"Writing out lyrics – or poems, bits of prose, or lines from TV shows – allows me to capture my wordless experiences"Rosie Bradbury

I started journaling when I was fifteen years old, initially inspired by YouTube videos of journal flick-throughs showcasing beautiful artwork and calligraphy. I loved watching people transforming their everyday experiences into art. I would save receipts, glue magazine cut-outs, record inspiring things I’d heard people say that day, and document my every move.

I remember documenting a day trip to York – the train tickets, the receipts from lunch, the mint wrapper from the restaurant where we ate dinner – all glued into my journal, which was literally beginning to burst at the seams. It was a beautiful day that I wanted to record as beautifully as possible. I used colour, printed out photos, wrote extended passages of descriptions of the weather, what we did, and how the food tasted.

But then I got older and life got a little messier, and day-trips stopped seeming so exciting. I stopped wanting to chronicle every single thing that happened to me or every single thing that I felt. I was intimidated by the blank pages of my beautiful notebooks, scared to ruin them with my messy writing and ugly stories. I felt disconnected from my writing, because it was either too real or too fake, too sad or too faux-happy.

Writing in a journal was meant to be an aesthetic experience, an opportunity to create something beautiful whilst simultaneously creating a bank of memories. But these feelings weren’t beautiful, and I certainly didn’t want to remember them – journaling was no longer for me. Writing about my feelings felt awkward. Being honest and unfiltered – and recording this in a way that meant anyone could potentially find it – felt risky and it took some getting used to.

Writing shouldn’t just be about making something beautiful. In fact, the best writing I do is the messiest. This is when I’m at my most honest, and the process becomes cathartic. I started reaching for my journals again when I realised this, that writing and perfectionism can, and must, be untangled from each other. It took me a while to break my perfectionist habits, but scribbling and scrawling over a few pages to create an absolute mess was a good starting point. I still fill my journals with magazine cut-outs, because it breaks up the intimidating white space – but they’re not curated anymore, and I usually end up scrawling over those, too. Sometimes it’s a nice change to write in black ink on the dark paper of some clippings; to know you’ve written something but not be quite able to make it out is surprisingly freeing.

The difficult thing about journaling is that language always feels insufficient. We feel as humans, but this doesn’t always translate coherently into words. A lot of the time, my writing experiences just melt into scribbles and frustration. But, in reality, this whole process of chaos is something that helps me to express things most authentically; capturing feelings not just by writing things out neatly but by completely ‘messing up’ the page, crafting a visual representation as well as a linguistic one.

In taking the time to disentangle my feelings, I am able to make sense of them

It has taken me a while to reconnect with my written voice, to stop filtering it through the fake-happy narrator and to start channelling my actual voice instead. Interestingly, I discovered that writing out lyrics was the most useful way into this. Using other people’s words often helps me shape my own. Sometimes I layer these over those magazine cut outs, adding an artistic element, however hastily done, to what often felt like the most artless words.

Writing out lyrics – or poems, bits of prose, or lines from TV shows – allows me to capture my wordless experiences and coaxes me into understanding what I’m feeling. Sometimes I leave it at that. Other times, this is just a stepping stone, something to get my hand moving and the words flowing, something to get my mind working.

I can’t recommend keeping a journal enough. Whether it’s for daily catharsis, a weekly vent or even just a monthly check-in, writing words down forces you to comprehend them. To write, you have to process – even if feelings can’t always be put into coherent words, writing forces you to take those floating ideas and somehow represent them on the page. Simultaneously writing makes things easier to process: in taking the time to disentangle my feelings, I am able to make sense of them – more than I would if I never tried to put them into words.


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Why I write

When I’m confused, I write. When I’m angry, I write. When I’ve been hurt by someone, I write. It makes me consider each side of my feelings, to step outside of myself and fashion what seem like unexplainable emotions into coherency. Sometimes it’s just words without sentences to frame them. Sometimes it’s just one word, repeated over and over. Sometimes it’s considered and comprehensible. It changes.

Journaling helps me to truly connect with my emotions on a higher plane than just sitting and thinking – or sitting and wallowing. Even if this starts as just copying out other people’s words, or even if that’s all it amounts to, whether it is beautiful or messy, allowing my words to take shape on the page is cathartic. It keeps me connected to myself, but simultaneously allows me to start understanding who that self actually is

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