Dear Queer Diary: Your Journal Is Not a Poltergeist

Welcome to Dear Queer Diary, a column about the joys (and occasionally, the pains) of journaling. We’ll be cracking open our tiny notebooks and breaking out the rainbow-colored pens on the regular, so get ready to limber up your writing hands and document all your beautiful feelings!

Header by Rory Midhani

Dear Queer Diary_Rory Midhani_640px

Sometimes your journal is like a poltergeist.

It doesn’t wake you up in the middle of the night with disturbing thumps, of course, or drive your family members insane by leaving mysterious marks on the walls of your decrepit manor house, or even sing humiliating songs to you when you are accused of paralyzing members of the Hogwarts student body. What it does do is much more disturbing, irritating—and, I daresay, pernicious.

It just sits. In my case, it sits on my bedside table, quietly gathering dust and making me feel like I am about as worthless as the used tissues that have also (somehow) collected next to my lamp and my phone charger.

Poorly Lit Still-Lifes From My Apartment: Part II

Poorly Lit Still-Lifes From My Apartment: Part II

“Why haven’t you written in me, Maggie? Do you see this increasingly thick layer of dust that has collected on my formerly attractive black cover? Aren’t you supposed to be some kind of journal-writing big shot?”

As an (aspiring?) writer, I am almost constantly wracked with guilt about how I am not writing. And a dusty journal doesn’t make me feel any better.

This is not to say that guilt is always bad.

I once lived with a published poet who used to wake up early on Saturday mornings to drink espresso, listen to classical music, and compose sonnets. And aside from making me want to vomit all over his artistically coffee-stained Moleskine, the guilt I felt when faced with this gentleman’s persistent did motivate me to write more than I probably would have otherwise. Yet most of the time, PoetMan and his annoyingly scribbled-in notebooks just made me feel crappy.

I could write a whole post on my (highly mixed) feelings about the Moleskine, but this is an aesthetically pleasing one. Via iHanna

I could write a whole post on my (highly mixed) feelings about the Moleskine, but this is an aesthetically pleasing one (via iHanna)

Journaling should not make you feel crappy.

In fact, I am here to tell you that journaling should never, ever (ever!) make you guilty or sad or stressed-out. Journaling should make you feel calm and happy and filled with wonder at the beauties of the world.

You know your super-clingy ex-girlfriend who sent you 94 texts in a row whenever she knew you were within twenty miles of your previous love interest and then complained when you didn’t respond immediately? Your journal is not like that. Your journal is like your really chill friend from high school who you meet for boba tea whenever you’re both back in whatever-city-you-grew-up-in but is totally happy to be ignored for 11.89 months out of the year because it just means you’ll have better stories for her when you see each other.

As much as I love journaling, there are years (yes, years!) when I have cracked the cover of a notebook three times, and while, sure, I would love to be able to look back on a more thorough recounting of that time, it’s probably just as well that I was off spending way too many hours in college theaters and eating naan. Because as much as I love journaling about life, it should not (as Stephen Chbosky has kindly reminded us) get in the way of participating in life.

 If participating in life involves embracing short-haired ladies, who am I to object? Via Summit Entertainment

If participating in life involves embracing short-haired ladies, who am I to object? (via Summit)

In reality, my dear queer diarists, your journal is not a poltergeist.

Your journal doesn’t mind waiting while you fall in love or get a new job or go to Alaska. Your journal just hopes you will come back some day with a nice postcard to paste onto one of its pages or a paycheck you can use to buy nicer pens or a girlfriend to whom you can read all the now-adorable/formerly-pathetic things you wrote about how you just wished you had someone to cuddle with while you watched Downton Abbey.

Your journal is patient.

Your journal wants you to make realistic goals for yourself—like writing an entry every Thursday, when you know you are going to have an extra hour after work and before your lesbian needlepoint circle.

May the flame of your journaling passion never die!

May the flame of your journaling passion never die!

Your journal wants you to accept that you aren’t going to write a novel every day. It wants you to accept that you’re not even going to write a word everyday. Then, it wants you to be happy when you get a few minutes to jot something down, rather than worrying that you haven’t written in too long, or you didn’t write enough, or you aren’t as smart as that girl from your college writing seminar who was just published in The New Yorker for the second time.

It’s tempting to listen to your guilt, my dear queer diarists. Try listening to your journal. I will be trying too.

Maggie is a freckly, punctuation-loving queer living in the Boston area. She supports her book-buying and tea-drinking habits by teaching America’s youth how to write topic sentences and spends her free time writing postcards and making sandwiches for her girlfriend.

Maggie has written 53 articles for us.

17 Comments

  1. I sometimes apologize to my journal when I haven’t written in a long while. I always start off with “I’m sorry I only come to you when there’s something wrong or on my mind. I promise I won’t do it next time.”

  2. THANK YOU for this.
    I’ve got an increasingly long list of things I think I *should* be journalling about, just so I have a record of them for the future. However, when I finally have some [scarce] free time, I often balk and fill my time with other, non-journalling activities because, for me, journalling involves a lot of feelings and processing and TIME and sometimes my best self-care practice is journalling, but sometimes it is refraining from dredging up tough emotions/eternalizing them on paper.
    This is just a really great reminder that I shouldn’t feel guilty for not recording every last thing that happens to me.

  3. This was really appreciated. I always have SO much guilt about journaling especially since its often for therapy and then I feel like I didn’t do my homework and it makes me so anxious.

    My journal is patient. I like that.

  4. I love this. Especially this:

    “Your journal doesn’t mind waiting while you fall in love or get a new job or go to Alaska. Your journal just hopes you will come back some day with a nice postcard to paste onto one of its pages or a paycheck you can use to buy nicer pens or a girlfriend to whom you can read all the now-adorable/formerly-pathetic things you wrote about how you just wished you had someone to cuddle with while you watched Downton Abbey.”

    I also think Hansen should note the small felt rabbit featured in your first photo for a future Make a Thing… 🙂

  5. I used to be in a journaling group on livejournal (throwback!) where people posted pictures of their journals. One person had taped post it notes to the cover of their journal that essentially said ” This journal loves you. This journal would take you to the prom if it could. It wants to hear all about your day–but only when you have the time and when it feels right. This journal is that non-needy best friend who waits patiently until you have the time to tell them a story or catch up.” It was pretty but also a great reminder of how journaling isn’t supposed to be stressful 🙂

  6. When I read this all I could think about was that quote from the John Green book An Abundance of Katherines, where he comments that “Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.” I think the same is true to a certain extent for journals/diaries. I no longer feel obligated to write in mine every day. (When I was younger I felt like I had to have something to say daily.)

  7. This column has made me re-start journaling after a long hiatus, and this actually relates to one of the first rules I made for myself (I love rules– I find them freeing). I vowed never to comment in my journal about the amount of time it has been since the last entry. So, I date all my entries, but I refuse to explain the time that passed in between entries unless that’s specifically what I sat down to write about. It not only makes me more likely to pick it up and write in it, but it also makes it more fun to go back and read; every entry doesn’t start with the same apologetic spiel.

  8. I really appreciated this post (and the others in the series). It motivated me to crack open my diary again, which I haven’t written in since *gulp* March 2011. It’s one of those things that just gets harder the more you leave it, but once you get over yourself and put pen to paper again, you wonder why it took you so long.

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