Does this Count as a Journal?

Journaling sounds like an activity free of the self-criticism and doubts that seem to flood other aspects of writing. Perhaps this is the case, but I’ve still found myself struggling with the question of what makes a proper writing journal.

I have a stack of notebooks, all bought with the intention of being my first journal. Each one I’ve finished is full of random quotes, miscellaneous observations, usually a few tea stains, and pages of ideas that likely won’t go anywhere. Is that really what a journal is supposed to be? How have the pages I’ve filled with movie quotes, disagreements with friends, or favorite recipes helped my writing ability? If that is all a journal is then, what’s the point? Seeing as I just wrote “Can this Count as a Journal?” on the cover of my latest notebook, it’s clear I still have yet to find the answers to these questions.

Maybe journaling is simply a foundation to begin a writing habit. But does that mean I need to fill each page with the best prose I can think up or the most creative writing prompts I can find online? What about those random story ideas that always seem to come at the most inconvenient of times? Is a journal too sacred to hold those often absurd thoughts?

Perhaps a proper journal lies closer to what a diary is. Maybe it’s strictly a place to share my deepest secrets, daily annoyances, current stressors, or recent heartbreaks. If the whole point is to take the time to write, then a four-page rant about uncle must be seen as a successful entry. Still, I could have spent that time adding to a short story I’m trying to finish. Besides, whenever I try to record the events of my life, I just make everything up. There goes the idea of a journal being a reliable way to look back on my past.

I have been trying and failing to write a proper journal since the age of five. Maybe this is because I have been trying to write a proper journal. I think the truth is that a journal can be whatever a writer wants it to be. For some, it may be a collection of their secrets and for others, it could it could be pages of nonsensical ideas. Like the first draft of a new story, a journal is a place where an author’s imagination is free to roam the pages without restriction. Perhaps my only problem with journaling has been failing to see that I’m already doing it.

Scroll to Top