GAYS MILLS - For several years now, I have kept a daily journal. It’s an activity I would recommend to you. It becomes a habit to jot down a few highlights at the end of each day. And it seems to bring some closure and a record of what the day was like. A journal is a very personal thing and usually meant to be read only by the writer. Unless it falls into the hands of a relative long after the writer is gone.
And that’s how I got started journaling. I wound up with several of my great grandmother’s journals or diaries. I probably met Bessie Smethhurst Lathrop as a youngster, but was too young to remember her well. Through my dad, I got several of the yearlong records of my great grandmother’s life on the family farm on Haney Ridge. The entries were simple and spare, and without any comment or record of her thoughts or feelings, told what she did each day. That impressed and somehow appealed to me.
So on January 1, 1998, I began keeping a journal. It has become part of my daily ritual ever since with only a few gaps. What makes it work for me is using little spiral bound books as journals, one for each year. I’ve used something called the Fat Little Book that I like. There’s also a book that Mead makes that I like better, mainly because it has more pages: 200 rather than 180. That gives me room to write a page a day and also some space for sketching project ideas or taping in a few items of significance from the year: an event ticket stub, a funny headline, a want ad that caught my eye, etc.
The pages in the books I use for my journals are small, about three-and-a-half by five-and-a-half inches. There’s not room to go on and on with pages that size, which is fine. I write in my journal just before bed and I am usually ready to hit the sack by then. Many pages are only partially filled and very rarely do I need more than one page for a record of a day. Rather than a diary which calls for reflections, feelings, and philosophizing, my journal is simply a record of what I did, the weather, where I went, who I talked with, and what I cooked–pretty mundane stuff.
A recent article in the Wisconsin State Journal had the headline: ‘Keeping a journal can reduce stress.’ The article claimed that journaling helps give a ‘satellite view’ of your life and allows you to slow down and contemplate problems and solutions. Like a to-do list at the start of a day, keeping a journal helps to evaluate and look at what was accomplished at the end of the day.
Looking back, I wish I had started journaling much earlier. I would love to be able to revisit journals written in high school, college, and early jobs. Giving a blank journal as a gift to a graduating senior would be a gift that, if used, would provide a lifelong treasure.