Oprah Winfrey, one of the world's most famous talk show hosts, has spoken
to millions of viewers about the importance and worth of recording a daily
Whether it's a record of your life for historical reasons or just a place
to vent your frustrations and secret thoughts, a diary or journal is a great
way to put your thoughts down on paper or on a computer. Sometimes just writing
something down helps to make it more real.
Diarists are people who record their thoughts and parts of their lives
in a diary. Lots of people do it off and on during their lives, and others
do it for years.
Some diarists express their innermost feelings in the pages of their journals,
while others simply record the day's events and list personal goals. Whatever
the content, diarists will tell you that keeping a journal can be a spiritual
and worthwhile task.
Journal keeping is a very personal thing, and there is no one set place
where people do it -- in bedrooms, at kitchen tables, in parks or restaurants,
you name it.
When you see someone recording something in a book, they may be writing
down their feelings about what they see or feel at that moment in time.
Written records have been found from many different times in history. The
Diary of Anne Frank tells the tale of a young girl during the Second World
War through her personal experiences.
Recording thoughts and feelings in a journal is one thing, but sharing
those thoughts is a whole other story! Some journals are never read by anyone
other than the author. There's no way to tell how many people have a journal
tucked away under a pillow or in the bottom of a drawer, out of reach of prying
Think about this -- with computers and the Internet increasing the ability
to share written work, some diarists choose to share their diaries with the
world. Catherine de Cuir, who runs the journals guide for the Mining Company
Web site, is sort of an expert on the subject.
When asked how many people participate in Internet diaries, she says, "Open
Pages, which is the biggest Web ring for online journals, has 751 member sites.
There are probably hundreds more 'lone wolves' who don't belong to a Web ring.
A thousand might be a low estimate."
Everything from New Year's resolutions to the weather to nothingness (like
a Seinfeld episode) can be found on the Internet. You name it, people write
about it. Some may even say that people who develop their own Web page with
pictures of friends and pets are really creating a virtual diary.
Whether you choose to go the old-fashioned pen and paper route or via the
information highway, there are some pointers to keep in mind when starting
- Find materials you're comfortable with. Although it may take some time,
it's worthwhile to find the materials that make you feel at home.
notebook may be your style, or maybe a hardcover journal with gold on the
edge of the paper. If you go the high-tech route, a computer disk with a top-secret
password may work for you. It's your journal -- you decide.
- Find a time and place where you're comfortable. Whether you write every
day or just when the mood strikes you, it's important to make a point to stick
with it. If you find the busy cafeteria at lunch gets your creative juices
flowing, go for it.
- You know where you feel most comfortable, so why not write while you're
- Write from the heart, and don't worry about spelling, grammar or punctuation.
Nobody has to read this but you, and no one's going to take a red pen to it
and point out the mistakes. The important thing is creativity and feelings.
If bad spelling makes you uneasy, you can always go back and fix it up later.
- Just do it. As you read over the stuff you've written in the past, it
will help you to learn more about yourself. You might laugh a bit about the
first real crush you had or the time you were really embarrassed in class
-- the possibilities are as endless as the possibilities in life.
are, you will learn that you're a very cool person with lots of very cool
stories to tell.
The Secret Diary Web site offers some different types of techniques that
can apply to diaries.
Dialoging: You engage in a dialog with yourself or with someone
who isn't really there. This works well if you plan to talk about a touchy
subject with someone and want to work out some of the things you want to say
ahead of time.
If you've ever written a letter to someone without really planning to give
it to them, then you already know what dialoging is.
Lists: You make lists, preferably long lists, of things you want
to do or places you'd like to go.
Clustering: If you can't think of a way to think about a topic
in a straightforward way, try brainstorming ideas related to it.
Clustering is the process of beginning with some vague or monstrous topic,
which you write in the center of the page. You then branch off into subtopics,
and from those subtopics into sub-subtopics, until you have a giant spider
all over your page.
Dreams: Writing down dreams in a journal can tie into other things
that are going on in your life.
Indexing: This is a way to organize a journal that involves keeping
a table of contents page with entries for dates and pages. This may be just
a little too organized for the average diarist though!
Like all other hobbies, there are careers that can tie into someone's love
for being a diarist.
Freelance writer: You can submit articles to magazines or newspapers
about topics you are passionate about, or about how something impacted your
Organizer of a Web ring: Organizing people's thoughts and feelings
in a public place like the Internet can give you the chance to show the world
all the benefits of recording a journal.
English teacher: If you want to teach other people about the benefits
of writing in general, and have an appreciation of the English language and
a desire to teach, this could be the career for you.
Buying the supplies for keeping a diary can be very inexpensive. A spiral
notebook may cost as little as a dollar, and a pen can be purchased with pocket
change. If you choose to go for the fancier stuff, expect to pay about $10
for a nicer hardcover book and about $5 for a smoother pen.
The supplies are easy to find at a department store, a bookstore or a stationery
retailer. The only other thing you will need is your imagination, which is
Writing is not very physically demanding, but can be mentally draining,
depending on the topic.
For people who don't feel that handwriting a journal would be something
they would enjoy, entering journals on the computer or recording them on a
tape are other options. For people who enjoy art, pictures can also serve
as an alternative kind of journal.
Diarists are people who are in touch with their feelings and their lives.
They want to have something more to show for life events than just memories.
They record thoughts, feelings and life experiences, and they will tell you
that it is a great way to pass the time.
The Diary of Anne Frank,
Write From the Heart: Unleashing the Power of Your Creativity,
Hal Zina Bennett
Creative Journal for Teens: Making Friends With Yourself,
A starting point for online diarists
A Guide to the Best Journaling Resources
A list of links
Writing the Journey
An online journal writing workshop