Who keeps a journal or diary?

Twelve years ago, in 1996, I did some of my own market research about how many people keep diaries/journals. Here’s what I found after speaking to 114 people at a mall that attracted people from around the US and the world:

  • 16% of the people I interviewed currently kept a journal or diary
  • 50% of the people I interviewed had kept a journal or diary at some point in their lives

Those statistics really surprised me! I knew that many people wrote in journals/diaries, but the numbers really astounded me. Who are these people that keep journals?

By speaking to literally thousands of journal keepers during the past 10 years I’ve learned about all kinds of people who keep journals or diaries. A wide range of people keep journals, and of course there are some people who fit into several categories below. Here’s a short list:

  • Writers—professional and aspiring
  • People involved with personal growth and development—seeing or not seeing a therapist or coach
  • People on spiritual and religious quests
  • People in transition—looking for a new career; starting college; newly graduated; recently moved; recently married; recently divorced
  • Business people and professionals who want to improve their careers
  • People who are grieving over the loss of a loved one
  • People trying to stop a damaging behavior such as drinking alcohol, taking drugs, cigarette smoking, and/or overeating
  • People concerned about their health and may have a specific condition or disease–e.g. asthma, cancer, headaches
  • Memoirists—those who want to write about their past
  • People who need to keep legal records, for example for child custody suits
  • People who are recently retired and trying to figure out what’s next

Seems to me that most journal keepers are trying to improve their lives. I think people who keep journals agree with Socrates: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Journal writers generally believe that it is important to think for themselves to create a better life.

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