J is for...Journal
Like most things, journals and the reasons they were kept, have evolved over time. According to Wikipedia1, the word diary comes from the Latin word diarium, meaning “daily allowance” and journal originated from the same root diurnus, meaning “of the day”.
For the sake of this post, I will use the word 'journal', since most adults refer to their appointment books as diaries and their electronic diaries as calendars. A diary also implies a daily entry, whereas a journal entry does not have to be a daily occurrence.
Semantics you might say, but for clarity, I will stick to using the word, journal.
Unless you are an accountant or bookkeeper, then the Journal is something you use to fix other people's mistakes. I am just saying.
At the beginning...
Journal writing actually began way back in the second century AD. People used their journals to record transactions, events or visions. These entries depended on who you were and the significance of these events in your life.
Only later on, about the 11th century, did people's journals start to reflect the styles we associate with our modern times. Personal reflection, inward events or experiences that we perceive as important enough to note.
From the Renaissance onwards, people started to record more than the events of the day. It was also these personal records that researchers found to be valuable about life and times in that era.
Publication of these personal journals was never an option to people in those days, making their observations of particular importance to historians today. Their words were not intended for an audience although they might have ended up that way.
The modern journal
“Frank Smythson made history in 1908 when he created the world's first practical, portable diary. From its stitched spine and supple leather binding to the clean, crisp leaves of Featherweight paper and glint of gold, Frank's original design remains virtually unchanged to this day.”2
If you look at the Smythson website, you will agree that not much has changed since then, with the exception of the advent of the online journal.
Who could then resist recording the events and thoughts of your own? All that was required was the ability to read and write, or maybe draw a picture if the journal was kept by an artist.
While it might not be your or my cup of tea, it became almost fashionable to publish the journals of people of note from the nineteenth century. The most famous of these are the journals of Anne Frank, about her experiences hiding during the German occupation of Amsterdam during the Second World War.
There are many other examples, if you are interested please follow the links on the Wikipedia page for more information.
The digital journal
Online journaling is more what we would be used to or expect to use these days. The first recorded online journal was published in 1994. Since then the recording of personal thoughts and commentaries have become more prevalent on blogs.
Personal journals, for recording of private reflections and thoughts, are typically not for public consumption. The writer could use encryption to guarantee continued privacy.
The online journal has become portable with many of them providing a smartphone app to allow the user anytime access to their online journal.
As with handwritten journals, these online journals could be bequeathed to an heir upon the death of the writer. Check with your online journal supplier if this is something you could do for your children or grandchildren.
Why keep a journal?
Why do people keep a journal? The answer to that can be as varied as the reasons why people write.
History taught us that journals were kept to record financial and other transactions. People noted the events of the day in their environments. World travelers recorded their comments on the places they visited and recommendations on the best food, or route to follow.
Nowadays, journals have expanded their usefulness towards the recording of sleep patterns, diets, life experiences, notes on achievements, personal thoughts and goals. If you can think of a reason to record any and all observations, either internal, external or of any significant value, there will be a person (or ten) out there that does it.
Have you thought about the value you have gained from keeping a journal? Take a minute and note your thoughts in your next entry.