Recently, I have been reading two different books on the same subject. Both are memoirs in the form of short stories. One author started publishing his books (I’ve only been reading one at this time) after approximately two decades of experience. The other published after five years. For someone interested in the topic, both books are entertaining, but I find much more satisfaction in the storytelling of the elder writer. His writing has a beautifully reflective quality that results in a wonderful sense of humor, irony, and spirituality. I do not mean to say the younger writer’s stories are not enlightening, but his storytelling does show his comparative youth. His focus gets wrapped up in the excitement of first time experiences and the relevant facts as to why these instances during his career brought him such joy. In essence, he is an adventurous nerd.
Not everyone is going to write memoirs or personal essays as part of their shared storytelling pursuits. But this doesn’t mean that writing about our experiences is pointless. Keeping a journal of the things and events we feel are important or impactful can help us in our fictional writings or in relating to our audiences. Going back to those entries and writing about them again after a year, five years, ten years, etc. can help us to recognize how our point of view changes as we gain additional experiences, knowledge, and distance from their original occurrence. We can then use these reflections to help us build on character development or better our communication with those who are not as far along on their own journeys as we are.
I find myself wishing that I had kept better journals when I was younger. I sometimes wrote down details of what I deemed important, such as vacations or other travels. I often thought I would remember those times better than I actually do, because they were new and unique and exciting at the time. But now I have other, more recent memories of additional new and exciting experiences competing with those memories, and the details are becoming more fuzzy with time. I can reflect back on those events with a different mindset now, but it is difficult to recall the first flush of new experiences now if I did not write them down then.
So I encourage you to keep journals. They do not need to be detailed logs of what happens in your day-to-day life. But make notes on the things you’re passionate about, the things that catch your attention, the things that hurt as well as those that bring joy. Consider it a lifelong, personal study of the changes in how you tell the story of your own life. Whether you ever share this study with others is up to you. But at the end of it all, you’ll have quite the time capsule of your existence here on earth.