Do you journal? I do. And no, it's not the typical "Dear Diary, Such and such a thing happened to me today. Then more boring stuff happened. Peter in biology is soooooooo hot. The end." garbage. And if it was, it wouldn't matter. Because you don't have to be self conscious about what you put in a journal. When I write in mine, it's mainly stream of consciousness type stuff with no evident connection between one subject and the next. And yes, it often becomes a place for me to bitch relentlessly about the things I dare not put on twitter or facebook; but mostly it's the stream of consciousness stuff.
I often turn to it when I can't come up with an idea for a blog post, or if I feel something important has happened that I must preserve for posterity. I also write in it just because I want to. There's something relaxing about it. I don't have to worry about whether it's good or bad, nor do I need to concern myself with form or structure. Unlike writing that I one day hope will see the light of day with publication, the journal remains a place for wholly creative, unstructured thought.
I also believe it makes for good practice. Sometimes it's hard to write every day, especially when you're trying to write something good every day, something with a purpose. I find the journal takes the pressure off and helps me just get into the habit of daily writing. It doesn't have to be good, it doesn't have to be meant for something, but it does get me putting words down on paper. Not to mention, I find a lot of great ideas come to me when I'm just writing without any kind of goal in mind. It gets the wheels turning and the creative juices flowing. In fact, my journal has worked wonders whenever I've come down with a case of writer's block. Once you get words flowing, more keep coming to take their place.
So what say you? Is the journal a useful writing tool or just another place where we can bitch ceaselessly about petty problems? Do you keep one?