This is a reblog of my post over on the UncommonYA blog:
by Eric DevineSomewhere in my attic is the first journal I ever used. The same one I almost burned.As a teen, this is what my writing “schedule” looked like: any night I wasn’t too exhausted to immediately fall asleep, I settled into bed with a journal and pen and poured out my heart. I wrote typical, angst-riddled entries, along with volumes of poetry. These notebooks became a place to vent, to unburden myself from the issues life was throwing at me, and had everything to do with becoming an author.As a senior in high school, depressed over a debilitating injury, I had time on my hands to sit, and to be alone, and to be angry. And instead of picking up a journal to write it all down, I picked up my previous ones and read. I found no solace in this, just a brimming self-loathing at what I thought was time well spent, being creative and artistic and finding myself.
And so I decided to burn the entirety of my journals. I stacked them in my back yard (as best I could while on crutches) and I brought along a bottle of lighter fluid and matches.
I pictured the flames, saw my words melting, and knew it was the right thing to do: burn all this bullshit. But then I remembered the poems in there, the ones to my girlfriend––the only person with whom I shared my work. She adored those words, and when she eventually found out I had burned my journals, I knew I would risk losing more than just notebooks.
I brought everything back inside and tucked it away. But not my emotions. I let them out on a new page, and I remembered why I started using a journal in the first place.
Therefore, what I wish I knew as a teen is that there is value in expression, in saying what you need to say, if only to yourself through your journal. A lot of time spent as an author is inside one’s own head, and that is true well before you know there’s a purpose to it. A journal then, is an excellent way to sift through and see whether the matters are sizable enough to pursue, or fragments better left to drift.
Somewhere in that attic is a journal I didn’t burn, and with it, a few dozen more. And in my closet there are even more. My desk is overflowing with them. One is at my side right now, which I still use to say whatever I want to say. Spending time with my thoughts and with my words in a space that is all for me is invaluable. It is the purest form of writing, and I am glad I didn’t burn the relics of my beginning.