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Empty Journals

Don't let fear keep you from trying

By Jessica NorrisPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
Empty Journals
Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

If Weird Collectors Anonymous were an actual support group, I would need to go to it.

"My name is Jessica, and I collect journals that I don't use."

I have this habit of starting to write in a journal or notebook and then leaving half of the journal blank. Or worse, I don't fill the journal with anything at all. I have a growing collection of journals half-full of hopes, dreams, stories, and accounts of my daily life. The other halves stay blank, the pages waiting for me to do SOMETHING with them.

It's bad. How bad? I have three half-finished journals I am writing in now, and this week I bought a new journal at Barnes & Noble, because it looked so shiny and pretty.

New journals thrill me. They're packed with potential. When the blank pages connect with a new black gel pen, I feel satisfied. I start out strong, but then the excitement wanes. I feel like I have to keep using the journal for a consistent purpose. For example, if I start a story in it, the journal must be used to write that story. But then I find out I'm just following the plot of The Terminator, and I don't know where to go with it anymore. So, the journal remains unfinished.

If objects could be insulted, my journals would be.

"Why would you leave us to collect dust on the shelf?" they ask. "Aren't we good enough for you anymore?"

"It's not that. I'm just not good enough to fill you," I reply.

And now it's been too long since I've written in that journal. I can't go back to writing in it now, I tell myself. That would be weird. The story can't be finished now. I don't even remember where I was going with it. It's not good enough. That was lame.

I am a perfectionist. I'm afraid of doing it wrong.

If the journal can't be used consistently all the way through or a story finished, then it should remain empty. It shouldn't be used at all.

Perfectionism paralyzes. Fear paralyzes. I'm sure that's not original, but it's true.

Some things are meant to be used, even if they are used imperfectly. It's better to use gifts and fail, than to have something and never use it because you're afraid. Take risks even when there is fear. Sometimes you need to write in the journal, even if it's not perfect. Look at me getting all metaphorical! I love writing.

Years later, what will the conversation be?

Will it be this?

"You had all these journals, why did you leave all these pages blank?"

"I was afraid that my writing wasn't good enough to fill such beautiful pages."

"You had all these talents and abilities, why didn't you use them?"

"I was afraid of using them wrong."

Or will it be this?

"You had all these journals. They're filled, but the writing is inconsistent. There are fragments of all sorts of ideas and stories blown all over the pages. Why did you do that?"

"Because journals are meant to be used. Yeah, maybe one page was a 'to do' list. And the next ten were the first chapter of a book I never finished writing. But the essay after that reached thousands of readers. The poem after that was the first one I got published in a magazine. And after that, it's full of my most traumatic moments that I needed to process through writing. Some of it was the first draft of a short story that I had to rewrite five times before it became what I wanted it to be.

Some of it was written in blue ink and some is in black ink. Heck, some of it was in red ink, because I couldn't find another pen that day that worked.

I scribbled and doodled. I wrote down ideas and the next four paragraphs of my novel, while I was waiting in the airport for my flight to board. I wrote down the contact information of my best friend, so I could put it in my phone.

Yes, they're all a mess. But they are beautiful, because I used them. I used them for what they were meant to be used for. Maybe my work wasn't perfect or profound, but at least I tried."

"You had all these talents and abilities. What did you do with them?

"I used them. Yes, I used them. I failed a lot. I made a lot of false starts and a lot of mistakes. But I tried.

I tried, and I never gave up.

I didn't do it alone. I had help. And with that help, I kept trying. Fear didn't keep me from using the gifts I had been given. Some of my efforts were imperfect. I tried lots of things that didn't work. But I tried, and that is far better than fear dictating a blank ending to the story."

An imperfect story is better than the non-existent story.

A journal filled with story fragments and thoughts is far better than the journal that was never filled for fear of "doing it wrong."

A life lived with mistakes is far better than a life paralyzed by fear.

So I fill the journal, writing with my favorite black gel pen. I write. And slowly, the fear of making it perfect goes away. Art is about creating. It's about touching other people. My work might not be pretty the first time or the eighth time around. But it will never be good unless I try.

And I live my life, using the gifts I have been given. Because when I look back, I want to say I made every effort and made mistakes. What I don't want to say is that I let fear keep me from trying.


Don't let fear win.


By Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Disclaimer: The opening statement is not meant in any way to insult or degrade Alcoholics Anonymous or other support groups for people struggling with addiction.


About the Creator

Jessica Norris

Passionate writer that is enthusiastic about writing engaging, compelling content. Excels in breaking down complex concepts into simple terms and connecting with readers through sharing stories and personal experience.

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