I recently started a project that has made me even more grateful that my grandmother was a journal keeper. She was someone who wrote things down and kept everything. As I read through her journals I find myself thankful to have a part of her that will never fade away, a portal into her mind and the thoughts that once lived there. My grandmother was a writer like myself and saw the importance in recording thoughts, opinions, feelings, and events. She instilled a love and appreciation of journaling in me. I’ve kept a journal since I was about 10 and will continue to keep one as long as I live. I think it’s so important for people to write down their stories, their thoughts and feelings, because eventually that will be all that’s left. Your children, grandchildren, and family will one day read them and be able to feel connected to you once again. And if they’re anything like me, they’ll learn a great deal more about what made you tick, what made you the person you were through those writings.
Even though I have a boxful of journals my grandmother kept and a notebook where she started to write down her memoirs with several pages of her childhood memories, I still find myself wanting more. I want to know what she thought about as a child, how she felt about having to leave the farm and go back to her biological family, how she dealt with that. I want to know her favorite color, what kind of music was her favorite, what she thought and how she felt throughout her life experiences. What I currently have is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the life she lived…… so I’m left wanting to know much more. This is why I think it’s important to journal and write things down. It’s not so much for you (though I happen to find writing very cathartic) it’s for those you leave behind and the generations that come after you.
Some people say “oh I don’t have anything to write about” or “my life isn’t interesting enough to write down”, but that’s not true. You see, after you’re gone your loved ones won’t be looking for exciting, juicy tidbits about your life (at least most won’t be). We’ll be looking for a deeper connection, to know you deeper. For me, I just want to get into their mindset. I want to know what they thought about, even the tiniest little stuff. Yes I want to know how you felt about the big stuff that happened in your life, how you felt when you lost your parents or child or pet, how you felt through the big ups and downs of life….. but I also want to know the little things. I want to know what you were feeling as you were sitting on the swing listening to the wind moving through the trees and hearing the tinkling of the wind chimes. I want to know what you feel/think when you look at an old weathered fence that was once new and fresh or the first time you saw a bird take flight or seeing all the whites, blues, yellows, and purples along the side of the road growing wild. Write about the sound of your grandmother’s voice telling you to make sure you get the roots when weeding or your father telling you to anchor that hand right by the corner of your mouth as you’re drawing back that bowstring. Write down your childhood memories, the wonder you experienced at every discovery, big or small.
Ultimately, it’s the little everyday moments that come together and make us who we are. So yes I do want to know what you were thinking on a Tuesday or a Thursday. Yes I want to know how you felt on a boring Wednesday. Did it rain? What did you think about it? Do you think we’ve had too much rain this year? I want to hear about everything, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Don’t hold back. When you write, write like no one else is ever going to see it. I think that’s when the truest, purest form of writing takes place. That’s the stuff that your loved ones will want to read when you’re gone. Write down your memoirs, it doesn’t matter if it never gets published or is never seen…. Write it down anyway. Don’t worry about being proper, eloquent, flowery, or correct, because they won’t care. We want to hear YOUR voice, your words. Leave your record of things, after all, you’re the only one that can.
Born and raised in Upstate NY, Liz is a freelance writer. She has written for websites, blogs, and magazines for the last 10 years. She also acts as a proofreader and beta reader for several authors, all the while working on her first book.