By J.G. Lewis
It is intimidating, at first.
It’s there—resting on the countertop, all shiny and new—the cover in pristine condition with those elegant floral images, tribal designs, photograph of Paris, or embossed with that fabulous life-altering quote. All those pages are waiting; all crisp, new and clean.
You’ve wanted to journal many times. You’ve even started three, or five, or a dozen times before. You were enthusiastic at first, yet after a while, or in a week or two, you forgot or couldn’t find the time.
Your mind went to other places and the journal eventually got left on the bus with the almost-new yoga mat, or tucked in that catchall drawer full of good intentions and bad ideas. We all have that sort of drawer, or a box in the basement or storage locker.
You know you have got things to say; you remind yourself daily of that quote you’ve been meaning to write down, or that life-lesson learned from a two-year-old. You realize you should take note of the conversation you had with grandma at dinner last Sunday; she is getting on, and becoming more forgetful, but that was some memory she shared.
Life is like that: as full of moments and dreams and occasions as it is words, and sentences, and paragraphs.
So you bought this journal, a month back, and it is still sitting there. You had the courage to take it out of the bag. You even sat, held it, and admired it the other night while watching that TV series that started out good, and may get better if you watch a little longer.
Then Sunday, when you had the whole house to yourself, you made a pot of tea and put on that perfect CD (you know the one; it’s light, and inspiring) and the mood was perfect, but you just sat there.
Do you use pencil or pen? Is it printing or cursive? You used to have really, really nice handwriting (at least you did in high school), but then somehow it got a little messier. You use the computer more and more (at home and at work), and your thumbs are pretty damn good at texting those short bursts of brilliance, but your fingers get tired if you write too long.
Maybe your thoughts are more perfect, or more presentable (and correctable) if you use the laptop. And then, just as you decide you will write, and have decided you will use a pencil (correctable, if required), the kids come home from wherever they were, and they are hungry, or your sister calls, or Beth (is there anything more mood-shattering than a phone call from Beth?), and you put the journal back on the counter, just until later.
Later comes and goes; days pass, weeks pass, and you even move the journal a couple of times to dust, or make room for a grade school science project. You even laugh at a few of the comments your daughter made while working on the project, and you remind yourself to write them down, in your journal, when you get the chance. When you find the time.
The thing is, you never find the time.
There is always something else that has to be done, whether it’s the report for the office, or historical group, or planning Evan’s 40th birthday…or, or, or, or…Days are full of ors. This or that, now or then; damn it, there are just too many choices, and often they are made for you, or you don’t like the choices but go along with it anyway, or you make the wrong choice.
So this is the time you need to choose something for yourself. You need to make the choice to give yourself the time to do what you’ve been meaning to do, and to do it for yourself. This is what a journal is for. It’s time for all that, time for just you and your thoughts. It is writing from your heart and writing it out loud.
You need not worry about pen (ball-point or fountain), or pencil, or crayon, or how you write, or what time of the day you will find those stolen moments; you only need to concern yourself with making the time, and letting the journal do what it needs to do.
You will find a purpose for your journal if you give yourself nothing more than a reason to write. You do not have to worry about sentence structure, punctuation, dangling participles, or format; you only need to let your thoughts out.
Yes, the moment you put pen to paper you will begin to stain those crisp pages, but that is the purpose, and it may get messy as your mood changes, at the days go on, or as you find yourself either struggling with or containing certain thoughts.
Indeed, life sometimes is messy, and that alone should be enough of a reason to write. You know you’ve got something to say.
Say it. Write now.
J.G. Lewis is a writer and photographer, a dreamer and wanderer, father and brother (an orphan of sorts), living in Toronto area. Formerly an award-winning journalist, he now writes mainly fiction and poetry. He practices Bikram Yoga, doesn’t take the camera out enough, and enjoys the snap, crackle and pop of music on vinyl. You can read more of J.G. on his website, www.mythosandmarginalia.com. Follow him on Facebook, catch his daily breath on Twitter at @sayit4word.
Editor: Dana Gornall