3 Reasons Everyone Should Keep a Journal


In a heated moment of self-reflection, I asked myself a simple question—why do I write in my journal?

This simple question became an inquisition. More questions flooded in—is my drive to write in my journal related to my being human, or with my being a human trying to live the writing life?

It’s a complicated question to be sure, but I think I’ve come up with a decent set of answers. I write in my journal for different reasons that come from different places. If you are reading this article, it must be because you’re thinking about keeping a journal or you already do and are looking for a little inspiration.

This article is going to underline the reasons I think everyone should keep a journal.


To some, journaling seems like a silly, useless, or embarrassing thing to do. Others simply say “it’s not for me” or claim that they can’t think of anything to write about.

These excuses don’t work for me, and they shouldn’t work for you, either.

Can’t think of anything to write about?

I would like to think that what people mean when they say this is that they don’t believe that they can think of anything of consequence to write about. Must all your writings be of consequence?

Write about the birds you saw that day, what you’re planning to do at the weekend, or a phrase you heard your co-worker whisper. It doesn’t matter what you write and it doesn’t have to be deep/earth-shattering/completely brilliant. Though that would be nice, wouldn’t it?

“It’s Not For Me”

To contradict the “it’s not for me” argument, writing in a journal is for absolutely everybody, no exclusions. Cats even, but good luck getting that lot to do anything but eat, sleep, get cuddles, and be adorable.

It’s Silly

To speak to the silliness factor, for sure, the things we write in our journals have the potential to be silly, but surely you can allow yourself that freedom? Worst case scenario, there’s always fire. And paper shredders. Or paper shredders and then fire. But not the reverse, that would be an unholy mess.

It’s Embarrassing

If you feel embarrassed writing to a Dear Diary entity, you can write to yourself, to your future self, to your past self, to a friend, to a relative, or to an imaginary person. Or to a dead one. You can write to the universe. You can write to the turtle the world may or may not be balanced upon. You can write to no one. Even the sky is not the limit here. Write to your favourite planet or a star that strikes your fancy.

Some folks get blocked by the very word Diary. My instinct is to call it a journal. You can call it a notebook, and fill it with concert tickets; a grimoire, and fill it with pungent herbs and the blood of your enemies. (Joke. Don’t do the blood of the enemy thing. Do do the writing bit, though).

  • diary
  • journal
  • notebook
  • grimoire
  • logbook
  • notes
  • workbook
  • scrapbook
  • sketchbook (prerequisite: that you can at least draw a stick figure)
  • daybook
  • book
  • booklet
  • book of things
  • Margaret
  • Philadelphia
  • pancake
  • homunculus

Pick a name that doesn’t offend you and get comfortable with it. Hold your notebook. Carry it with you wherever you go. Use it to discreetly scratch your backside while standing on the tube.

It’s Useless

Just no. I can think of many entirely useful reasons why you should be keeping a journal, and I’m not just talking about bum-scratching.



The most basic and general reason for keeping a journal is that it’s deeply therapeutic. I believe this so hard that I don’t even know if it’s a cliché. Maybe it is, but bear with me.

Airing of Grievances

Writing in your journal can serve to vent private thoughts that you would rather keep to yourself, whether it be forever or for the time being. Nothing prevents you from talking about them later. Sometimes we have secrets from friends, family, and from the ether of the internet. You’re allowed to have thoughts and feelings that are just for you and no one else. Writing them down releases the tension of the secret and better prepares us for talking and expressing ourselves on the subject in the future if the need should arise.


Mediocre Memory

We want to think that our ability to remember things is flawless but the truth is that our brains are not wired to record data like a computer does. Sad but true. But who knows what the future holds for us. (Looking at you, Borg.)

Scientists have done incredible studies to see how and why our memories work the way they do. If I have understood the things I have read on the subject correctly, the idea is that keeping notes is a tool to—not remember things completely mind you—but to improve our ability and capacity to remember things. The act of writing about something you’re listening to or reading provokes a reaction in your brain that can mean you will have an improved remembrance. Having a brain (it helps) + having a language (also helps) + listening/reading + performing an action like writing = strong memories being formed because more centres of your brain are being used in the creation of that memory. I think. I’m not a neuroscientist. Fact-check at your own leisure, but I’m pretty confident about it being accurate.

