I’ve kept a journal for seven years. Well, technically I’ve kept MANY journals.
The challenge started my senior year of high school. I’m sure it was a New Year’s resolution, only because I’ve always had a weakness for those. And I probably figured that, like all resolutions before, it would fade in importance, be swallowed up by time and work and whatever else causes resolutions to cease to be.
You see, I was so, so bad at sticking with things. I picked up habits and trends and dropped them just as fast, swore to challenges I’d forget and made goals I’d never keep. So when I made a resolution to keep a journal and write in it every night, everyone, myself included, expected it to last for approximately a week.
I surprised myself.
During my junior and senior years of high school, I started having trouble sleeping. I’ve always struggled, been unable to turn my thoughts down to a volume I can ignore long enough to achieve unconsciousness, but it started to get bad. While insomnia afforded me a variety of odd TV options, it was murder for the next day. Writing in my journal before bed became a way for me to sleep, to decompress after the day, to slowly shush my thoughts. Soon the chore, the challenge, became a gift.
When I went to college, journaling became a comfort, a measure of routine in a time of immense change. I’d crossed the threshold from challenge to habit, and was now rigidly dedicated to the ritual. Probably too much so.
But while that rigid journaling captured many inane details, it also chronicled the most important events in my life thus far.
[The journal that follows the signing with my first agent, and the agony of the many, many close calls of that first novel, the descent from elation to hopelessness, ending with the question of whether I was a fluke, and of whether or not I would try again (hint: I did).]
But as I finished college, the nature of the journal changed again. The habit was formed, the rigidness broken a bit (I didn’t chastise myself if I missed a day, though I tried very hard not to miss consecutive ones). I began to pay attention to the length of my journal entries. I used that length to gauge the amount of living I was doing. If journal entries became too short for too many days, something was wrong. In true neurotic fashion, I paid close attention to how much I had to report to my journal.
It seems obsessive, and it probably is, that a place many use as an emotional confessional I use as a litmus test for productivity, but the fact remains that to this day I judge my life by the length of my journal entries.
We can get lost, go astray, walk and walk until we finally look back and wonder how we got there. It happens in life, all the time. I use the journal to keep myself close to the path. It’s a path I have chosen, of course, one I’ve seen out, studded with goals, sometimes specific, and sometimes as simple as this:
LIVE ENOUGH THAT THE PAGES ARE FULL. EVERY DAY.
It’s a lofty goal, and harder than it sounds, but I try. Every night when I get into bed and take up the latest journal, I want to fill that page.
*2010 was miserable, because the first half was mired in edits, and the second half was filled with waiting. NW had a long road, and I felt every minute of it. Also tangled up with this was a massive amount of uncertainty as to my future and direction (it being my first year as definitively not a student).