I started keeping a journal on April 20, 1976 when I was 18 years old. I had gone to general conference earlier that month and attended several sessions in person in the Tabernacle. I heard President Spencer W. Kimball ask members of the Church to keep a journal at that conference. I started writing a couple weeks after getting home. Since then, I’ve written 6,619 pages—as of this morning—in 39 volumes.
How did that happen?
I am not really sure how or why it happened, how I’ve kept it up over the last 33 years. Journal writing became a habit early in my life, and I’ve never shaken it. I like to write, so it has come easy to me. Actually, when I first started, I can’t say that I liked to write, but with practice, it came easier to me over time. I stuck with it, and it stuck with me.
One of the nice things is I can look up dates over the last three decades and find out what I was doing. The best thing about keeping a journal to me, however, is that I’ve been able to express there the full range of my experience and emotions, untangle them and sort them out. I’ve had to rip a number of pages out of my journals over the years. Those pages were valuable, too, even though they will never see the light of day. I think the value to me has been in the writing, not so much in what was written.
Are you keeping a journal? I’m sure a lot of you are. But you are probably discouraged about infrequent entries or getting caught up when you get behind. There are so many things you wish you had written about your children and your travels and your spiritual journey, that it is easier just to leave your journal buried in a nightstand drawer.
I suggest a different approach. Always start from where you are. Don’t try to go back to where you were and start from there. Start from now. Don’t wait for the perfect conditions. What did you do today? What is happening inside of you this moment? Is your faith waxing or waning? Are you disappointed or delirious with excitement? What has the Spirit said to you today? Start today to get it down. A list of bullet points is better than a blank page.
Just forgive yourself and start over. Don’t require perfection out of yourself. Just do as Ernest Hemingway once suggested. “Write one true sentence.” That’s all you have to do. After you write one true sentence, it will get easier to write the next one, and the next one.
Give yourself permission to be imperfect, and you’ll start getting a whole lot more done.
I doubt you are more keenly aware of your own failings and imperfections than I am of mine, but I just keep going and just keep writing. You can, too. Don’t let guilt keep you from doing the right thing.
P.S. I know some of you are saying, “I can’t write.” That isn’t true. You can write. In fact, you have a promise in the scriptures that you can write. “It was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration.” (Moses 6:5-6.) The promise is that if you call upon God, you will be inspired to know what to write and how to write it. Pray before you write. Test the promise. He will not let you down.