How Journaling Helped My Perfectionism

Jul. 31st, 2017

I've tried to start a practice of regular journal writing many times throughout my life. I have half a dozen journals, the first handful of pages filled with my gigantic, unwieldy handwriting, the dates scattered over months and years. I even tried to begin journaling electronically, twice.

There are many reasons these attempts failed, but one of the biggest was perfectionism. Every evening I tried to write down everything that had happened that day. This is impossible, but I thought that was what journal or diary writing was.

There's a complex story to how I eventually did start and continue journaling regularly. Let me give you the biggest piece of information I wish I'd known beforehand: it doesn't matter what you write, the act of writing is where the value lies.

Part of the reason I was so determined to write everything fully and completely is I have a terrible memory. I wanted a record of the life I’m afraid I'll hardly remember. The loss of these moments terrified me. It is this fear that caused the downfall of all my efforts.

However, even the amount I remember at the end of every day is worth writing down. When I look back on birthdays and Christmases, it doesn't matter that the entire day isn't recorded in minute detail. I have more in my journal than in my memory and that's a gift.

At a certain point, I decided I would try to simply write down the most important things. I'd know they were the most important because I'd actually be able to remember them when it was time to journal. Everything else didn't matter, in this context, because trying desperately to remember would erode what I was trying to do. It would make it impossible to accomplish regular journaling.

I've been journaling every day for 5 years come September. This is an unprecedented achievement for me and I am so incredibly proud of it. Journaling can never be perfect, but it is possible to be consistent and derive great benefit from it.

What would you write in a journal?