Humans have been writing since the dawn of the written word. And even beyond that, primeval people recorded their experience and knowledge on cave walls.
But why do we do this? Why do we write?
We write to disentangle our thoughts and ideas, to empower and express ourselves. We write to feel fully alive. But most of all, we write in an effort to chronicle our lives.
Humans are sentimental creatures. It is why we keep boxes of dusty high school photos and baby blankets in our attics. When we see these things, when we touch them, it is as if we are back in that moment. We remember the elation we felt on graduation day, the warm and fond memory we have of childhood. Most of the time, this reminiscing brings us joy.
As a writer, words are my chosen medium. And in an effort to document (and make sense of) my experience, I turn to journaling. I have an entire drawer full of them, archiving my thoughts and various stages of life.
Whenever I travel, a pen and journal are as essential as my passport. Oscar Wilde, the 19th century playwright, once declared, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” Smart man.
Aside from serving as a means of documentation, journaling has been shown to have a positive effect on your health and general well-being. And it has been said that writing about stressful events can reduce there impact, as well as help you come to terms with them.
What you write about can be as literal or abstract as you want. You don't have to be a wordsmith to keep a journal. Describe what is in your direct line of sight, vent, rant, talk unashamedly about your feelings, make a list of what you ate that day -- whatever strikes your fancy.
Journaling may also assist in revealing your next grand idea. Use it to catalogue your thoughts, no matter how ridiculous they may seem at the time. Much like a sculptor chipping away a block of marble, this written brainstorming may help to unveil a work of art.
Perhaps years from now you'll look back at your journal and have a laugh. Or a cry. Maybe you'll see that a problem that you, at the time, had assumed was insolvable, was eventually evaded with ease and grace. You may even learn something about yourself that you had not known before.
When you write, know that you are taking part in a long and rich history of documenting the human experience. That you have the same drive and innate curiosity as the likes of Mark Twain and Leonardo da Vinci. What you write matters; your experience matters.
So go forth and write.