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Paper Journaling

One of the things I did as a teenager was to keep a journal.

Among my favorite memories of my high school years was how we – my HS crew of Laura, Donna, Ginger and I – would buy steno pads and fine point ball pens from the student store. It had to be steno pads; they were the right size to fit within a regular peechee for easy carrying. And it had to be those classic yellow Bic fine point pens; medium point pens were for awkward fingered boys and the kinds of girls who dotted their I’s with little circles or hearts.

We were definitely not those sorts of girls. We practiced writing with painstakingly neat, spidery cursive rather than big swoopy letters.

In later years I ended up switching to regular college size notebooks but they served the same purpose. Not just for journaling but also for doodling, scribbles, song lyrics, notes, musing, dreaming, and whatever else.

At one point I had an entire stack of these, full of these scribbles and doodles. I kept them in a small cabinet I’d had since childhood. I didn’t have every notebook or steno pad but I had quite a few. By my mid-20s, I unfortunately also had an asshole boyfriend who was convinced that I was constantly up to something he didn’t like (and the accusations ranged from hanging out with friends he didn’t like to cheating). Once he discovered the existence of these notebooks he was utterly determined to read them. He was also furious with me for refusing to allow it. About the third time I walked into my bedroom while he was over and caught him in the cabinet or actually flipping through a notebook, I gathered the lot of them up and marched them right outside to the dumpster. Better to lose them than to let some jerk trawl through them.

In retrospect I should have kept the notebooks and offloaded the boyfriend. I did eventually break up with him but by that point I was out of the habit of keeping a paper journal, and I never quite got fully back into the habit.

Electronic journals became a thing with the advent of the internet, I had a LiveJournal but it’s not the same. Something feels too performative about them. There’s nothing wrong with performative journaling – I mean, what’s a blog after all, and blogs are enjoyable both to write on, and to read. I may not post here much, but I enjoy having it. And it’s easier, faster, my hand doesn’t get tired. But it serves a different purpose for me than a private, handwritten journal does. Maybe it’s the slow act of handwriting my thoughts that gives me time to contemplate them more. To think what I want to say. My style of journaling has always had an element of explaining my thoughts as though I were explaining them to someone (even though nobody will see them). Of course I know what my own thoughts mean, but the process of writing them down unfiltered helps me to clarify and understand them.

Blogs and private journals serve two different functions for me.

I could keep a private electronic journal but the speed and ease of typing my thoughts out doesn’t lend itself to the introspection and zen (for lack of a better word) of writing slowly, carefully in a notebook that nobody will ever see, so there’s no self-filtering. And of course there’s also the sense with electronic stuff that it might someday not be 100% private – a data breach ends up exposing it, say. Paper may not be more private but it feels more private.

I have a lot of thoughts and musings I want to write down but I don’t always want to share. I’m an introvert, and like many introverts I’m pretty territorial about my inner spaces. My desire for privacy with my journaling isn’t because I want to write about things that aren’t socially acceptable – it’s because if I know it will STAY private, then I am free to explore what I think and feel and that’s key.

So I bought a steno pad, and I started writing in it again. I already have plenty of fine-point pens; one of the offshoots of being into artistic hobbies is that I have a fairly sizeable collection of items designed to make marks on paper, including a ton of these gel fine point TŪL pens in different colors that I really enjoy writing with. Some of my writings may end up on here, most won’t. It’s not even the point of the steno pad. The point of the steno pad is what it always was – a little place to scribble things in a form I find pleasantly nostalgic.

I’m quite looking forward to it.

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