Henry David Thoreau on Journaling

“We should not endeavor coolly to analyze our thoughts, but, keeping the pen even and parallel with the current, make an accurate transcript of them.”

— Henry David Thoreau, in his personal journal, March 7, 1837

I’ve begun digging my way through Henry David Thoreau’s Journal and am struck by how many of his early entries are, like mine and I suspect many others, filled with angst and doubt about the purpose of such an exercise. I find it quite comforting to know that even one of literature’s great writers and thinkers struggled to keep a journal, questioned the entire idea of it, did so only in fits and starts, but kept at it all the same. And, by doing so, even haphazardly, bore such great fruit and insights about nature, philosophy, community, and solitude to be enjoyed well over a century later.

So, the next time you struggle with journaling, remember that there is no “perfect” and even the greats mostly failed. The difference is that they failed forward and continued despite themselves. You may not be sure of the purpose now or in your lifetime. Focus only on capturing the moment and mood of now. Let time judge the worth of it all.