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Term diary or journal is preferential but keeping one is necessary

Start keeping a journal. Write in it at least once a week and share things with your journal that you don’t even share with your best friends. Why?

I say these things because I am one of those weird people—I like writing. I think it’s a miracle drug, and I think it will change your life to the point where you won’t care how weird keeping a journal may make you seem.

I call writing a “miracle drug” not because it’s the best at curing a particular problem, but because its effects are so pervasive.

A lot of people think of journaling as “I have no friends to help me with my life’s woes so I guess I’ll talk to this piece of paper.”  This is an unfortunate stigma the journaling world has never quite overcome. And it’s unfortunate because writing has so many benefits apart from curing loneliness (which happens to us all, don’t kid yourself).

My favorite reason for journaling is self-discovery. From my perspective, life works in such a way so that we are constantly reminded of who we are by other people. Our friends, our teachers, the media and that girl or guy we’ve been trying to impress—all of them have an expectation of who we are and who we should continue to be. And this isn’t necessarily a terrible thing.

There is something to be said about responding to our environment and being in-tune with the reality of things. However, there is also part of us that is separate from our external environment.

There are thoughts we don’t express, there are feelings we hide and there are actions we never evaluate. This internal reality also needs our attention, and journaling helps us with that.

Free from expectations, we can write about what’s really on our mind, and we can grow as a person. Have you ever thought about what it means to be you? Do you like being you? Could you be a different you? Are you…you? These questions become a little easier to answer when we don’t have someone else answering for us.

But wait, there’s more! I called writing a miracle drug for a reason, guys, and I really do mean that. Journaling also has the ability to make you smarter, and in a not-so-noticeably-nerdy way.  The reason is that writing forces us to explain and express. Have you ever tried communicating a feeling or a concept to a friend only to realize that you lacked the right words?

To be more accurate, it’s probably not the words you are lacking but the ability to construct thoughts.

Conversationally, we deal in thoughts all of the time, but the problem is that speaking and thinking simultaneously isn’t the most effective (hence the many “ums,” “uhs” and “hmmms” in our vocabulary). Writing cures this silliness and actually helps us practice our thinking skills. When we write, we pay closer attention to every word we use. We think about how our sentences support our paragraphs and how our paragraphs support our purpose for writing.

Of course, few people write their journals in structured paragraphs. However, people do tend to write more simply and straight-forwardly in their journals.

This is significant because some forms of writing can be clogged with annoying, SAT-nonsense words. In real life, all we’re worried about is expressing ourselves clearly. If journal writing can help us do this, it has indeed made us smarter.

And at the end of it all, after years of self-discovery and practicing our thinking abilities, writing a journal will have left us with something tangible too—all of those physical journals we wrote through.    To me, this is one of the coolest things about journaling. When I’m old and my life seemingly has nowhere else to go, I can look back on literal volumes of my life. I can share passages with my kids and grandkids so they can know who I was and who I’ve become. Maybe, in some way, they can learn from my mistakes and take pride in my achievements.

I know a lot of people have reservations about sharing their most personal thoughts with others, but I bet at an old age it won’t matter. Journaling is definitely about reaching into ourselves, but I think at some point there has to be a reciprocal reaching out.

I hope that in the coming days writing will make its way into your life. I’ve given you several reasons why I think being a weird writer-kid is worth it, and there are many more.

Writing means something different for every person. For some, it is an entirely intellectual pursuit, and for others writing a journal is about getting in touch with themselves. Whatever your inspiration is, let it consume you and never sacrifice it. At times, writing can be a chore, but writing a journal should be something you enjoy.

Write for yourself. Write well. Write frequently.  And write on.

Ryan Rew is a junior accounting and MIS double major from Titusville, NJ. He can be reached at rrew@villanova.edu. 

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