Here's Why Keeping Your Old Journals Can Actually Be Super Useful If You're A Writer

by Melissa Ragsdale
Caleb Thal/Stocksy

There's a drawer in my childhood bedroom that's so stuffed with my old journals and diaries that it won't close. Whenever I leave the house, I consider my journal as much a necessity as my wallet, and I always carry one with me.

As I use my journal, I sort of grow a relationship with it. My journal feels like my friend, my companion. Inevitably, the more I carry it around the more worn down it gets. The corners crease, the edges fray, and somehow in that process it becomes more mine. The more I use it, the more of myself it carries inside it.

Finishing a journal can feel really good, but it can also feel like parting with a dear friend. Whenever I finish a journal, I feel a little bit at a loss of what to do with it. Now that I don't have any more room to write in it, what function does it really have?

Through most of my life, my journals have wound up in that dark drawer—ignored, gathering dust, and taking up space. But through every deep clean and re-organization, I've never felt like I could throw them out. That would be like throwing away a piece of myself.

Lately I've been thinking about how to better use and honor my completed journals. So, let's talk about what to do when your journal is all filled up.


Re-read them.

Have you ever gone back and reread an old journal? It's a fascinating experience. Even that journal is entirely filled with to-do lists, reading an old journal is invariably a fascinating, deep-dive into who you were at that point in time. And I've found that as I read an old journal, I'm better equipped to process the things that were happening then, as well as what's going on in my present life.


Index them.

If you want to take things one step further, or if you're thinking about turning your journals into a memoir or larger project, you might want to index your journal. This involves going through your journal and keeping track of which topic is on each page. It's an interesting way to meditate on your writing, and it will be extraordinarily helpful for keeping organized.


Pull out pieces of writing to play with and expand.

Look, I'm the first to admit that most of the writing in my journals is not great. But that's the beauty of them: They're a space where I can write what I need to, without trepidation that anyone else will ever read it. What you journal by no means has to be "good writing" but you may end up with a few gems that you can include in writing you'd like to be published.


Type them up.

Sometimes typing something up helps you process it and understand it in an entirely new way. Just like above, this is another opportunity to explore and experiment with your writing. Plus, it serves as a nice back-up in case your journal collection is ever ruined or lost.


Display them.

I recently moved a few of my journals out of the drawer and onto a shelf by my desk. Having them there, in plain sight, has felt really good. It's a reminder of who I've been and what I've accomplished. Plus, most of my journals are pretty cute! Try dedicating a shelf or a basket to your journals where you can have them out in the open. If space is an issue, maybe keep some of your journals in storage, and some out in the open.