Why I Keep a Journal

I am a journaler. I have kept a journal for over 25 years. You can give me any date in the past 25 years, and I can tell you what I was doing on that date. Some people have questioned why I do this. Why bother? What good reasons do I have to keep a journal? That’s what I would like to talk about today.


Let me introduce my topic by sharing this little story with you:

Two elderly couples enjoyed a friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, “Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?” “Outstanding,” Fred replied. “They taught us all the latest psychological techniques…visualization, word association…it made a huge difference for me.” “That’s great!” his friend said. “What was the name of the clinic?” Fred went blank. He thought and thought but couldn’t remember. Then a smile broke his face, and he asked, “What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?” “You mean a rose?” His pal answered. “Yes,” Fred exclaimed. “That’s it!” Then he turned to his wife and said, “Rose, what was the name of that clinic?” Let’s face it. None of us has a perfect memory. Let me ask you this: can you remember what you did yesterday? Probably most of you can. What about a week ago? How many of you can remember what you did a month ago from today? How about a year ago today? How quickly we forget.

A life worth living is a life worth recording.

Go to any cemetery, and you will find headstone after headstone of people with nothing left of their lives except a name on a tombstone. That’s it! Many of these people lived an entire lifetime full of trials and struggles, triumphs and failures, and all that is left is their name – because nothing was recorded.

What would you think if I told you I have your mother’s journal in my hands and that I will read you what she wrote on the day you were born? Would you like to hear what she wrote? Of course, you would. So would I. But I can’t do that because I don’t have her journal. I don’t know if your mother kept a diary. Did she? If she had, would you be interested in reading it? I think you would.

I want to share the eight reasons I have discovered for keeping a journal. Here they are:

8 Reasons to Keep a Journal

1. It’s Therapeutic

Expressing your thoughts, concerns, and deepest feelings can be psychologically beneficial. It can provide a way for you to vent your pent-up emotions. Plus, it’s cheaper than counseling!

2. For Yourself

I have an 83-year-old neighbor who has no children. He’s a good friend of mine. One day, I spoke with him about keeping a journal, and he replied, “Why would I want to do that? I have no children. Who would read it? I explained to him that journals aren’t just for your posterity. There is an enormous benefit from reading your thoughts and feelings that you recorded long ago. It helps you understand who you are and how far you have come.

In 7th grade, I lived in a small town in the desert of Arizona. For several months, I kept a diary in a tiny spiral notebook. For some strange reason, I made a time capsule using a mayonnaise jar, placed my journal in it, and buried it in the desert. It didn’t mean much to me then. Now, thirty-five years later, I’ve made the 14-hour drive back to that place and, with a pick-ax and shovel, dug and dug in the blazing sun, trying to find the time capsule that contained my journal. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find what I would give to have that small diary again and explore the thoughts and feelings of my 12-year-old self. What seems trivial and mundane to us now, we will treasure in the distant future.

3. For Future Generations

My great-grandfather was Peter Howard McBride. When he was six, his family crossed the plains of America with nothing but a handcart to hold all their belongings. It was a difficult trip with many trials along the way. His father froze to death during a terrible snowstorm in Wyoming. It is an amazing story. Why do I know this story? Peter’s older brother, Heber, kept a journal. When Heber McBride wrote in his diary, he had no idea it would be quoted hundreds of times worldwide. Just do an internet search on his name and see what I mean. So yes, write for future generations.

4. Because You Forget

Like the little story I told, our memories are temperamental and fragile. I am amazed when I look back at my journals and find events in my life that I do not recall. It’s gone, except that I wrote it in my journal. Don’t count on remembering all of the important events in your life. Like the snow melting in spring, your memories tend to melt away, too.

5. For Legal Protection

If I’m ever accused of a crime, I have a good record of where and what I’ve been doing. Plus, if I ever need to know when I bought that car when that accident happened or what day my father died – it’s all recorded in my journal.

6. To Remind You of Lessons Learned

They say those who don’t study history are bound to repeat it. I think that holds with your account. As you go throughout your life, you continually learn lessons from your and other’s mistakes. It can help to re-read those events and remember the lessons learned to avoid repeating them.

7. To Remind You of Your Blessings

It’s good to look back and see how far you have come. I recently read what I wrote in my journal twenty years ago. At that time, my wife and I were in the middle of buying and moving into our current home. We had nothing back then. We could only afford a few used furniture pieces and were scraping by to make it financially each month. Those were hard times but happy times. I’m grateful to have gone through them. It helped my wife and I grow closer as we struggled through those lean years. It helps me appreciate what I have today.

8. For Just Plain Fun

My wife, Lisa, is also an avid journalkeeper. We have often pulled out our journals and read them together to see what we each wrote on a given day in the past. We sit on the bed, laughing so hard at the crazy things we’ve been through. Sometimes, we’ll find an argument we had in the past, read what each of us wrote about it, and laugh some more. Seeming tragedies and rough times of the past become delightful and fond memories in the future.

9 Suggestions of What to Write in Your Journal

1. Your day to day activities

2. Your feelings and thoughts

3. Your spiritual experiences

4. The important events in your life

5. Your successes and failures

6. Your children

7. Record humorous experiences

8. Write about the world

9. The truth


I want to conclude by sharing the words of a master journaler, Spencer W. Kimball. Even though he was busier than most of us, he managed to fill 78 large volumes of personal journals during his life.


Alcohol scholar. Bacon fan. Internetaholic. Beer geek. Thinker. Coffee advocate. Reader. Have a strong interest in consulting about teddy bears in Nigeria. Spent 2001-2004 promoting glue in Pensacola, FL. My current pet project is testing the market for salsa in Las Vegas, NV. In 2008 I was getting to know birdhouses worldwide. Spent 2002-2008 buying and selling easy-bake-ovens in Bethesda, MD. Spent 2002-2009 marketing country music in the financial sector.