Life Lessons Through Dreams

Dreams. What are they, even? Do our complicated brains use them as a way to deal with anxieties we would usually repress in waking life? Are our unconscious minds trying to speak to us? Are our Shadow-selves trying to bust in with their two cents? Is someone else? Something else? (Creepy.)

I despise the recurring phenomenon of having an epic dream only to forget it halfway through my porridge, then be really cranky that I didn’t write it down when I had it, then remembering it again in a flash at some other inopportune moment where I am without my writing gear. Moral of the story—write! Keep that memory! Because reading through past dreams can help you think a little bit deeper about yourself, what drives you, and how do deal with myriad joys and anxieties. The path the selfhood is definitely a strange one.

Reflect on Past Thoughts

Reading a notebook you kept once-upon-a-time seems to be a fair way to map personal growth. Did you believe something last year that still holds true? Have you changed since then, and in what way? Is there a thought that you can now recognise as erroneous?

Reflect on Memories

They say long term memory fades with each subsequent recall. That’s a scary thought, yes? There are things that I’ve experienced that I never want to lose, so I write them down. There are things that family members tell me that I want to record, funny stories and anecdotes about things I did as a kid, like that time I broke a really expensive teapot that set off a teapot curse, and that other time I threw up a green apple. (Still can’t eat green apples. Still have teapot curse.)


If I can’t convince you that writing in a journal is good for you both emotionally and physically, then I’ll have to resort to peer pressure.

Cool people write in their notebooks. Here is a list of really cool people that keep/have kept notebooks.

  • Einstein
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Isaac Newton
  • Hemingway
  • Emily Dickinson
  • basically every writer in history
  • Marie Curie
  • Hildegard von Bingen
  • basically every musician in history
  • Leonardo Da Vinci
  • Frida Kahlo
  • Emily Carr
  • Picasso
  • basically every artist in history
  • moody babes in films like The Virgin Suicides
  • these celebrities
  • other people that own pens and notebooks

Conclusion—go forth and do the thing.

Also, see this follow-up article—5 Reasons Writers Should Keep a Journal

More Favourite Quotes


“One person’s craziness is another person’s reality.” —Tim Burton

“Don’t try to win over the haters. You’re not the jackass whisperer.”—Scott Stratten

“The world is not a wish-granting factory.” —John Green

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” —Robin Williams

“If your nerve deny you, go above your nerve.” —Emily Dickinson

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” —Ayn Rand

“We are here to laugh and the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us.” —Charles Bukowski

Horns—Joe Hill


Although I started Horns by Joe Hill (2010) last October for a little Hallowe’en fun, I went on a writing streak while taking a two-month poetry workshop, and ended up setting it aside for a while. I find it irksome to do that but sometimes it’s unavoidable! When the workshop ended in December I made myself a pile of the reading I had to catch up on and this book was amongst them.

It’s about a young man that grows horns. I won’t provide more of a synopsis here because I would not want to spoil the plot, but I will encourage those who like this dark subject matter to read it. I very much enjoyed the writing, the conceit, and the non-linear execution. I enjoy, and maybe even favour Third Person Limited.

I do have a favourite scene–which involve snakes, fire, and a monologue. Dark? Definitely. But so very complex at the same time; it was not just scary for the sake of fear, it was scary that included a certain, I want to say buildup of feelings and reasoning behind it.

Joe Hill’s first book won the Bram Stoker award for best first novel in the category of Horror, however, psychological thriller is what I would call Horns; there is mystery and intrigue, a love triangle (spoiler alert!), and a delving into human nature, which I am afraid, is not very positive.

On a side note, the book includes a short story that was also published in the compilation Stories by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio that is worth a browse.
Happy reading,


Update—July 2016

Last week, I saw the film based on Horns starring Daniel Radcliffe, and I thought it was true enough to the book that I can say it was good. Things are missing and things are added, but that is only a natural part of the process of book-to-movie.

