Journaling was my first best friend growing up. I didn’t know it with that first hardcover diary with lock and tiny key someone gave me for my 10th birthday, but it wasn’t long before I found out just how good it was to write about what was going on and how much more space I needed than the five lines that little hardcover allowed for each date in a week.
In junior high I filled three-ring notebooks so I could add more blank pages at will, writing what I could call “The Crush Chronicles” (complete with scenes and dialog). But there was more than enough going on besides what I had to detail about seeing Chuck at lunch on the schoolyard.
The four years of high school got much deeper, in spiral-bound notebooks, one after another, as my relationship with myself deepened through exploring the inner landscapes more than the outer ones. Maudlin poetry of earlier years was replaced with more creative expressions as I crossed the bridge into the tumultuous twenties and journeyed on through the pages of my thirties and forties.
But you can’t handwrite forever, and at forty-five, I closed the last journal I would write in. It was part of my great break-out, my claim to independence: I don’t have to write anymore in a book too pretty to fill with my sometimes illegible handwriting! Who said I have to use a beautiful pen and bend the journal cover open wide to fill the pages with it!
I was free! No more three-quarters-filled journal books! No more boxes of writing I may never read again sent up to the attic. No more confinement by the beauty of the book to try to say only beautiful things when my life is not entirely beautiful.
The new best friend had moved in next door: I started a new file on my laptop called “Journal.” Over the first entry of December 2005 I wrote: My New Life Begins. Over the next three years I wrote 48,021 words in that online journal. It was the perfect meeting of the two best friends: the journal and my laptop. What a great match! I could type almost as fast as my thoughts came and there was never a concern for making out the word I’d scribbled on the page. I could write faster, freer.
Ten days into January 2010, I started a new file for my online journal. And as 2012 comes toward a close, I see I’ve passed 71,000 words.
But when I see the word count at the bottom of the screen I feel like laughing. How irrelevant! So what? One day it’ll be twice that and then more. It isn’t like turning miles over on the car. With mileage there’s an end measured in part by those very numbers on the dial: the car’s lived long enough, it’s time to go. Over here, I’ll write until I can’t write any longer.
It’s my best time, the pure, clear line direct to my soul. And I don’t need to hold a pen in my hand to feel that precious pulse.