For a long time I hated the idea of journaling. Pouring the meandering nature of my mind into the keyboard felt wrong. Per my copy editor brain, I felt compelled, even forced, to edit each word until it fit perfectly, never moving to the next idea until I had perfected the previous one. An agonizing, limiting writing pattern.
In July 2014, after months of trying and failing to heal from a painful experience through my typical brand of ‘perfect-or-nothing’ prose, I found my brain and keyboard working in bizarre harmony, each keeping pace with the other. With my beloved AP Stylebook stowed and my Oxford English Dictionary tab hidden, I wrote. And I didn’t worry about that errant idea, that not-quite-right verb or the comma blunder in paragraph two.
A lot of it wasn’t good. At all. But the triumph, I realized, was in relinquishing the control that had limited me for so long.
I continue to journal three or four times per week, typically in the evening, with a mug of tea nearby. This week, it’s been particularly natural, even automatic, per the upcoming anniversary of my trip to Turkey. Journaling provides a private, tangible world where I can scroll back into past problems and selves.
Tangibility fascinates me: the way we the physical and emotional link and the lingering gap between them. You know those cheap key chains you can buy 10 for $1 in any tourist hub? I love them. They provide a chance to examine how the tangible and intangible connect, how we get from one to the other involuntarily.
Journaling, I’ve realized, lends a tangibility to thought. While journaling (er, ranting) the other night on the woeful state of modern dating and my general inability to navigate it, I wrote some cringe-worthy melodramatic prose. (It’s notable that I was listening — fine, jamming out to — Taylor Swift’s “1989” at the time.) Yet, when rereading all my girlish tomfoolery, I came across a sentence I still can’t get out of my head: Pain and joy can coexist in confusing clarity, each tiptoeing around the other.
Maybe, it’s that feeling of freedom that drew me to journaling. In Turkey, I didn’t have the right word for, well, anything, and I didn’t care. I tried to learn it anyway, picking up a random word here and there, enjoying every clumsy attempt at Turkish conversation. With each tangible word I write, journaling transports me back to that freeing mindset, an unfamiliar world in which I can wander without fear, without having it all figured out.