A month ago I started keeping a journal. My writing sessions last about 15 minutes, and I make sure that I have entries for every day, even if I have to write them retroactively. So far the project’s been successful, with 30+ days of continuous content.

I find the exercise useful because it gives me an opportunity to throw words down on paper with wild abandon. I’m a perfectionist, and whenever I know that what I write might be visible publicly, producing any useful content is an excruciatingly slow process as I painfully deliberate over single word. The volume of prose that I produce while journaling helps improve my technique, but has the secondary benefit helping me warm up so that after finishing a day’s journal I can transition over to some sort of public writing and do it more effectively.

More importantly is how the journal acts as a more reliable version of my own memory. If I think back, there are so many life experiences that are effectively gone unless I have some sort of memory aid to bring them to light, my mind will never wander to them naturally. They’re not forgotten, but buried far enough below the surface to be almost permanently hidden from my thoughts.

Even reading over entries from the last month reminds me of relatively recent experiences that would otherwise have faded by now. Seeing them in written word recalls them in an instant. I wish I’d started the habit a decade ago because by now I’d have a wealth of remembered detail that doesn’t exist in any form anymore.

Although I still romanticize journaling by hand into a well-traveled notebook, I keep mine in digital format because the keyboard is so much faster. It’s also convenient because combined with Dropbox, it produces an archive that’s safe from disaster, and creates less physical clutter. I save it in plain text files organized by year, and edit the whole thing in Vim.


August 4, 2016

Find me on Twitter at @brandur.

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