I made cookies for FHE. It was a good day.”
Thank goodness I documented that, am I right?
So, at some point in my college years I decided, well maybe I’m doing this wrong. Why would I write all these endless sentences that are absolutely terrible and not even worth reading? I made the executive decision to change my strategy – no longer would I write in my journal every day. Instead, I would just write when I had something worth saying. That way, when I looked back on my writing, it would actually be something worth reading!
Well guess what? I didn’t write anymore. A year went by with just two journal entries. How pathetic! I went from 365 to 2. I tried a few different strategies to fix this. I thought, okay, I’ll do a digital journal instead. I set reminders on my phone for once a week. I even bought one of those cute 5 year journals where you only have to write a sentence a day. STILL, I couldn’t get back to a more consistent pattern of writing in my journal because I didn’t understand why it was important when all my entries were terrible anyway.
We are told to write in our journal regularly, but I figured maybe it was okay that I wasn’t writing. I could just accept that it used to be my thing, but it wasn’t anymore. That was okay, right? I can’t do EVERYTHING perfectly all the time.
Recently though, while writing one of my stereotypical rambling entries trying to catch up for the last two months, it hit me. I realized why I needed to journal. It wasn’t for those relatives who would probably not even read my entries. It wasn’t even for my future self who may need to learn down the road, though that was a possibility. It was for me RIGHT THEN. I realized that I am the type of person who needs to process things by writing them down. I can think about something all I want, but until I sit down and write out what I am thinking, it isn’t fully processed. Especially at the times when I feel like there is nobody I can tell what I am feeling, I can still WRITE about it.
As I write about what I am thinking, I find that the spirit is able to speak to me – I find myself coming to an understanding of what I need to do and feeling much more at peace. I find that the Lord can speak to me as I am processing my thoughts on the scriptures, on life or even just on my day. We are told to “ponder” which is awfully hard for me to do while sitting still. If I sit and force myself to think, I find that my mind will quickly wander. Before I know it, I’m thinking about my to-do list and can’t even remember what I started out pondering. The way that I have learned to ponder is through writing. Some of my most beneficial learning experiences have come as I wrote about what I was experiencing.
This is why many people keep a scripture journal. I have found that when I write about what I read, that it forces me to focus on a principle I learned. Even if it is just a few verses, having to formulate my thoughts on them in writing really helps me apply the verse to my life.
So, who cares if my journal entries are good! Who cares if your journal entries are good! Who cares if I have something important to say or not! There is a reason we are told to write in our journals, and now I have come to understand that. I still don’t write in my journal every day (not all of us can be perfect), but I do my best and that is okay, because that is all the Lord asks of us!
What have you learned while writing in your journal? Do you ever feel self conscious about not being a good writer? Have you ever tried writing about your scripture study, on your own or in seminary? If so, what was your experience like? Let me know your thoughts!