"When a person dies, a library is burned" - Edmund White
You just read the above quote. Now read it again out loud. Repeat is slowly, with your eyes closed. Do those words create a picture in your mind?
In my mind, they create an extraordinarily vivid picture. In my mind’s eye I see a face; I see human eyes, and as I gaze into them, I get a glimpse inside the mind. A mind full of memories, shelves and shelves stacked with archives of that person’s life; all the joys, sorrows, achievements, regrets - all chaotically piled. From the mind, my gaze slides further down to the heart and there I see more shelves. These shelves are full of love given and received, emotions expressed and stifled, words not spoken, wasted time on hate and anger. Then, even deeper, I get a glimpse of the soul. The rows and rows full of books are endless…there is so much here.
Everything this person has ever experienced in their life, every being they have ever encountered and all the things that have effected this person - it is all listed in this library. All the knowledge that if that person had a chance to sort through it, they would be closer to their true SELF then they could have ever thought possible. Even as I am looking, in the distance I see the flames. They are expanding, eating up the shelves at a steady but fast pace; parchments burn, shelves crumble and books fall in a heap on the floor before they too are consumed by the relentless fire. Within moments all that remains are charred crumbs of what used to be a human being with a unique place in the universe.
Each of us has a unique place in this universe. We may not be important enough to show up on TV or write about in Newspapers, but we are important nonetheless. We have our own purpose to find, our own destiny to fulfil. Journals are a way to record this journey - a unique perspective, a unique story that can only be told by the one person who is living it. A journal has a purpose as unique as the person who is keeping it. It can be a very private place to record all your thoughts and your views; something you may not want to be read by any but your own eyes. Or it can be a legacy you can leave to your descendants; something that may give them a glimpse of their own unique heritage. A journal could be anything you want it to be - a simple notebook, or a creative artistic project. The possibilities are endless.
A journal is not a diary. Christina Baldwin gave these definitions of journals and diaries in her book, “One to One: Self-Understanding through Journal Writing”: “…traditionally, diary connotes a more formal pattern of daily entries, serving primarily to record the writer’s activities, experiences and observations. A diary tends to be outwardly focused.”
“The Word journal is loosely defined as an intermittent record of the inner life, written consistently, but not necessarily on a daily basis. A journal often provides a place for writers to explore the more subterranean aspects of themselves; those things which are the hardest to share with others, and often the hardest to understand even in our own minds.”
My own journal is a combination of diary and a journal. I like to record events and things that happen in my life - outward focus - but I also like to delve deeper into my consciousness to seek the answers that lie hidden. Over the years, my journals have grown with me. I started off, recording daily happenings in monotonous way…then looking back at one of the old journals I thought it looked a bit boring. So I started researching techniques of journal writing, and was amazed to find vast amount of resources available on the Internet. Through my research and experimenting within my own journals, I have come to believe that a journal is a place for complete self-expression. Write, draw, doodle, paste photos….do whatever you want. A journal is your place - your world - seen from your own perspective. It can be as colourful or as grim as you deem it to be.
If you are unsure about how to start your own journal, here are some free resources to get you going:
- Finding yourself through autobiography
- Journal writing resources
- Famous Journal Keepers
- Journal writing articles, prompts, tips
- Powerful writing prompts, and more links to journaling articles
- Random Inspiration
- Journaling Prompts