Keep a Journal!

Whenever I’m at a school event or a party, or traveling or wherever, I notice people taking pictures. It’s become so easy, after all, most phones have cameras, and people use them to chronicle their lives. Pictures are nice and capture a moment.

But it’s nothing like keeping a journal.

True, a journal takes a bit more work. You have to actually sit down, pull your thoughts together, write it, maybe even edit it. It seems daunting, so most people don’t do it. But it doesn’t have to be such a big deal. It can be impressionistic, little sketches, a few words to capture a moment, a sentence or two to recall an event. It doesn’t have to be great literature; your target audience is your all-forgiving family. They will be thrilled.

I kept a journal of my son’s activities starting before he was born until he was about eleven or twelve years old. I kept notes on scraps of paper to recall a sweet moment, an expression, a particularly charming interaction at a playground, the little things he did that I found fascinating. I guess it was as much about me, since I was the filter, but it was also very much about him. As he got older, I jotted down remarks he made or reported on conversations we had. Once, when I hadn’t journaled for a while, I ‘interviewed’ him and transcribed the conversation.

I made a file on my computer called “Journal” and whenever I had some time, I typed out a fuller version of the stories that the notes referenced. The important thing is to get a few words down at the time it happens or within a few days. You’d be surprised how, even years later, the fewest words will conjure up memories. Make you laugh. Return you to those early days, before the surly teenager or the responsible adult took form.

But it won’t happen unless you start. Today. With just a sentence. Whether it’s in a beautiful blank journal, like the kind they sell in stationery stores, or the back of a store receipt. Write something down. If you do it on scraps of paper, find a place to keep all the little scraps of paper together, a drawer, a file. Something. Or use Evernote or another notebook software and type notes in your phone. Jot down just enough to give you a clue, so you can remember and write it up later. And remember to date them, so you have some idea of at least the year. You’d be surprised at how the years seem to blend together (or is that just me?)

I haven’t been journaling the last few years, so I’m writing this as much for me as for you. Because taking a moment to write about moments that are funny or charming, endearing, joyful, or just amazing helps you appreciate your own life as well as leaving a record for others. It takes little time.

It’s worth it.

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