I connected with this on so many levels. It makes me want to dive back into the garage and locate the storage container where I know my paper journals reside. I’ve delved back into my online journals several times in the recent past and encountered memories both joyful and painful. Often I find that I recall only the positive emotions of particular situations and later discover there was another layer underneath, a layer that still lurks in those journals.

I, too, have felt the need to record both the actual happenings and the emotional impressions of my life at various times. It started with a child’s diary of multicolor pages, where I wrote one- or two-page entries to record the highlights of the day. Entries got longer as I grew older and had more to record and reflect on. I wrote my way through confusion and worries, elation and disappointment, friendships and relationships. And there are some things I didn’t record the details of but wish I had because they are now, as you pointed out, misty and indistinct.

I continue to explore the importance of recording our memories. And I look forward to your exploration of the topic, as well. There is something about the very act of recording those memories that dovetails with our thinking and our feeling. And it creates a record of individual experience in the world at varying times in history that would not exist otherwise.

I wonder if that’s part of the purpose that those of us who are called to write serve in this world?

Expand full comment

You certainly have a good grip on the purpose of keeping journals, starting early in your life. Was there someone who encouraged you to do this?

When I briefly taught English to 7th and 8th graders many years ago, I had them write in journals at least three times a week. I felt this was so important that I placed a priority on consistory following through with regular times for journal writing in class. Today I wonder if the habit stuck with maybe a few of them at least. Who knows, but the seeds were planted.

One of my reading projects, in addition to researching and exploring dreams, is the subject of memory. I have all the books I plan to read, including Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time,” which by itself will be a monumental project. Definitely, highly ambitious. Lol.“Lapham’s Quarterly” published a whole issue on memory few years ago.

This is a book, extensively illustrated, that truly covers the history of journaling:

Remarkable Diaries: The World's Greatest Diaries, Journals, Notebooks, & Letters (DK History Changers)


I recommend this and plan to er-read it as it greatly influenced my own writing after I first read it four decades ago, in ways I’ve long forgotten, but which I hope re-reading it will Help me recall.

“Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within” by Natalie Goldberg


In short, I agree with you about journals as records of our lives. The best journals and diaries are actually many chapters in the writer’s memoir or even autobiography. I like to refer to my journal entries as “personal essays.” They can tell the story of a person’s life in much greater detail, and with layers and nuances that get added year by year, and as the writer ages and natures. This has certainly been the case with me, evidence of which can be seen in my “Open Diary” archive.

Expand full comment

Oh for more time to read All The Books! Thanks for the links, though; I added them to my "Books" list on Amazon. :)

Aside from my parents buying me diaries, I don't think anybody encouraged me to start keeping a journal. I've just always liked to write and tell stories. A couple of teachers in school had me keep a journal, and I think we had journaling time every day in at least one elementary school grade. But personal journaling was something I did myself most of the time. I wrote a lot of poems for a while, too—and stories, of course!

I'm trying to get back into the habit of personal journaling along with writing, although it can be a challenge to fit it into my schedule. I do a bit of note-taking and recording of thoughts when I do my morning Bible reading every day, which is a good record of how I think about and interact with the text over time. I have *many* notebooks of those kinds of notes from reading and Bible study that I should probably input into something like Obsidian at some point to trace the lines of thought.

Expand full comment

My mother kept a daily prayer journal for years in the 90s and into the 2000’s until dementia robbed her of that ability and that means of seeking God. Despite the ravages of that awful disease, she retained her faith and belief in God, and that alone was a miracle.

Expand full comment

1 Peter 1:3-5 -- In Christ, God's children are kept by His power. :)

Expand full comment