Journaling Frees The Mind Of Structure

While already antsy about embarking on my journey to London for the semester, my flight last week ended up being delayed more than two and a half hours. Sitting in the heavily air-conditioned and wifi-challenged basement of Miami International Airport, I was left twiddling my thumbs as the countdown became longer and longer. I had already listened to the podcast episodes I downloaded, only packed a French novel that required too much effort and translating and quickly got bored of people-watching. So, I decided to pull out my notebook and write.

Using this notebook for doodles and to-do lists, I have never been the person to journal. I remember buying a Wreck This Journal in middle school, and only filling out the pages that required drawing, cutting and destroying. Similarly, I always gawk at the idea of bullet journals, diaries and the like. Simply put, I am just not that into the idea of freewriting. I find it weird, disingenuous and almost too introspective, like I am narrating my own thoughts in a silly teeny-bopper movie. This is not to say that I don’t think writing about the personal isn’t important, as that is exactly what I am doing right now. However, I always defined meaningful writing as a product marked by thoughtfulness, curated phrases and a general message.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised with how I felt when writing in my moleskine. I started by simply jotting down the fact that my plane hadn’t arrived yet, and how I was worried about missing the shuttle that was supposed to take me to my new home in London. After about a page and a half, I loosened up. I stopped feeling uncomfortable and realized that not only would no one ever read these pages, but that I probably wouldn’t go back and read them for years (if at all). Journaling isn’t about the product, it is about the literal act of writing down thoughts and feelings. And it felt good. It felt so different from writing a paper, an article or anything else I’ve ever written. Free from the constraints of grammar, consistency and completed thoughts, I was able to think more deeply about my life by materializing random emotions into (somewhat complete) sentences.

Since then, I have finished two new journal entries. I am still working on making it feel natural, but it has definitely helped me settle into my life here — giving me a space to word vomit everything swirling around in my head. Journaling has also opened me up to the idea of writing poetry, something that has always intimidated me due to its lack of structure and its creative openness. For me, freewriting like this is the first step in growing further as a writer. While I have things like structure and word choice (relatively) down pat, I am now being pushed to explore another side of production — a side that emphasizes and values incoherence, undeveloped thoughts and foundationless feelings.

So, if you ever find yourself enjoying one of our many articles and thinking, “God, I could never do this … I just hate writing,” I implore you to try your hand at journaling. It stands alone in this field as one of the most personally productive activities you can pick up. Go give Barnes & Noble some business and buy yourself a notebook, you won’t regret it. Or, maybe you will — make sure you journal about it, though.