Journaling for Joy

by Delia Latham

When I was very young, I had a diary. Several, actually. I could never resist purchasing them if the price was small enough to fit my mostly empty pocketbookespecially if I found one a different color from the one I already owned.

All those blank pages…they called to me like a siren’s song! It was such fun to fill them with my little girl thoughts and the small, unimportant events in my life. Even better, after every entry, I could close the cover and lock my secrets inside with a tiny key I kept hidden in a special place. In my innocent mind, only I had access to the words I scrawled inside those little books.

I don’t know what ever became of those colorful treasures. And looking back now, I have to smile at the flimsy security provided by the cheaply made locks. (Anyone who really wanted to could have gained entry to the world of my mind.) Still, those diaries served to make me want to write somethinganythingeven if I were just filling pages with nonsense, and had nothing of any real importance to say.

Perhaps those early journal entries sparked the love of writing that carried through into my adulthood. Who knows? I only wish I had kept them, and could look back on them now.

In my novel, Goldeneyes, three journals play a part. The mothers of both main characters kept them (yes, there are two main characters…), and their heartfelt entries were a source of vital information for their families in later years. A small town newspaper publisher kept his journalistic notes in a set of matching notebooks. When an unbelievable story landed in his lap and he found himself unable to print it for personal and moral reasons, his journals provided a way of documenting the facts. Intended only for his own eyes, they provided an important piece of a puzzle in later years.

This type of writing can serve a number of purposes, from therapeutic to informational to biographical.

It’s hard to imagine when we’re full of life and relatively healthy, but there will come a time when the memories we share with our friends and loved ones will be all that remain of us. Unfortunately, memories are imperfect, don’t really last forever, and vary from one person to another. (I’m forever telling my brother he remembers things that did not happen!)

But words are concrete. Once written, they don’t change or fade away.

Committing our thoughts to a diaryeven if not on a daily basis and if only in bite-sized morselscould provide our children and grandchildren with tangible pieces of our hearts, even after we’re gone.

Case in point: My Uncle Leon was a quiet, unobtrusive gentleman. A real homebody, he didn’t visit extended family a lot, but all of us knew we were welcome in his home any time. He was a kind, gentle man, and very much loved.

After he passed away, I learned that this unassuming man had kept a journal for years. He wrote in it every day. Sometimes he penned lengthy entries, sometimes just a line or two, but he did it consistently. My aunt once laughingly told me that if I ever needed to know what the weather was on any given day within the past 15-20 years, I only needed to find that date in Uncle Leon’s journals. He faithfully documented the local weather every day. Why? Who knows, and does it matter? Apparently it was of some importance to Leon Hankins.

When he died, those books became valued possessions for his two children. They are filled with the thoughts and feelings of their father, written in his own hand, in his own words, in his own way. What could possibly be more him?

People shy away from journaling for different reasons. Let’s talk about them.

1. I don’t write well. Who cares? They’re your thoughts; you can write them any way you choose. No editor or publisher will pick your words apart or check them for spelling errors. You won’t be graded on your input. The journal belongs to you and you alone. Write it in code if you wish! (Just be sure to create a code key for future generations.)

2. I will forget to make entries. Probably so, but again, what does it matter? It’s yours. You can decide how frequently you input. But like any other habit, if you make a point of writing consistentlywhether it’s daily, weekly or monthlyyou’ll find that you start to remember when it’s time to dig out your diary and do your thing.

3. I don’t have time. Sorry, butbalderdash! If you have time to watch a movie, play a game, work a crossword puzzleyou have time to journal. And what’s more importantwatching another rerun of I Love Lucy, or penning your thoughts for posterity?

4. I have nothing to write about. Yes, you do. You have opinions on various subjects. Share them. (This might be the only venue in which you can discuss religion and politics without starting a debate!) Talk about how your garden grows. Discuss your hopes and dreams, the ones that have fallen by the wayside and the ones you still harbor within your heart. Write about your childhood, what you learned from your mother, what you admired about your dad. Paint a word picture of your favorite (or least favorite) school teacher. Share your favorite verses of scripture. You have plenty to talk about, and it’s all uniquely you.

I’m sure there are other excuses, but that’s all any of them are. Excuses.

Journaling is a special gift you can give your children, a piece of yourself you can pass on to your grandkids. It’s a little jolt of joy you can bequeath your loved ones.

And that’s priceless.

Isaiah 30:8 (New Life Version)
Now go and write it down in front of them. And write it in a book, that it may be seen for all time to come.

© 2007 Delia Latham

Delia Latham writes inspirational fiction. (Goldeneyes, 3/2008; Yesterday’s Promise, 3/2010; Adam). She lives in Oklahoma with her husband, Johnny.,,

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