You—Caroline Kepnes


Because I have mixed feelings about this novel, I spent yesterday evening—after finishing the book—wondering if I should write a post about it at all. It’s possible and even probable that I will be flip-flopping, so please bear in mind that I don’t have a fully-formed opinion about it yet. It could be that in writing this post—which I have obviously decided to write—that I will end with something somewhat cohesive.
It’s the first book of its kind that I have read—and by its kind, I mean a novel about a stalker. I should elucidate: a stalker whose main tool for accomplishing said stalking is his use of the internet and social media. It gets points from me for originality, but I am sure there are many other books about stalkers that I have not read, and I am sure there will be more, from this author or from others.
I need to mention that this book needed to be written, because internet privacy is inexistent and people don’t seem to be conscious of it, myself included. It is necessary to know about privacy and I think young girls should read it—hoping of course that the intertextuality and music references don’t go over their heads!

There are definitely things about this novel that deserve praise, and one of them is the genuine psychological traits of each character. Everyone’s got something, and if that’s not true to life then I don’t know what is, though I feel like the parts of characters we see are the tip of the iceberg. Again, that’s true to life, though in fiction I think we like to get more information as quickly as possible so that we feel we know the characters inside and out. This is not always possible with real people in real life.

So. Narration. I had a hard time getting into this book because it is written in the second person and I find the tone off-putting and accusatory. After getting a quarter of the way through, I got used to the style and I understand why it was done that way, but that is not to say that I liked it any better after that point.

In fact, I didn’t.

So the thing about a book and about having a narrator at all is that there is a narraror, and one must be aware of that and understand that the story is being told from the perspective of someone. That someone might not even necessarily be the author either, and generally isn’t. The Book Thief is narrated by Death, but Death did not write the book, but Markus Zusak did, writing as Death, so we have the sensibilities of both the author and the narrator. Someone who writes a memoir is the narrator though, so you are only seeing through one sensibility, which is definitely not to say that it is more reliable a text. Because the narrator could be a persona or construction of the author, not only is a story and is written down and thus removed from immediacy and fact, it is also removed by the fact that there is a narrator and we are always wondering about how reliable that narrator is.

So the narrator. Let’s open that can of worms.

The particular narrator in this novel is a stalker and a murderer, though we don’t know the latter initially. It is in the first person and in the present tense so there are sentences like “You are texting me right now.” but in actual fact it would be hard for him to be walking down the street reading a text, answering the text, and on top of it writing the novel that we as readers are reading. He is supposed to be 17 and yet he is the manager of a bookstore. It seems to me that he is a lot older than he says he is, and his confidence and prowess mirror that assumption. And holy crow, does the guy have spare time. But I guess that is a must for a stalker.

If he was in his mid-to-late-twenties I would have found it more believable, but it does not take much to distrust a narrator. Not that I trust him at all—he is a stalker—and all the psyclological baggage that goes along with being one.

I imagine it was a complicated piece to write, and all things said, very well done. It might not jive with me but it probably took lots of planning—and lots of guts—to write.

To talk a bit about the main female character and object of the narrator’s obsession, Beck, is in the process of getting her MFA and it got me a little bit worked up because all it seemed like she was doing was sleeping around and only writing an eensy weensy bit. I’m not sure. I got through my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing in Literature and it was hard, and I assume a Master’s is harder and more pointed, more focused, and so on. Do we see her actually writing anything, anything she herself thinks is worthy? A writer needs to be a ‘writer who writes’ and works hard and I am not convinced she is who she is portrayed to be, but that also ties in to the reliability of the narrator. I saw her more as a college student taking a writing class that she loves, but as I said, we see through his filter.

Beck’s first name is Guinevere, invoking that great beauty, and of course, adultery.

Please take this post lightly. The book did not make me feel good in any way, and I didn’t like any of the characters, but despite that I feel like it is one of those creepy books that stays in your mind for a long time, and some people consider those retained memories a part of what makes a book good. I think a book like this is supposed to make a person feel uncomfortable and gross. If it makes someone feel good…I would start to worry about them.

Also this quote:

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”

The commentary on human nature is—what can I say? Frightening.

When I finished it, to my shock, there was a snippet of the sequel. I’m not going to read it but I am going to start counting my knickers.

Best and until next time,