Journals and Diaries – What Is the Difference?

Journaling Journals and diaries serve different purposes. Some writers use journals for more than mere documenting the facts. Journals are places where feelings, emotions, wishes and personal observations can reside, and secluded thoughts can be expressed privately.

Diaries, on the other hand, are places where the facts can be stored without persuasion of the writer’s points-of-view influencing the content. There is a place in this world for both since the two, when used correctly, serve different purposes.

One unique difference in the two is how some express themselves through art journaling.

Remembering that there are no rules for how a journal should be constructed, some artists like to use journaling as a place where their creativity can be unleashed and then stored for future reference. Sometimes the pages are prepared with a theme and a purpose, somewhat like a scrapbook, and sometimes they are not.

Sometimes the final results on the pages in an art journal reveal inner thoughts and ideas that can be open for interpretation, thereby spurring the artist’s creativity. When the artist uses art journaling as a means for identifying a hidden structure upon which an artistic rendering can be developed, it better demonstrates the function that journaling plays than when talking about a traditional journal wherein thoughts are penned with no artistic element.

When an artist freely draws or washes colors on a page the brain comes alive with ideas.

At the outset a final image may be far from clear, even the piece’s general direction may be unknown, but once the medium is committed to the page the ideas begin to gain traction. The more ink or paint or charcoal or pencil or whatever expressive substance is laid on the surface, the clearer the artist’s direction becomes. I guess you could say that the fog begins to lift as the idea develops.

Therein lays the difference between journals and diaries.

The facts that are recorded in a diary do not have to develop. Who, what, where, when, why and how can be taken at face value in large part, with little left to interpretation or imagination.

Much like a news report, the facts should be the story. Conversely, a journal contains the subjective aspects of the event being documented and provides a different dimension to the facts.

That dimension is human subjectivity, and subjectivity is permitted in journaling. It makes journaling the perfect place to expand the thoughts with description and explore possibilities.

Instead of “what?” the journal can be used to ponder the “what if?”

Instead of “why?” it can be an examination of “why not?”

Instead of simply “who,” the journal is the place to question with thoughts of “who cares?”

And at any time, the journal can be closed and locked for privacy and safekeeping, only to be accessed by permission.

Journals and diaries can be effective tools for similar or different uses; the decision about how the two should be used rests completely with the reporter, the artist, the author, or with avid scrapbooking enthusiasts.


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