I have a confession: I am a paper hoarder. (Wow, feels good to get that off my chest.)
I have kept just about every single thing I have ever written on. Including napkins and receipts. Most of it is stuffed in a great big wooden chest in the loft. The rest of it takes up about two bookshelves in the bedroom.
I have more notebooks and journals and notepads than most people would ever consider remotely necessary. I have even, painstakingly, gone through old cell phones to save the notes and certain text messages. Why?
Because that’s me in those words. Because I have a voice, and it matters.
It all started with a purple, spiral journal with a velvet cover – complete with pink princess crown. (I was five, okay?) My first journal entry even starts with a proper introduction of myself using my full name in wobbly letters, followed by a description of my family and the very matter-of-fact statement, “My best friend is Crystal.” And just like that, my sparkling career as a writer took off in a flourish of purple ink.
I’ll not say I wrote daily. In fact, I have entries where I actually apologize (to myself?) for not writing in so long. Nonetheless, journaling remained a steady thread woven throughout my life.
Somehow, even at the age of 12, I had the notion to keep a journal of my last year living in the United States before moving to the Dominican Republic with my family in 2005, knowing that it was a significant time in my life. And, of course, I kept several journals while living abroad as well. Even throughout the busy season of college where I studied and worked part-time, I kept on writing.
To me, journaling has always been more than just a record of events that happened throughout the day. It is a collection of my thoughts. It is my safe place to process and vent. It is my favorite creative outlet because it freed me from the writer’s greatest fears: judgment and critique. Absolutely no one would see this writing but me, unless I decided to share it at will. And that lack of fear freed me of any inhibition. I wrote and wrote and wrote, pouring words on the pages, revealing and wondering and weeping and growing. And that unabashed transference of my soul into ink on a page helped me to first find my voice.
Whenever a friend asks me for writing tips, I always follow-up with the question: “Do you keep a journal?” Because I feel like there is something about journaling that helps us get over the fear of the blank page. There are no rules. I have written in my journals sideways, kitty-corner and upside-down. I have doodled in them. And I have even written on the same line, over and over, until you could no longer distinguish between the letters.
There is something so cathartic about writing manually, putting pen to page. Something so nostalgic about it that keeps me coming back. And when I go back through my journals, I have so much gratitude. Even when I cringe at my own past immaturities, I am also sometimes astounded at the young girl who wrote those words. There is treasure to find in those pages. And I can see my voice take on nuance, I can see the consistent essence of myself reflected in those pages.
And that’s why I suggest journaling. You’ve got to find your voice. And sometimes, there’s stuff you’ve got to get out and process before that true voice and shine through. Journaling is like a refining fire. It burns out the dross and the precious metal gleams beneath.
Give it a whirl. Treat yourself to a pretty notebook or leather journal, something small enough to fit in your bag, and take it wherever you go. Inspiration can be as elusive as a butterfly. Sometimes you’ve got to sit still for a little while, and when she happens to alight, write and don’t stop. The results can be outstanding.
And sometimes not… but that’s the beauty of journaling! It’s just you and the page. Let go and write! Watch your natural, unique, beautiful voice – the one that sounds like only you can – emerge. Take it through that refining fire, gain confidence, grow… and then learn how to share it.
Brittany Murray is an emerging papermaker currently residing with her husband in Central Florida. She’s an avid reader and self-dubbed papyrophile who is never far from a library and always within reach of a pen. You can find her on her personal account @brisnibythesea or check out@eoanspirations to see her work.