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The Power of Journaling

by Taiia Smart Young

I’ve been journaling (off and on) since elementary school. I read the Diary of Anne Frank and became obsessed with recording my version of things. In the fifth grade, I made the big announcement to my family that yours truly was going to be a writer. Everyone but my mother held their applause. Ma has always been ahead of the curve.

At first, my journal entries were the perfect pill for an insomniac, filled with pages about useless math homework, petty squabbles with friends, and incessant daydreams about relaxing my thick black hair so it would bounce and behave like Tootie’s tresses on the Facts of Life.

As I got older, the entries ranged from hopeful (escaping to an HBCU) to juicy (kissing hot boys) to ambitious (securing my first magazine job).

As an editor, journaling became a way for me to track goals; and as a writing and book coach, I encourage clients to document their stories. My wish is for them to become obsessed with recording their version of things, which will help them write unputdownable essays, blogs and books.

Here’s my take on the power of journaling:

It’s a space to break the rules. Some of my clients worry about grammar, format or the right place to start their stories. But a blank journal page screams eff those rules. This isn’t the Bible! You don’t have to start at the beginning (but girl, you will have some REVELATIONS). Start your journal with a deafening sound, excruciating pain or an intoxicating bit of dialogue. When you have permission to break the rules you get out of your head and you’re free to confess that you’re jealous of those folks joining the Great Resignation. 

It allows you to be unapologetic—which is therapeutic. Since your journal is for your eyes only, you can use it as your “I SAID WHAT I SAID” place—especially if you aren’t super vocal or fear retaliation. You can use your journal to write a letter to your ex, mourn a miscarriage or celebrate a promotion. The pages don’t judge you for showing up angry, confident, excited, frustrated, anxious, scared or nervous. It’s simply a canvas for creation. And it’s also a great keeper of secrets. Your journal will never tell anyone you purposely tossed your wedding ring in the ocean.

It forces you to develop a writing habit. Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages are composed first thing in the morning. It’s three pages of stream of consciousness writing. This isn’t about creating perfect, flowery prose. Nope.- Cameron encourages you to write about anything that crosses your mind. The goal is to be consistent and show up for yourself. But you can also write at night. I subscribe to Dr. Benjamin Hardy’s belief that you shouldn’t go to bed without requesting something from the universe. You can use the nighttime journaling ritual to express gratitude for your rent-controlled Brooklyn studio, but you can also request a sick four-bedroom, two bath house in Atlanta.