Writing for no one—how to journal without feeling silly.

by Clare Mackin ’25

Writing is good for you, sure. You can process emotions, get some perspective, etc., but writing in a “journal” or “diary” just does not work for some people.

Why you should not keep a diary:

  1. Feels childish. “Dear diary” this is and “hey sorry it’s been a while” that. Diaries are a gift for 7-year-olds, complete with a lock and key (Except you lost the key so you had to smash the lock open with a rock and now the book doesn’t close all the way). Perhaps if you are really cool you have an invisible ink pen.
  2. Evidence. Personally, I do not need a paper trail coming back to bite me just because my therapist told me writing my feelings will “improve my mental health”. At the age of 14 I became self-aware and destroyed my diary entries from childhood out of embarrassment. My mom was not so lucky, and her childhood journals have given me ample ammo to tease her about her past (How is David from down the street doing nowadays, mom?)
  3. Boring. Most of my days are not interesting enough to write down, and if they are it means I am probably in no condition to write them down. I simply am not interesting enough to feel motivated to write about myself. Any attempt at journaling has consisted of rather pathetic bursts of 3-4 passages, followed by a minimum 1.5-year hiatus.

What you should do instead:

  • Find a nondescript writing vessel of your choosing and begin hoarding materials from your day-to-day life. A note from your friend in class, a funny drawing, a sticker from a banana, a leaf, anything. Trash is your friend.
  • Make note of song lyrics, quotes, poems, or words of a stranger that grab you. Notes app, Instagram saved posts, twitter bookmarks, etc. are helpful for this.
  • Begin writing, anywhere. You do not have to start on the first page. Maybe you have something you need to say that you are scared to see written on paper. So, write illegibly. Scribble some loops on a page and write as tiny as you can in the empty space. Write upside down. Write in the cursive that your elementary school said you would use all the time. Write and then black it out.
  • Invest in Elmer’s glue. Add the bits of life you’ve hoarded. It does not need to look polished, in fact quite the opposite. Rip holes through the words that upset you, tear entire pages out. I am no artist, but something about the amalgam of trash and disorder and random clippings from daily life form something beautiful. 

The process of writing is beneficial outside of its product. Writing something you never intend to read can be very freeing. Give it a try!

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