Growing up I never bought a diary or journal for myself, but I did receive a few as gifts. Flowers and butterflies in a variety of colors decorated the hardback cover and the inside pages. The paper was soft and inviting. When I ran my hand over it I felt the urge to write.
It was ready to hold all my stories, fears, worries, crushes, pet peeves, joys, discoveries, hopes, and dreams. With my favorite well-chewed pen, I was ready to document my life!
But I could never make myself write in it.
As a kid, the only time I got to read a hardback book was when I checked one out from the library. This made them rare and pushed their importance level far beyond that of an ordinary book. The library’s hardcover books had their beautiful paper covers protected by a clear plastic cover taped to the inside of the book. When I opened the book, it made fun crinkly sounds that never failed to make me smile. The text was easy to read, always dark against the milky-white pages. When I peeked underneath the cover I could see part of the colorful front and back covers and all of the spine. Sometimes the spine was a different color. The writing on the cover was often a shiny metallic color.
When I opened my first diary and stared at its blank pages I realized that in its current state it was perfect. I worried about messing up. What if I wrote the wrong word and had to cross it out? That’d look sloppy.
I could have used a pencil.
Transitioning from little kid to big kid is never easy. It’s marked by many waypoints. One of mine was when I began using a pen for schoolwork. That was the same year I received my first diary for Christmas or a birthday, I can’t remember which. Because of that, I figured they were only for big kids and grown ups.
While I gnawed on the end of my pen it occurred to me that I didn’t own the right kind of writing tool. How could anything I wrote with a twisted and tooth marked, cheap, blue plastic pen be good enough for this perfect journal? Obviously, it couldn’t be. I would need a fountain pen like my grandmother used. She always called them feather pens, they were her favorite kind. Any pen special enough to have its own nickname would be special enough to write in my perfect blank book.
I tried to use one. It was a disaster. The ink was everywhere, thank goodness I hadn’t written in my journal with it. I didn’t write in cursive, which I hated, so it didn’t write smoothly. I probably was pushing too hard.
Unable to use a special pen and afraid of messing my beautiful journal up, I placed it in the back of a shelf in my closet. I simply wasn’t qualified to write in a diary.
Journals were called diaries when I was growing up. Think back to the old TV shows. Many of the girls in them kept a diary. Those girls all had brothers or younger sisters or snooping parents, who spent a considerable amount of time and effort locating and reading the diary.
The unfortunate girl’s secrets spread through her neighborhood and school. People she thought were her friends ridiculed her. The boy she had a crush on laughed at her and called her names. Mortified, the girl felt certain people died from such horrific events. She imagined a coroner’s report giving the cause of death as humiliation.
I sat with my immaculate journal on my lap, and my gross pen clutched in my hand, debating if it was worth the risk to write anything. Would my grown up self ever really care about what I was feeling right now? I mean, really, how interesting is sixth grade? Even more terrifying, what if someone found my journal and read it? Nope, the risk wasn’t worth it. The empty journal went back on the shelf.
Over the Years
I’ve been given journals off and on over the years. I’ve never written more than a handful of entries in them. Fear of not being an interesting person has always crept in and I could never stick with it. Maybe it was the fear that I wasn’t enough. No one would care about my story, my adventures, my life, or me.
Meanwhile, my sister became a prolific journalist; filling blank book after blank book. I was always envious of her ability to fill those pages with so many fascinating things. I must admit, a small part of me resented her ability to journal.
What About Now?
Through trial and error, I’ve learned a lot about who I am and what I need to do to get my thoughts on paper. I now keep a gratitude/prayer journal in a spiral notebook that I write in with a cheap, non-chewed on, ball-point pen. Occasionally I do a free-writing type of journaling on the computer. A fancy blank book still terrifies me–I simply can’t write in one.
In my next post, I’ll share what changed and why I think journaling or keeping a diary is important.
Have you had issues that kept you from writing about your feelings and fears and dreams? Have you journaled for years? Do you have any advice for us beginners? Do you want to journal, but haven’t started yet? I’d love to hear if any of this resonates or if I’m just a weirdo. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.