In an overwhelmingly digital world, physical items are like treasures. What used to be considered the norm is now a relic, a luxury. To hold something in your hands is a prize, and that’s how journaling has always felt to me. Something about putting pen to paper, something about hugging a closed journal to my chest, was always special. I knew it almost immediately. Like love at first sight (or in this case, touch), I knew having a physical journal was important to me.
I do a lot of digital organizing. It’s important to me to have a seemingly weightless master list of notes wherever I go and could pull it out in an instant. Weightless—that’s also a luxury, isn’t it? To hold thousands of pages, billions of words, in just a few ounces? Technology has, without a doubt, made our lives easier. It has made our collections and passions easier to take with us anywhere. However, while most of my information is digital, there are many reasons why I still love having a physical journal.
Handwriting is more personal.
Journaling is already a deeply personal practice, and your handwriting makes it even more so. From handwritten notes passed around in grammar school to a handwritten letter from someone you love, there is just something more sentimental about handwriting.
It’s why I like to handwrite my short prose on Instagram instead of typing it up. You feel more of a connection to the writer when you read their handwriting. And if you’re the writer, you’ll feel an even more remarkable connection to yourself—especially when you look back on what you’ve written years later.
Handwriting forces you to slow down.
If you can type 80 words a minute like I can, you’ll notice how much more you can get across on a keyboard versus with a pen. (And when I’m in the middle of an argument, that words-per-minute count jumps to 100.) However, handwriting takes longer and naturally forces you to slow down.
This, of course, is a good thing. When you slow down, you are more inclined to stay in the present, focusing on the task at hand. You will sit with your thoughts longer and think deeper about how to express yourself properly. Plus, if you do this process away from your phone or computer (which I highly recommend!), you are less likely to be distracted by technology.
Physical journals give me nostalgia.
When I was very young, I treasured my journals, my lock and keys. I’ve kept a physical journal since I was 12 years old and the process of keeping one and writing in it each night about my day gives me nostalgia. It started out as harmless fun, a safe place for me to document my thoughts. As I grew older, it became therapy for me—a place where I could honestly work through my feelings and check back on them later.
When it comes down to it, keeping a physical journal reminds me of the time when I first realized my thoughts and feelings were important enough to be written—and that’s a significant thing for me to remember.
Physical journals make great keepsakes.
Over the years, I’ve collected over a dozen journals at various stages of completion. In fact, that pile is getting almost too tall to carry (as you can see in this post’s featured image). Once I started, I couldn’t stop. While I was doing it for my mental health, I also became obsessed with self-preservation. I imagined myself having these journals for 40, 50, even 60 years. They would remain after I’m long gone, possibly handed down to my family.
Did I mind the idea of loved ones possibly getting their hands on my most personal writing? Not at all. If anything, I’ve always wanted to publish them someday. It has always felt like my life’s work, my greatest work—honest words from a girl becoming a woman, then a woman finally loving herself over time. There’s progress and regression, regression and progress, for all time.
When you look at it that way, journals are the ultimate keepsakes—proof that you were once, and still, vulnerable and alive.
Do you still keep a physical journal, or have you switched to digital? How has technology impacted your progress? I’d love to know!
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Megan Portorreal is a professional writer, editor, and creative in the New York City area. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, writing about her life, and playing video games.