Journaling through Poetry and the Importance of Emotion

I’ve always tried to journal and never been very good at it.  I suppose I’ve never felt that my day to day life is very interesting and there are a lot of things in my life that I am more than happy to let fade into the past, rather than recording them onto paper to be burned later.

I mentioned in my last post about poetry that I started a poetry journal when I was 13 years old.  Ever since I read a book that offered the idea of a journal of poems, I have kept one, for nearly ten years.  I draft on paper, on the computer, in the notes section of my phone, and write the final draft by hand in my journal, with a date.  I don’t write poetry habitually, or regularly, I just record my poems when they come.  I have spans of months, and one nearly a year where I didn’t write any new poetry, but in ten years, I have nearly five composition books full.  Poetry is not my form of choice, but it suits the journaling purpose.

I love my poetry journal.  Rather than a traditional journal, keeping track of meaningless details and days and things that I would rather forget, I capture memories and emotions like snapshots in my poems.  When I go back and revisit older journals, I get to feel my memories rather than try to grasp at a faded, grey scale picture, disappearing from my mind.

Emotions are important.  For much of my life, I have always been afraid to share mind, a product of the environment I was raised in.  Instead of vocalizing my feelings, I’ve always written them down.  Even though I’m learning how to express my emotions out loud, it is still so much easier for me to write them down.

My poems often read like letters, addressed sometimes to a specific audience and sometimes to no one or everyone in particular.  I write a lot about my past as a cutter and about living everyday with anxiety and depression and what it’s like being a physical and emotional masochist.  I write about love and friendship, painting pictures with words that don’t come to me except with a pen on paper.

I am a perfectionist, so being able to draft out my emotions in poems and revising the words until my expression if exact is a borderline obsession.  When I tell a person how much they mean to me, I usually write letters and rehearse my words beforehand.  I have a decently large vocabulary and I am meticulous in my word choice.  I don’t like repeating important words, or ones that stand out.  I like variety in my writing, even if it makes it sound pretentious.  I kind of am pretentious.

Writing poetry brings out a certain desperation in me.  In that is the all-consuming need that I have to write, but also the need to express myself personally.  In poems addressed to my boyfriend, I highlight our memories together, the special moments that I never want us to forget because I know that someday we’ll want the reminders so we can cherish them together.  For my best friend, I chronicle the special bond we share.  It is one of those friendships that is difficult to put into words, but I struggle to find a way to explain it anyways.  Poetry seems to be the only way I can capture our unique relationship.

I use my poetry to revisit times when I used to hurt myself, dredging up what I felt at the time.  I want to keep a record of those emotions, to help myself better understand who I am, since my drive for pain is a huge part of me.  Similarly, I document my struggles with depression and social anxiety in my poetry.  There is a lot of frustration in those, since so few people understand what it is like to deal with that special mix of lifelong mental afflictions.  A lot of people have experienced depression in one form or another, but clinical is a different monster and my masochism lends a whole other shade to the spectrum of mental illness.

My drive to write comes from so many places, that desperate need to sort out my emotions, to capture memories, to analyze myself.  I’ve mentioned music as an inspiration for my fiction writing, and it is true of my poetry as well.  The covers of my poetry journals are collections of quotes from songs that have touched me.  Instant inspiration whenever I pick up my journal, a collection of musings from minds other than my own.  Music helps ground me, gives rhythm to my writing.  Music is so heavily tied to emotion, which is where my poetry takes root as well.

So poetry has become my outlet for those things that I have a difficult time saying aloud and for the things that I struggle with on my own.  While novel writing will always be my calling, I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing poetry.  I don’t ever plan on seriously publishing any of my poems, but I hate them less and less every day that I write more of them.  It’s a type of journaling that suits me and feels more meaningful to me.  Emotions are an important thing to express and when you are an introverted writer like me, poetry is a good outlet.