I have spent over a month here, encouraging any and all to participate in keeping a journal. I have tried my best to reveal many of the most basic advantages in doing such a thing, often using my own experience as an example. There are far more advantages than I have listed, and I do intend to continue doing just that. However, there always comes a point when someone in the audience asks, “So, how do you begin, what are the rules?” How to begin is easy, just start doing it. The rules, on the other hand, are a completely different matter.
There are none. That’s right, there are no rules, other than the ones you impose on yourself. Journaling is a process aimed at self-awareness. A huge part of self-awareness is discovering what your own boundaries are and how they came to be what they are. If I were to create those rules for you, human nature being what it is, those rules would become the very reasons you refuse to continue. That in turn, would not only negate my purpose, but also block you from continuing. And that would mean that all of these words, energy, and meaning, would be nothing more than a moot exercise, futile from the beginning. Certainly, less than satisfying for both of us.
Rules, boundaries, do serve an important purpose. Without them there is chaos and disorder. There are always a number of creatures who prefer chaos and disorder because it can be taken advantage of in many ways. I can pretty much guarantee that such a creature wouldn’t be in the least bit interested in keeping a journal other than to glorify a deep need to celebrate said chaos and disorder, and their own blatant pride in embracing such things. Even serial killers have a need to justify, and rationalize, their actions and behavior. But, writing, when done on a regular basis, will eventually take the individual to those places he/she does not wish to go, ultimately revealing those rationalizations for exactly what they are: nothing more than excuses for doing whatever one chooses, even if it means destroying others in the process.
Rules and boundaries are a means of marking one’s territory. Yes, like a wild creature peeing at the outer edges of his territory to let all other creatures know of his existence and the consequences of crossing those lines he has created by leaving evidence of his scent. That marking is a means of letting one and all know that this is personal space, and that it might be a good idea to avoid it. We live in a time and place where obtaining and maintaining personal space comes at a premium.
A daily journal is always first, and foremost, the creation of personal space. A place in which to have the most important conversations of ones life, that dialogue with self. If I, or anyone, should attempt to impose rules or boundaries on that space, it is no longer personal. But in creating it, you create the most important possession you can possibly gift to yourself. As you do so, you will find your own boundaries, make your own rules, all built on what you find comfortable, acceptable, and right for you. No one may enter that space without your explicit permission.
Which brings me to the issue of blogs: most often defined as online journals. I don’t agree with that definition. Blogs are not the same as a private journal. Their focus is outward, always aimed at an audience. Journals are focused inward, always aimed at an audience of one. If that is not true then we should all be pissing in public. Not a good image. And even if we don’t mind revealing our backsides to the general public, there are still unconscious rules we will follow that don’t apply when in private. We do have built in censors and they automatically come into play when dealing in the public domain. There, the ideas of “how do I look, will I be understood, will I even be noticed”, or “am I getting through at all,” will carry a far heavier burden and consequence than in private where none of those things even matter.
Yes, I have rules about my own journal keeping. They have changed and been altered many times over the years. I may even reveal some of that in later blogs, but only as a means of suggesting and explaining how I came to be the me that I am in this moment. And yes, I do venture out daily to mark my place, my territory. Just ask anyone who has inadvertently, or otherwise, crossed my boundary lines. Like the old neighbor who came to take care of the dogs while we were on vacation and decided to question me about some of the things I had written in an old journal, tucked away on the bottom shelf of a side table, off in a corner. She can testify that I do know how to howl and slam doors on permanently departing backsides.