Friday, May 6, 2011

Is it a Journal or a Diary?

I have kept a journal for years.  And I like to call it a journal rather than a diary.  The word diary, for me, conjures up images of schoolgirl days (entries such as:  ‘Wow, he smiled at me today, he’s so tasty!  When will he ask me out…..’) or images of the day job:  ‘Please put that in my diary would you, Jane?’.  And by the very nature of them, diaries mark the days, which always leaves me feeling defeated – instead of focusing on what I’ve written, the blank pages jump out at me and I realise I ‘could try harder’ (there I am, back at school again).
On the other hand, a journal opens up so many possibilities.  I like pages free from printed text so I can add my own timeline with thoughts, ideas, what I’ve done, what I hope to do.  Perhaps I’ll jot down a line from a song on the radio or a snippet of an overheard conversation.  In short, I like the freedom to express myself in a personal way in words that are not edited or crafted (I cringe at the thought of anyone else reading my hurried scrawl).
And is the style of journal I use important?  Hell, yeah!  The notebook needs to be half A5 size so it can fit easily into my handbag and the paper needs to feel right.  What is ‘right’?  I don’t know.  It’s the same with the cover, though.  It must be a notebook that feeds my senses as it will become a part of me until all the pages are filled.  And sometimes I like to write with a fountain pen, at other times a biro will do fine.  The whole point of my journal is that it is unstructured and writing in it should indulge my emotional state.
I recently entered a travel writing competition and first I looked to the Internet for pertinent facts.  But it was my journal that held the real treasure, the little nuggets of information that can’t be found in a reference source.  My journal contained my feelings about the place and the sounds and smells.  I had descriptions of people, local events and my thoughts on their way of life.  It wasn’t written in a literary way or with any structure (except the date at the top of each entry) but was a mass of narratives containing spelling mistakes and missed words as I’d hurried to get it all down.  How often are we allowed to write like that?
Do I think I’ll win the competition?  Probably not.  But what a wonderful time I had revisiting that journal.
Do you use a diary, journal or any other method for recording your thoughts?  I’d love to hear.


  1. Funnily enough, just the other day, I came across some journals I'd written when I was a teenager. Boy, was I was full of angst! But it did make interesting reading and brought back all the emotion I felt then - words are powerful things!

  2. I find I am transported back into the days I was writing about....but I do cringe at some of the spelling mistakes! I have to resist the urge to correct them!