The importance of writing down your life

How often do you journal?

anne frank diary

Diary of Anne Frank (CC by SA 2.0)

My response to this question is: not often enough.

Some people love to journal. They can’t live without it. They might not even be writers, but they record their life to minute. Perhaps a lot goes on in their mind, and writing it down sorts all those tangles out.

I’m not one of those people, despite calling myself a writer.

I only journal when there’s something interesting to write about. I’ve tried the daily journal thing because after reading the diary of Samuel Pepys, I thought––hey, diaries can be literature too! But I quickly discovered that writing every day events every day is a chore. Moreover, I realized how boring my life was since I have a pretty regular schedule. Even for Samuel Pepys, the only entry I can remember reading about is his account of London catching on fire.

samuel pepys

Samuel Pepys (public domain image)

So I resorted to just writing things down when interesting events happened, or when I had good ideas. This worked better, but sometimes I just fall out of the habit.

I think it’s important to push yourself to write down your life. It’s the same thing as pushing yourself to write. Perhaps it’s a little more challenging, because often times we don’t want to face those deep, dark things within us. Journaling is when we dig those things out, hold them up to the light, and examine them. It’s an action that’s a little scary to do, but it’s an action we should be doing as writers, because we’re observers of the world. We’re scientists, in a way, and scientists always write down their observations.

In another paradigm, writing your life down is the closest you can get to living forever. Think about it: by writing your life down, you’ll be immortalized in your words for as long as there are literate people in the world, paper, ink, and Microsoft Word documents.

Do you journal? What do you journal about? And what kind of advice do you have for someone (me) who often gets too lazy to journal?


7 thoughts on “The importance of writing down your life

  1. Pingback: Writers: do you write in a diary/journal? | breakfast with words

  2. I got the idea of morning pages years ago from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. You just write 3 pages first thing in the morning, off the top of your head, dreams, feelings, thoughts bubble up to the surface. No censoring. It can be a good practice. I also read recently of Stevie Nicks’ journal – memoir on one side of the page with the other side left open for poetry so it’s easy to find when she wants to compose at the piano. My habit is to generally have a journal around to write in. No strict schedule, just when a thought seems interesting enough to commit to page, or I want to think about it more later. I’ve been journaling for over 20 years now so if I have a question about what I was doing or thinking at a certain phase of my life I can find out. That’s pretty cool though of course not the goal of the journals; I write b/c it helps me process things and makes my ideas manifest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, thanks for the comment and liking the other posts on my blog! ❤

      The morning pages thing is a good idea, although I think most of us are way too groggy to form a coherent thought in the morning…or maybe that's the point?? I don't think I can hammer out 3 pages. I might be able to hammer out 3 sentences, though.

      Depending on how well I sleep, I might try your idea 🙂

      Again, thanks for generously stopping by!


  3. I’ve got diaries here, there and everywhere! Occasionally I may re-read them and use bits for my writing! I often note down phrases when I’m walking and use them in poems.


  4. Pingback: Quality or Quantity? | breakfast with words

  5. Some publisher forgot to polish his lightbulb and had the dim of idea of collecting the inner guts of various semi- famous authors’ journals into a book. In addition to being the most poorly designed book, it was incredibly boring. So my advice is, don’t sound like that book. Or if you want to journal, then pretend you are writing for a book that inevitably some publisher will pick up on, provided you become semi famous. Also, I skipped Pepys diary in literature class; I hope I didn’t miss anything. All I heard was he dug out some scary stuff, like you said, about women and partying, so I skipped it in favour of more refined lusty romantic poetry.


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