I just finished reading through every journal I’ve ever kept. Which, sadly, isn’t that many considering I’ve been on this earth for nearly forty years. A few of the journals date back to my college and seminary days, though my twenties were essentially the lost years in which I failed to record a single thought or event from my life. I regret this immensely. Most of the journals were written over the past six years and were inspired by Julia Cameron’s practice of Morning Pages. My journals contain everything from a record of dreams to to-do lists, from my daily struggles to the deepest hopes and longings of my heart. It turns out all of these hopes and longings continue to unfold alongside my daily struggles, usually right under my nose and some times even under my pen.
It took me a while to get through all twenty-six journals. There were moments I wanted to impale myself with a sharp object. The monotony of my day to day life, coupled with the repetition of the same damn problems, made it a rather tedious read. But every once in a while a revelation would pop up that made the previous fifty pages completely worthwhile. I held the small red journal with the message “Keep Calm and Carry On” in my hands and instantly remembered the moment I picked it out at the book store in Indiana. And how I had needed the words recorded on its pages so I could carry on. When I finally closed the cover of the last journal I was filled with a sense of gratitude that I had saved every last one, hauling them with me across seven states and as many moves. “Do you want to keep these?” Micah would ask as we weighed the cost of another box full of our belongings. I now consider them my most prized possessions.
I try to journal three pages each day. Some days I write a single paragraph, other days I fill page after page of useful thoughts and inane distractions. There isn’t a single word that is wasted because at the end of it I feel as though I’ve set aside (and in some cases consecrated) my thoughts and distractions so that I can get on with the business of creating. It is exactly as Julia Cameron says, by vomiting on the page everything and anything that comes to mind, I’ve cleared a space for inspiration.
I feel about keeping a journal the way I feel about meditation: both are necessary for life and creating, for truth-seeking and sanity-keeping. Without them I don’t know how I would have survived many a dark night. With them I know all manner of things will eventually reveal themselves as long as I stay faithful and simply show up.