How 20 Years of Journaling Shaped Who I Am

by Kinga Lewandowska — 4 min read

How 20 Years of Journaling Shaped Who I Am

Dear Diary…

I’ve never used this opening line in any of my entries, yet the truth is, my diary is more near and dear to my heart than anything else I own. What I mean when I say diary is actually an ever-growing pile of notebooks I’ve accumulated over twenty years of keeping a journal.

It’s hard to fathom this much time has passed since I picked up a pen with the sole intention of translating what was in my head onto paper for the first time. I remember that day like it was yesterday. While on holidays in the countryside, my 11-year-old self scribbled down something about a friendly neighborhood dog and sunny weather. An early account of childish amusements.

Little did I know, that seemingly insignificant entry preluded my self-actualization.

As cliché as it sounds, that day I found the lock and opened the door to my soul. One page at a time, I discovered the magic of handwriting my way to sanity. It cleared the pathway for my artistic expression, built my confidence, allowed me to believe in myself when nobody else did, and when I lost the ability to talk about certain things, my diary listened patiently. Line by line, fears and worries painted an ink portrait of a teenager searching for her sense of belonging in a confusing reality.

Then, I found it in between my entries. Somehow, writing has always felt like home.

Sticks and stones, trials and tribulations––as soon as a new date on a page opens up the possibility of this silent therapy, all's right with the world. Journaling certainly isn’t a remedy for everything, yet it has the power to act like a shield. You’re able to weather more storms and untrouble your mind in the process––all thanks to a little book that takes in your suffering like a trusted confidant.

Your journal is a friend. It will never criticize or betray you, it will carry your load with you, it’s always there, day and night, whenever you need it, unconditionally. In my writing, I marched through more pain and disappointment than I would have been able to handle or process otherwise. I am tough because I could write my story down.

Nonetheless, whenever I achieve success, do something exciting or brave, I am equally compelled to celebrate it in my diary. Whenever I feel happy to be alive, my first instinct is to deepen that sensation by writing about it. On a rare occasion when I meet a kindred spirit on my path, I like to consult ink and paper to reassure myself it’s not a dream. Keeping a written record of my life has become my reflex.

During a particularly turbulent period in my life I stopped journaling for a while. Too much got in the way and, before I realized, I was buried under a heap of unwritten emotions, thoughts, and observations. I no longer felt fully myself. The inability to express my depth through writing hindered my progress and clouded my mind. I needed time off to peel away the heavy layers and uncover my old self. Then, I vowed to always prioritize writing. I need it to function properly. Writing is how I know myself.

“I don't know what I think until I write it down.” ― Joan Didion

Of course, one might argue that I am a professional writer, hence, journaling is less likely to have such a spectacular or transformative effect on somebody who is not. That’s true. The fact that I was able to walk through fire thanks to my diary does not mean it would armor you in the same way. The only question is, what do you have to lose if there is so much you might gain?

For example, journaling taught me mindfulness long before I knew it was a thing. As if by magic, when I write, the pen in my hand acts as a key to another realm, to a kind of altered dimension that electronic devices fail to provide. It’s a mind-expanding adventure that stops time and lets you explore the newly discovered nooks and crannies of your inner depth. There’s so much more to life than meets the eye.

Call me old-school but there’s also something soothing and magical about calligraphy. When you realize you can never replicate the exact same shapes of letters, handwriting becomes mesmerizing. Typing can never compete with that kind of sorcery. By extension, a physical notebook also plays an important role in this process, as opposed to a Word document. Find a journal that resonates with you. This way you will feel compelled to explore what it has to offer. Trust this magnetic force.

Moreover, memories are fleeting and a diary is a literal time capsule. If you go back to read what happened in your life two, five, or ten years ago, you will be astonished how many details have already escaped your mind. When you write everything down, it lives on intact. Preserved memories help in evaluating our lives further down the line. Life makes sense backwards. Your journal is a tool for connecting the dots, gaining clarity, organizing your thoughts, understanding your decisions, and assessing what’s led you to where you are today.

“Sometimes I know what I believe because of what I’ve written. Oddly, if you’d asked me before I wrote it, I maybe couldn’t have told you.” – J.K. Rowling

It matters not if you are a wordsmith like me or have never written a single line for pleasure. Whether there’s nobody around to talk to, your wounds refuse to heal, and your sanity is hanging by a thread, or when your life takes a turn towards the light, and everything is right on track – I encourage you to open a blank notebook and speak written words.

Scientists agree, journaling is healing. Twenty years of this practice has been the most relief-inducing and happiness-enhancing experience I could ever ask for. Writing for myself has led me to writing for others.

What doors will journaling open for you?

Self-development

In Celebration and Appreciation of Women

Today we celebrate women in all their might and glory. We see you, we love you, and we thank you.

Read more

Why You Always Need to Carry a Notebook

We look at how putting pen to paper has become a modern-day luxury and form of self-care––and all the ways you can use notebooks to boost your creativity and turn ideas into actions.

Read more
Productivity

6 Habits of Surprisingly Creative People

Creating things is our birthright and the most potent source of life energy when we allow it to flourish. We may not always feel creative, but we can definitely get inspired and learn from others, as certain habits can multiply your overall output and help with periods of inactivity and procrastination. Here are some ideas.

Read more