Do you keep a journal? When I ask people that question I usually get one of three responses—yes, no, or what’s that! Journal writing is one of my favorite writing practices.
I have written daily in this way for most of my life. I am taking the lid off here to reveal some interesting truths about this kind of writing.
There is a lot that can be said for journaling. Since it is one of my favorite things to do I enjoy sharing with you what I know and have experienced. Some of the topics covered here are:
- What is a journal?
- How to journal
- Why I journal
So, get comfortable, and let’s explore this “strange” land of journals. You will find it informative and fun at the same time. Let’s get started!
What Is A Journal?
I could take you to a dictionary and give you an official journal definition. Most of them will tell you something like a daily record, as of occurrences, experiences, or observations (That one came from dictionary.com) But, as you get better acquainted with me, you’ll see that I like to look deeper than what shows up on the surface of most things!
Strictly speaking, journals most definitely fit the criteria in the above definition. Though not always kept daily, they are written on a regular ongoing basis. And they do contain occurrences, experiences, and observations. To me, this is just the mere surface, the minimum explanation of what a journal is.
Besides being a record of things that happen, of things you see, of things you experience, your journal can be a wealth of memories, too. Through your journal writing your private thoughts and emotions can find their place to be expressed. This becomes an invaluable look into your own heart as you live each day.
How To Journal
Journal writing should be free and easy. A personal journal is all about noting your thoughts and feelings as you go through the days of your life. There are no formalities involved; there is no right or wrong way to do this. You’re a unique person, and you will, therefore, have a unique journaling style.
Your journal is also not just about written words, although it will have lots of them in it! My own journals contain the following things and more:
- Written pieces, long and short
- Sketches (No! I’m not an artist at all, but I give myself permission to express this way!)
- Sayings, quotations that I like
- Pictures I enjoy (this is so easy when you journal online or on your computer.)
Have a Place and Time to Journal
It is helpful to have a specific place to go to when you are ready to journal. This should be a comfortable, quiet location free of distractions. You want to be free to commune with yourself, to get in touch with your feelings and thoughts.
If you are a morning person with the time in your schedule, you might try journaling first thing before your day gets going too far. I’m a night person. My writing takes place at the end of my evening. Find the time and place that are right for you. Play around with your own situation to find that right balance of place and time.
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Another part of this is deciding how often you want to journal. Here again you get to make the “rules.” Although I believe that writing daily entries is invaluable, if that is not possible for you then determine how often you do want to write. Maybe Saturday morning works for you, or Tuesday and Thursday evening. Make yourself a plan.
Sometimes writing in a journal can take a little time. Make yourself comfortable so you won’t be fighting with yourself, wanting to jump up or feeling distracted.
Put on clothing that is comfortable. Grab a beverage or snack if you like. Find that favorite piece of furniture. If you’re a pet person, let Fluffy or Fido (whatever your pet of choice) take a spot nearby if they’ll stay quiet. Some folks find that soft music in the background helps them as well.
Comfort is the important thing. You are more likely to write and stay with it when you are not uncomfortable and distracted. Journaling gives you the opportunity to be nice to yourself, to take a little “me” time. That’s not a bad thing!
Use the Medium That Is Right For You
There are so many journal products or methods available today. I think I’ve used most of them! Through the years I’ve bought journals (lined and unlined pages) and diaries. I’ve used lined filler paper and plain printer paper. I’ve made my own books and binders using different colors of printing paper.
Today I use sketch pads for when I want to write pen to paper. And I set up diary folders in my computer for when I feel like journaling through a keyboard. I find myself using my pen and sketch pad when I’m going in slower mode, and using my computer when my thoughts are flowing fast or when I don’t have a lot of time.
Play around with different mediums to discover what you like the best. Whatever you like IS what is best for you!
Let Your Thoughts & Feelings Flow
Once you are comfortably in your journaling place with your supplies in front of you, you’re ready to write an entry. This is where the big freeze can stop you. What do I write? How do I start? There’s one more thing to do: Give yourself permission to freely express what is on the inside of you.
No one is going to grade you on your journal. Just say what you’re thinking! Asking yourself some basic questions at first will help you get the flow started.
- What did I do today?
- How did I feel about that?
- What did I read or watch that touched me?
- How did it touch me?
- Did I accomplish anything today?
- What did I mess up today?
- Did I learn something interesting today?
- What made me happy, sad, etc.
- What am I doing for entertainment?
As you can see from this list of questions, there is no limit at all on what you can record in your journal. Your entries become the story of your day-to-day life. With every entry you write, the process becomes easier for you, more natural. Before you know it, you’ll just sit down and begin to write with ease.
Have a “Safe” Place to Keep Your Journal
If you live alone you may be good with leaving your latest journal out on the table in the living room all the time. I find that works well for me since I only have Robin, my cat, to deal with. She is usually present when I write in my journal, but I have never known her to pull it out and read it when I’m not around!
For those with others in the home, this may not be such a great idea. Having a special place to keep your journal is an excellent idea. Think about what that might mean for you. The back corner of a closet shelf, that deep dark cavern in a kitchen cabinet, a private spot in the laundry room or bedroom—you have that just-right “hidey hole” somewhere for your journal!
Why I Journal
I’m sure everyone who journals does so for different reasons. Our uniqueness makes this true. And it makes our journals quite interesting! I’ll go into more specifics about this in another post.
For me writing daily is like breathing air—I can’t live without it. My close friends can tell when I haven’t written in a few days. They tell me I sound different. My attitudes change. That’s pretty powerful!
Journaling helps me release tensions from my day. As a believer, journaling has become part of my prayer time, part of my fellowship with the Lord. It also helps me resolve conflicts within myself so I don’t carry emotional garbage for long.
When I look back through my journals, some of which are decades old, I easily see how they have become an interesting look back into exactly what I was feeling, thinking, and experiencing at those times. For a writer, this is a plethora of story material!
As I read through my entries, I am also aware of how I have grown, how I have changed. It is quite interesting to see myself this way, through my own eyes, through my own history. In a very real sense my journal is my history.
Your Personal Journal
To sum it all up, journal writing is a great gift you give yourself. The benefits reaped from this writing practice are amazing and too numerous to tell.
So, are you journaling? If you are, hooray! Don’t stop now! Go deeper and deeper! Enjoy yourself! If you’re not, though, please consider beginning. It’s not hard. There is no right or wrong. The only way you fail is if you just don’t do it!
Watch my blog for more posts on this topic of journaling. I’ll be sharing a lot more about including some fun journal ideas and exercises! In the meantime, get out there and get your personal journal going!
If you are interested in learning how I can work with you on your writing project, click here.
Thank you and God bless!