I would hazard a guess that the majority of writers keep a journal and that they have kept a journal from the moment they could write. If writing is in your soul, there is a fundamental need: to express, to expose, to exorcise — freely and often, across all forms.
Throughout my writing life — which started when I got my first pencil and learned (painfully) how to trace; and has since religiously continued — I have kept a journal, putting pen to paper as often or as rarely as circumstances, events, situations and emotions dictated. My notebooks are among my closest friends and I treasure each of them dearly. In fact, when I relocated — first to Mallorca, then to Sydney, and then back to Mallorca again (where I am now, but only, I think, temporarily) — such was my fear of being separated: of suffering loss, theft, damage, I consigned my journals to several boxes in storage, where they have since stayed safe within the embrace of a controlled environment. All I have on me now are those I have written in the interim, which, incidentally, now fill a box of their own.
Journaling is important to me because it creates a space amid the general chaos and clutter from which to pause, collect, organize and untangle. Journaling enables me to set things down, sort through them, unpick them, understand them and heal them.
I’m like a bottle of fizzy water. Life shakes me up, agitating my contents, provoking, over time, the need to decant. If I ignore this need or fail to address it often enough, eventually, I explode. It is necessary in a way that is both urgent and vital to tend to the contents: airing, sharing and reducing — simply by way of unscrewing the cap, allowing whatever has manifested, festered or become trapped the chance to escape.
In addition, journaling also presents the opportunity to reflect, dissect, analyze, learn, understand and future-proof against detrimental repetition. My entries highlight my mistakes, trials, triumphs and progress more accurately and honestly than I, asked, could ever hope to.
I believe that keeping a diary is one of the healthiest things that you can do, fundamental to emotional well-being and on a par with regular exercise, a sensible diet, a healthy social life and plenty of sleep. Neglecting to honor this practice has, for me, been a costly mistake, one I try not to but will no doubt repeat. Frustratingly, it is usually when we most need it that we deny, the wall ahead appearing too solid, tall and daunting to successfully dismantle or scale.