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Why I Keep a Personal Journal

Guest - November 29, 2005

Submitted by GST

Lawyers in private practice have a distinct advantage in overcoming the resistance to establishing the habit of keeping a journal.  After keeping track of your efforts for the day in six minute increments, taking a few minutes to log what happened on your own time isn’t that big of an imposition.

Nevertheless, I just got in the habit about 2 months ago.  The only day I’ve so far missed was one day in which I didn’t come home but rather worked through the night and the following day to about 7 p.m.  (The bigger problem was not missing the journal, but missing garbage collection.) 

There is very little, if any, reflection in my journal.  Mainly it’s a recap of what I spent my time doing that day: just a few hundred words about what I did at work, whether or not I rode my bike to work and the birds or other animals I observed on the ride, with whom I had lunch, any correspondence or telephone calls with particular friends, what I did with my kid in the evening, and what I read that day.  I try to employ Pepysisms, like "Up betimes."  In the back pages I keep track of correspondence chess games, and the accuracy of my mechanical watch against my quartz digital radio-calibrated watch.  I don’t know if that’s the stuff that our Church authorities have in mind when they instruct us to keep journals, nor do I know whether it would be at all interesting to anyone but me.  In fact, it’s not even that interesting to me.  I don’t even know if this qualifies as a journal.  Is it rather a diary?  A log?  A ledger?

The main benefit I have realized is that my productivity in virtually every area of endeavor (except work, which endeavor I was already recording in writing) has increased.  I credit that to the fact that I am reluctant to waste time on things that I wouldn’t want to account for in my journal.  Who wants to have to admit to his journal that he watched two back-to-back episodes of Magnum P.I., and then sat through Murder, She Wrote, for no better reason than inertia?  Not me.


  1. I’ve never kept a journal, other than a few times as a child and during the MTC. (I lost momentum once I got into the mission field, so I instead have to keep track of dates, etc., via my letters.) I guess I feel like I produce such a sea of written words that a journal would be somewhat superfluous. Any future historian interested in writing a biography of me (!) would have plenty to work from in just my blog posts, no?

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — November 29, 2005 @ 11:38 am

  2. You know RT, I kinda feel the same way. I started this blog because I thought it would be a good place to write down my thoughts. Not necessarily a replacement for a journal (because I never write what happened to me that day) but something in which I can keep track of my spiritual thoughts and ideas. It seems like that’s what a lot of the Bloggernacle is.

    Comment by Rusty — November 29, 2005 @ 12:01 pm

  3. My grandmother kept a diary like that — no reflection, just pithy accounts of the day’s labor — for ~50 years. It’s a fascinating read. I don’t think you need to pour your heart and deepest, darkest secrets out in a journal for it to be meaningful both personally and historically.

    Comment by RCH — November 29, 2005 @ 2:47 pm

  4. The only time I ever kept a journal was in the mission. I never missed a day after the MTC and I wrote over a page a day (sometimes several pages). I am extremely grateful that I kept the journal, but looking back, I left out all of the really interesting things.

    I really would like to know how much stuff cost, a description of everybody I met during the day, etc. Instead, I have 500 pages about my feelings. Very embarassing.

    Comment by NFlanders — November 29, 2005 @ 3:01 pm

  5. The only regular journal I’ve kept was the day I entered the MTC through the last day of my mission. Not one day since. A miracle, really. Almost 4 full volumes!
    I was amazed how those volumes evolved. At first it was mostly a recording of the days proceedings (and continued to have that in them) but gradually gained more thoughts, insights, and impressions from personal study, experiences with the people I was working with and even a pathetic attempt at poetry! Any and all of that is worth putting into a journal, I think.
    As for raising productivity, I’m glad it works for you, but I would be too tempted to omit the wasteful stuff or just fall into apathy.
    P.S.–Drawing pictures makes it more fun:)

    Comment by Bret — November 29, 2005 @ 6:57 pm

  6. In today’s journal entry I wrote, “Veronica made a VERY FUNNY joke today!” I’m going to laugh about it later tonight.

    Comment by gst — November 30, 2005 @ 12:14 am

  7. And we don’t get to hear it??? Did she cuss?

    I’ve kept a journal since 1974. I have a pile of books. Sometimes I can check out dates and stuff. I don’t write every day or even every month, but regularly. It’s fun to go back and read.

    I’ve given them to my daughter, actually for my granddaughter, who isn’t even conceived yet. I want her to know me.

    I kept a diary the year I was sent to live with my uncle in Utah. I so wish I had that to know what I was like as a teenager.

    I think everyone should keep a journal.

    Comment by annegb — November 30, 2005 @ 11:49 am

  8. Given that Magnum P.I. is the best TV show ever (yes, i said it, and I mean it), there is no shame in admitting to watching back-to-back episodes. Murder, She Wrote is quite another matter.

    Comment by Davis Bell — November 30, 2005 @ 5:23 pm

  9. Been journaling since childhood following my mom’s example. It’s cheaper than therapy, better than venting at a person, good for reflection/ progress (or nonprogress) checks and remembering spiritual experiences (if you’ve written them down). But unlike Annegb I’m guessing I’ll burn mine before I die if I have a chance to. I write for myself, not my posterity. They can guess just like I do about my progenitors.

    Comment by LisaB — December 1, 2005 @ 8:57 pm

  10. I’ve already burned one journal from my teen years and another one has big black marker through it censuring most of what I wrote. I hate keeping journals because when I go back and re-read them the “cringe factor” if off the scale. It’s too excruciating to see my imperfections and angst and deepest feeling on paper like that. Yuck.

    Comment by meems — December 1, 2005 @ 10:47 pm

  11. How sad that people burn their journals! Just think of what you could’ve learned from yourself or others could learn from you just by reading those pages. And how selfish of LisaB to want to burn them just because she didn’t have any journals of her ancestors. I think journal writing SHOULD be for you as well as your future generations. Reading past journal entries is the easiest way to compare yourself with the only person you should be comparing yourself with….yourself. It’s also an amazing way to see how you’ve grown, matured, and become who’ve you become. It’s pretty sad that you won’t let others know you that way.

    Comment by Angela — December 8, 2005 @ 12:45 am

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