The therapeutic power of writing a journal

I’ve kept a diary for almost as long as I can remember. I have diaries dating all the way back to 2002, with a few even earlier than that. Considering that I write for a living, blog for a hobby, and write in my diary when I’m not doing either of those two things, it’s not far off the truth that I spend my entire life writing. My diary comes with me if I’m going anywhere alone. As Oscar Wilde put it in The Importance of Being Earnest,

I never travel without my diary. One must always have something sensational to read on the train.

I’ve been thinking about my diary quite a bit recently because of an email I received, via this blog, from Paperblanks, a publisher of beautiful journals with a magnetic closing flap. Coincidentally, I’ve owned several of these gorgeous journals over the years. So when they kindly offered to send me one to add to my collection, I thought it would make an interesting comparison to see how the contents of my diaries have changed over the years I’ve been writing in Paperblanks journals.

My most prolific diary-writing years were my single years, from about 2008 to 2012, when I wrote reams every day. I lived on my own for the majority of that time and I honestly don’t know how I would have coped without my diary those few years. It was a companion that I could take anywhere with me and talk to whenever I liked. It helped me order my often confused thoughts and work out my true feelings about things. Often, I would start writing not knowing how I felt about something, and by the time I finished that entry I’d worked it out.

Reading through my old diaries is an interesting and sometimes slightly unsettling feeling. It’s not something I do often, because it brings back some uncomfortable memories. Nevertheless, it’s a reminder of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve matured over the years. My teenage diaries are, as you’d expect, highly embarrassing. And a lot of the later stuff, if I do say so myself, is quite sensational – Oscar Wilde would’ve approved. Then we skip forward to today and I’m writing about going to garden centres and buying furniture. Yep, you can definitely see the progression of my life playing out in my diaries.

Of course, I’m not going to be sharing any of the sensational stuff with you today (sorry!!), but by way of illustrating some of the less personal (but still interesting) aspects of my diaries from over the years, I’m going to share three extracts from previous Paperblanks journals.



My journal of choice on this occasion featured an embellished Mozart manuscript. In this extract, I have just started the first term of my second year at Oxford, and am embarking on the first of my “gobbet groups” – small teaching groups where we met to discuss extracts of ancient writings.

In the morning I met up with the other people in my “gobbet group” at Cafe Nero on the High Street. It was embarrassing as we didn’t know anyone, and we eventually found each other by tentatively accosting people in the cafe and asking them if they were there to discuss Cicero. The responses I got could only have happened in Oxford. “No, I’m here to read Pindar,” was what one guy told me. “As a classicist, I’d love to, but sorry, no,” was what someone else said.


16/1/2009 – 9pm

IMG_0811This time my journal featured Charlotte Bronte’s manuscript for Jane Eyre.

Omg, this is almost definitely a good idea… was feeling so miserable earlier (will explain in a mo) and just wanted something to focus on – so I have booked flights to Rome for 6am tomorrow, returning Monday afternoon. Thought I’d be spontaneous and needed to get away. Haven’t booked a hotel but I can sort that out when I get there. What an adventure! Not telling anyone I’m going until I get there. So exciting!!


14/5/11 – 12.10pm

A chance encounter at Charlbury station, as recorded in another Mozart journal.

Just had a remarkable encounter. I bought my ticket and then went and sat on a bench on the platform, where a barely touched copy of the Telegraph was lying apparently abandoned. I picked it up and was surveying the headlines when a gentleman appeared at my shoulder and said, “I’m awfully sorry to take that from you  – if I’d read it you’d be welcome to it.” I looked up and it was the actor Robert Hardy – Siegfried from All Creatures Great and Small!! And he was just like Siegfried too, dressed just like him! I was profusely apologetic for apparently having stolen his newspaper from him and he said it was quite alright! Amazing!


Bringing my diaries right up to date is the beautiful green journal Paperblanks were kind enough to send me, this time featuring the opening of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.


Once again I’ve been reminded of how enjoyable the high-quality paper is to write on; my fountain pen glides effortlessly over the paper, just as it should.


I think it’s such a lovely idea to feature the works of famous writers on the cover of these gorgeous journals. It gives them such a sense of history, and it makes you feel inspired each time you pick up a pen.


Get your beautiful Paperblanks journal here and discover the therapeutic benefits of diary-writing for yourself. You won’t regret it!

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