The benefits of keeping a diary

22 Apr

I have kept countless diaries since I was young.  I haven’t exactly discriminated either; my diaries have consisted of handwritten squiggles in old notebooks, saved Microsoft Word documents and even forays into the mysterious world of the ‘e-journal.’  However, I have never previously looked at my diary entries as aiding my creativity as such, which is the way in which Virginia Woolf viewed the process.  Woolf started writing diaries relatively late in life- at the age of 33 – and she came to view the art of keeping a diary as ‘a method of practicing or trying out the art of writing.’


This makes a lot of sense.  Writing a diary is an excellent habit to cultivate which forces you to introspect and relay your innermost thoughts onto paper.  This process of trying to eloquently express your emotions can be incredibly difficult.  Indeed, most of my diary extracts from when I was about fourteen only serve to emphasise this point.  Stilted and often grammatically incorrect angry ramblings, frequently littered with obscenities to try and convey my frustrations and apathy with the world in which I was living.  As a teenager, I would mainly write in my diary when I was feeling ‘out of sorts’ which in retrospect, are highly embarrassing and self-indulgent.

An example from when I was 15: ‘ I honestly hope it’ll be all OK in the end. That’s what everyone says, isn’t it? Oh don’t worry, you’ll be fine. You’ll have done better than you expected. How can they know though? I know I completely fucked some of my exams up. What if I’ve actually done WORSE than I expected? I can’t believe less than a year of studying has come to this. It all seems so wasted now.’

Although I would like to think (and desperately hope) that my writing has improved A LOT since I was fifteen, reading over my old entries has actually shown me that I still hold onto a lot of the securities that I did as an angsty fifteen year old.  Not good!  However, diaries are an amazing way to provide a snapshot into your life at a certain period.  With time, the little things are forgotten and diaries provide you with an insight into what type of person you were and allow you to view how far you have come since then.  Writing my diary then and even now is mainly due to the therapeutic benefits it brings.  When I feel overwhelmed or just have things on my mind which I can’t talk to anyone about, I turn to writing as a release.

Perhaps, now I am older and serious about writing as a profession, I should take heed from Woolf and view writing in my diary not only as a tool of self-exploration but as as a kind of R&D for my craft, as Woolf approached the process.  After all, if you are serious about writing, you should try to write everyday and diaries can help you develop and enhance your writing skills.

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