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This morning I decided to start going through my old journals, stretching all the way back to 1989—my first "official" journal. I have an old "Diary" that was sort of a guided writing book. But my earliest, honest-to-God journal started in a black and red records book.

It's pretty clear that even at 16 and 17 I already wanted to be a writer full time. I reference this again and again, even quoting from writers I met who made their living doing the work.

I expressed my fears about failing at this at one point, after quoting an unnamed keynote speaker from Journalism Camp, who commented that people tell him they "always meant to write a book." My response to this:

This statement awakened a fear in me. A realization that a lot of people want to do what I want to do. So, if I’m going to be the best, I have to get started.

Pretty profound for a 16-year-old who had only written a handful of short stories and a few dozen newspaper articles to that point. I was already experiencing the angst that would plague me for the next 20 years, until I finally managed to write a book that other people saw. And that same angst plagued me further until I finally embraced being an author and treating it like a business.

I'm planning to spend more time in these journals. It's fun, but it's also enlightening. I can see now that there are some common themes that have been in my life since day one. Being a writer, for sure. Being a better Christian, definitely. Young Kevin has a lot to say on both, and it can be a bit profound.

I'm kind of proud of the kid I was back then. I was already thinking in terms of responsibility, love, happiness. I was already thinking in terms of growth. 

As 2015 edges closer, and as I commit to new ways of growing and improving my life, having these journals to reflect on is an amazing blessing. I wish I'd been more diligent about keeping them. I've committed to journaling more in the future, and I think that's something I won't regret.

If you don't keep a journal of your own, you certainly should. Especially if you want to be an author, but also if you have a drive to improve yourself in any way. Keeping a journal allows you to reflect on the changes that have taken place in your life, and to track your progress as you grow. You can look back at how you thought of the world, years ago, and compare it to how you think of the world now.

Often, we discover who we are by examining differences. Usually we look at the outside world, and compare ourselves to other people. We measure how or lives stack up against the lives of others. But wouldn't it be so much better to look at the differences between who we once were and who we are today? We can see the early seeds of the choices we make, and know the results of those choices. We can learn from the gaps between then and now, take the lessons we can from them, and grow further. 

We can also see the patterns of our lives, and determine what works and what doesn't. Just like marketing, the metrics of our lives matter. Knowing them gives us a foundation from which we can grow. 

I've always kept some kind of journal, though I've slipped from time to time. Looking back, though, I'm reminded of why it's so important. So I'm going to make a commitment to journal regularly. I'm aiming for every day. I think that's a good and helpful habit to develop.

Maybe you should do the same.

And it doesn't have to be you scrawling on the lined pages of a paper journal, by the way. I definitely keep my Moleskine notebooks handy for notes and thoughts, but I keep my primary journal in a digital file. You could do something like that, or turn your journal into a blog you post to regularly. Or maybe you could keep a video journal, talking to the camera of your smartphone each day to get record how your day went, and what you thought of it. Or you could draw something each day that expresses who you are and how you feel.

Keep a record, though. Date it (I like to put the date and the time, in case I do more than one entry per day). And, most important, review it every now and then. Maybe once a year, around Christmas, you could look back on your journal and learn from it. See how you did, see how you're doing, and decide how you want to live in the coming year.

You won't regret doing it. You'll be grateful for it, in the end. 

Go. Start crafting the story of your life. It has amazing benefits,.


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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