It wasn’t my first experience with writing, but it was my first significant experience. I was 16 and struggling with depression.

My father and I used to take walks around the neighborhood and talk about things; we’d been doing it for years, and it was truly fun for a long time. By 16, however, it reached a point where I became so upset in some of our conversations that he was unable to help me himself. He sent me to a counselor he knew. The counselor urged me to start writing a journal, a place to unload my thoughts and feelings. I still remember the first night I set out to do this: lying on my shag carpet with a sleeping bag and small writing lamp, the spiral red notebook laid out in front of me with my pen ready.

I’m 47 now, and I keep a journal every day. I haven’t written every day since I was 16, but I have done a lot of writing in it since then.

The writer Jack Kerouac bragged to his friend William Burroughs in the 1940s that he had already written over a million words. I have easily written that many in journals since I was 16.

Writing has helped me. Writing in a journal has helped me find my voice. It is a place for me, by me. I don’t have to worry about any requirements. I write to please myself. In doing so, I have learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned what I like and dislike about my words.

I recommend that anyone keep a journal. It’s a great place to work out your problems and without pressure or judgment. And if we read our entries, we can learn about ourselves and grow like the grass in summer.

5 thoughts on “Journaling by Michael Avery

  1. I agree whole heartedly. I’ve kept a journal now for over 40 years. One goal was to NOT write everyday – and I have achieved that goal. I also use spiral notebooks, they were cheap and easy to obtain. I’m now in book #160 (sorry to brag, but I’m impressed!). May the pen flow forever!!!!

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  2. Agreed! One-hundred sixty journals is a lot. I’ll bet you’ve surpassed one million words decades ago. One question I have: What do you do with all that writing? I often imagine my journals in the way eastern prospectors must have viewed the wide open West in the 19th century: land rush! So much raw material to be used. Have you found any useful tips?

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    1. Once, decades ago, I combed through several years pulling out entries to make one composite year, sent the mss to a publisher who rejected it. My life then took a turn in which I couldn’t write much and is now coming out of that. I think now, the greatest value of all that writing is that it helpt me think and process the pain that seems to have been the only constant in my life. In a way, too, it has all been “practice” writing, so the other writing I do now doesn’t need a lot of editing. I’ve left a few blank pages in the back of every book for later reflections, but I’ve not yet gone back and read them, there’s just too much else to do. During the years when there was no time for “real” writing, my journals were evidence that I really was a writer anyway. The books will be part of my lierary estate.

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      1. Your idea about compiling journal entries to make a mss has been my idea too. I’m sorry to hear that your prospective publisher rejected it. I know authors who have been rejected many, many times. I haven’t put enough time into trying to publish to have those stories for myself, but I’m aware. I appreciate your insight and candor. I think having your journals as your literary estate is amazing. Your family at the very least will have the opportunity to appreciate them even if you are never published.

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  3. Thank you! One hundred sixty journals is A LOT! You must have surpassed one million words many decades ago. I have a question: Do you have any tips on what to do with all those words? I like to imagine my journals the way I suspect an eastern prospector imagine the West in the 19th century: unadulterated raw material stretching out as far as the eye can see. I see journals as raw material.

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