Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Delia Latham: Journaling for Joy

When I was very young, I had a diary. Several, actually. I could never resist purchasing them if the price was small enough to fit my mostly empty pocketbook—especially if I found one a different color from the ones I already owned.

All those blank pages...they called to me like a siren's song! It was such fun to fill them with my little girl thoughts and the small, unimportant events in my life. Even better, after every entry, I could close the cover and lock my secrets inside with a tiny key I kept hidden in a special place. In my innocent mind, only I had access to the words I scrawled inside those little books.

I don't know what ever became of those colorful treasures. And looking back now, I have to smile at the flimsy security provided by the cheaply made locks. (Anyone who really wanted to could have gained entry to the world of my mind.) Still, those diaries served to make me want to write something…anything…even if I was just filling pages with nonsense, and had nothing of any real importance to say.

Perhaps those early journal entries sparked the love of writing that carried through into my adulthood. Who knows? I only wish I had kept them, and could look back on them now.

In my novel, Goldeneyes, three journals play a part. The mothers of both main characters kept them (yes, there are two main characters...), and their heartfelt entries were a source of vital information for their families in later years. A small-town newspaper publisher kept his journalistic notes in a set of matching notebooks. When an unbelievable story landed in his lap and he found himself unable to print it for personal and moral reasons, his journals provided a way of documenting the facts. Intended only for his own eyes, they provided an important piece of a puzzle in later years.

This type of writing can serve a number of purposes, from therapeutic to informational to biographical.

It's hard to imagine when we're full of life and relatively healthy, but there will come a time when the memories we share with our friends and loved ones will be all that remain of us. Unfortunately, memories are imperfect, don't really last forever, and vary from one person to another. (I'm forever telling my brother he remembers things that did not happen!)

But words are concrete. Once written, they don't change or fade away.
Committing our thoughts to a diary—even if not on a daily basis and if only in bite-sized morsels—could provide our children and grandchildren with tangible pieces of our hearts, even after we're gone.

Case in point: My Uncle Leon was a quiet, unobtrusive gentleman. A real homebody, he didn't visit extended family a lot, but all of us knew we were welcome in his home any time. He was a kind, gentle man, and very much loved.

After he passed away, I learned that this unassuming man had kept a journal for years. He wrote in it every day. Sometimes he penned lengthy entries, sometimes just a line or two, but he did it consistently. My aunt once laughingly told me that if I ever needed to know what the weather had been on any given day within the past 15-20 years, I only needed to find that date in Uncle Leon's journals. He faithfully documented the local weather every day. Why? Who knows, and does it matter? Apparently it was of some importance to Leon Hankins.

When he died, those books became valued possessions for his two children. They are filled with the thoughts and feelings of their father, written in his own hand, in his own words, in his own way. What could possibly be more him?

You may find that your journaling style and venue changes with time. I started with those cute, cheap little diaries...moved on to bigger, but still always bright and pretty, journals...now I blog. I don't include private entries on my blog, but you can - and you can set your blog up to be visible only to you and certain others you might want to share your innermost thoughts with. It's just another possible avenue for journaling if you're more comfortable tapping keys than pushing a pen.

People shy away from journaling for different reasons. Let's talk about them.

1. I don't write well. Who cares? They're your thoughts; you can write them any way you choose. No editor or publisher will pick your words apart or check them for spelling errors. You won't be graded on your input. The journal belongs to you and you alone. Write it in code if you wish! (Just be sure to create a code key for future generations.)

2. I will forget to make entries. Probably so, but again, what does it matter? It's yours. You can decide how frequently you input. But like any other habit, if you make a point of writing consistently—whether it's daily, weekly or monthly—you'll find that you start to remember when it's time to dig out your diary and do your thing.

3. I don't have time. Sorry, but balderdash! If you have time to watch a movie, play a game, work a crossword puzzle…you have time to journal. And what's more important, watching another rerun of I Love Lucy, or penning your thoughts for posterity?

4. I have nothing to write about. Yes, you do. You have opinions on various subjects. Share them. (This might be the only venue in which you can discuss religion and politics without starting a debate!) Talk about how your garden grows. Discuss your hopes and dreams, the ones that have fallen by the wayside and the ones you still harbor within your heart. Write about your childhood, what you learned from your mother, what you admired about your dad. Paint a word picture of your favorite (or least favorite) school teacher. Share your favorite verses of scripture. You have plenty to talk about, and it's all uniquely you.

I'm sure there are other excuses, but that's all any of them are. Just excuses. (An old minister friend from my childhood defined excuses as “the skin of a reason stretched over a lie.”)

Journaling is a special gift you can give your children, a piece of yourself you can pass on to your grandkids. Word pictures that will become little jolts of joy you bequeath to your loved ones.

And that's priceless.

Isaiah 30:8 (New Life Version)—Now go and write it down in front of them. And write it in a book, that it may be seen for all time to come.

Delia Latham
(c) 2007


  1. I LOVE journaling! I have several that I've written prayers and poems and affirmations, dreams and goals. This is a GREAT tool for EVERYONE and aides in self growth!


    Great post.

    1. Amen - I agree completely, Pamela. Mine include much of the same.

  2. I'm a journaling devotee, Delia, and LOVED this post. Great insights and advice, as always, sweet friend. My journals are of thanks and praise, and I have them stacked up on the closet shelf as I finsh them. And, yes, from time to time, I revisit the past -- only to discover anew how far God has moved me in so many ways...(they also provide quite a chronicle of answered prayer...even if the answer came months, or years, after I chatted with God...) Love and hugs, and keep up the great work!

  3. What a wonderful way to journal, Marianne! I may have to incorporate that into my own practices. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  4. What a great post, Delia. Thanks so much for sharing it!

    1. Thanks, Tanya. Thanks so much for visiting!