I love journaling. Journaling’s my favorite.
I started journaling in 10th grade and have been doing it off and on since then. I’ve had times of great journaling consistency and times of inconsistency.
But lately, with a few strategies I’ll share with you today, I’m on a journaling roll and believe in its value now more than ever.
I’m particular about my journals (I keep a few). For example, I have an simple, plain, black, leather-style notebook that I keep notes about my writing projects and other work-related things.
But my personal journal is different. I like a personal journal that stores little surprises for me, like quotes or drawings, that help me focus and reflect. I’ll give you an example.
My most recent journal has pink flowers and gold flowers on the cover. I picked it out in a rush and wasn’t crazy about the pink flowers or the title on the cover, “Always Be Kind.” (I know. So cynical.) While I believe it’s important to be kind in principle, I wasn’t sure I wanted the daily reminder. Sometimes I journal when I’m angry and not feeling so kind.
But it also has quotes, which I really like and it’s been one of my favorite journals ever.
The quotes are about being kind, like this one,
“I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay…small acts of kindness and love.” JRR Tolkien.
What a great nugget of truth.
Some people like to journal electronically, like in a journal app. I prefer writing longhand in a notebook. It feels more intimate to me. My handwriting is unique, like my fingerprint.
What’s the purpose of journaling?
Journaling is great for:
- mind dumps
- clarifying what’s on your mind
- chronicaling a journey
- writing practice
Sometimes when I’m feeling conflicted about something or struggling with an issue, journaling helps me clarify my feelings about it. That sounds strange to say because who doesn’t know what they think about things? But many times, I don’t. I’m a very “Living in the gray” kind of person. Things are rarely absolutely black and white.
Sometimes I can have an opinion about something but something about that opinion still doesn’t feel right. Although, to be truthful, I rarely write about current events or issues. I mostly write about me, my thoughts, my feelings, and my impressions about what’s happening in the world.
I don’t expect my journals to be read by anyone else, except maybe when I’m dead. They’re for me. 100%. That frees me up. I don’t have to hold back or think about what I can say without hurting someone else’s feelings.
I think maybe I’ll write a disclaimer at the front of every journal, something like: Please understand that I write in the heat of the moment. If I vented about you, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means I was angry, frustrated, or annoyed with life in general and maybe you in particular.
Journals can be like a “Dear Diary” or can be a chronicle of a trip or journey toward a goal. I’ve kept a gratitude journal in which I wrote specifically who and what I felt grateful for and why.
I keep a notebook of writing ideas, story issues, plot points, and blog ideas.
If you’ve ever thought about journaling but have never gotten past the first page, here are some tips I recommend to get you started.
Decide how long you will write.
Start by setting your timer for a designated time. Work with what you have. If you only can set aside 5 minutes a day, then 5 minutes it will be. It may not sound like much, but 5 minutes is better than 0 minutes. You may be surprised at how quickly you fill the pages by writing just a short time several days a week.
Also, decide how often you will write.
3-5 times a week may be good to start and set the days you’ll journal, like Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. Or you can shoot to journal every day for 5 or 10 minutes. No worries if you miss a day. Pick it up the next day.
Remember, it’s for you.
I used to write for hours when I was feeling down or angry and I’d look back on those journals and actually feel bad for that angry, discouraged girl. It may have helped at the time, but I can’t say for sure.
I definitely vent and mind dump all over my journal, but I also use the space to gain perspective for a more positive outlook on whatever’s on my mind.
What do I do with it?
Keep it if you want, but you don’t have to. Put it in a time capsule, in a lockbox, will it to be buried with you.
But you might be surprised at how interesting your experiences may be to some one in the future. We are, after all, living through a historic event.
I just finished reading Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. Great book and one of the most compelling things about it are the personal accounts of the harrowing Antartic journey as written in a log book, or journal. The details fill in the blanks of their incredible story of survival.
Here’s one historian’s view on the value of journals: Historian: Why We Should All Be Keeping Coronavirus Journals
If you’ve ever thought about keeping a journal, now is a great time to start.
And remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Find the way that suits you best and then keep it going!
Read more about keeping a gratitude journal on the blog: Make every day better with an attitude of gratitude
Do you journal? What’s been your experience with it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter of journaling in the comments.