Today I’m encouraging you to write your story. We’re talking about journaling. Old-fashioned, pen to paper, recording your thoughts journaling. I’m not really a “Dear Diary” sort of girl, but I’ve been journaling since I was a kid. Unfortunately, I’ve always felt like my life was way too boring for anyone to take interest in and threw all of those away. Considering how many decades I’ve been doing it, it’s a crying shame that I have only a handful of journals to show for it. I now refuse to throw them away…boring or not.
For me, journaling is like therapy.¹ I spill my guts about things that are happening and it helps me find some clarity. Or at least it helps me vent about it, so that I can have a little bit of peace and not let it consume my every thought. As I purge it all to the pages of my journal, I also often find a resolution as I weigh pros and cons, see both sides, or just plain decide not to give a crap anymore and move on. I may never read those pages again, and maybe no one ever will, but to me there is value in that and they’re worth saving.
I also write about things I want for my life. Set goals. Hash out the details of the next big dream I’ll be chasing. Doodle. I stick in photos, ephemera, and all manner of collected bits. I write quotes that inspire me. And sometimes, I just write down boring, mundane notes about a day that is just like any other day.
Eventually, I will get into more detail about the different ways I journal (or memory keep), because a key step is finding the type of journaling that works for you, but today I just want to give a few pointers on creating the habit of journaling and finding ways to stick to it.
Pen. Paper. In theory, that’s all you need, but I couldn’t possibly more strongly suggest that you find a notebook that speaks to you. Something you find beautiful and inspiring. Something that makes you want to take a moment of your day to open its pages and write your story. Something that you can toss in a bag and take with you for spontaneous journaling that will eventually show dents, scratches, stains and all manner of small marks that tell a story all on their own.² Any other supplies are extra (and I do like extra) and depend upon what type of journaling you plan to do. Art supplies? Photos? Souvenirs? Skies the limit.
Okay. Okay. Yes. You can journal on a computer, but…really? We’re trying to get you off of some of those devices, remember? And there is nothing warm and inviting about sitting down and click-clacking away on a keyboard. I mean, to each their own and I will try not to judge you. Moving on.
Oh, how I get this struggle, but it’s key. Find the time. Wake up early for some fresh out of bed mind-dumping as you enjoy your coffee? Swoon. Right before bed as you wind down and get the days thoughts our of your brain to better ensure a good night’s sleep? That’s my jam. Twenty minutes during your lunch break? Hey. Whatever works for you. Just find the time. Commit to it. Practice good hygiene and journal. Daily.
Dude. Calm down. It’s just a journal. Write in it already. Make mistakes. Scribble or white them out. Enjoy the process. I once wrote about the paralyzing fear that a new notebook or sketchbook or canvas can bring to some people. You open it, see its pristine pages and worry you’ll f%$& it up. Well, I say, f%$& it up! Get in there. Make a mess. Create awesome. If you’re still not sure, read this. I gave some worthwhile pointers that helped me totally get over this struggle.
And if you miss a day it’s not the end of the world. Don’t throw in the fountain pen and call it quits. Just write the next day. Maybe you can eve go back and quickly journal about the day you missed if it’s worth doing and then get cracking on the day at hand. If not, don’t worry about it. I’m currently using a Hobonichi Cousin as my journal, so the days are all dated and I can easily go back and fill a page in if something came up and I couldn’t do it on the day. Easy. Peasy.
Keep it Secret. Keep it Safe.
Journals and diaries have a longstanding history of being top secret. Rightly so. We profess our love, sort through our pain, and probably talk a little smack about some people. If what you are writing is sensitive material, and you’re worried about others reading it, find a spot you can keep yours that removes that concern. I live alone and don’t really have people rummaging through my things, so most of mine are just out and about. Or rather, I have so many notebooks, sketchbooks, and planners that someone would be hard-pressed to find the one with all the good bits worth reading.³
Still worried about it? I know people that write their pages just for the therapy of it and then…dun dun dun…glue them together. Of course, they’ll never be able to go back and read them, but neither will anyone else, and you’ve at least benefited from the experience of writing it down.
Make it Special
We are more likely to stick with a habit when it’s something we look forward to. If a quick, 20 minute brain dump is all you can manage before rushing out the door or while gobbling down a sando before getting back to work…get it! But it’s only a matter of time before you stop giving even that much effort to it, right? Now what if journaling happened in a bubble bath, with wine, and candles? Or what if there was a lovely coffee shop, a latte, a scone, a hottie two tables over that provided a much needed creative boost, both of you reaching for the stir sticks as…but I digress. While those scenarios aren’t standard for daily journaling in our busy lives, try to make them special nonetheless (and maybe Sunday nights are bubble baths and wine!). Personally, most days of the week, my journaling time looks like this:
Me finally sat at my small drafting table in my living room at the end of my day with the TV on, collaging a few bits into the pages or doodling something, writing during commercials instead of fast forwarding otherwise I’m 20 minutes into the show with no idea what just happened and rewinding again, and again, and again. Screw it. Hit pause. Write. Likely get interrupted by my dog. Write more. Admire my pages, their flaws and all, and then relax for a few minutes before bed.
It’s not “meet your soulmate at the coffee shop” special, but it’s my time, and it happens nightly (obviously, there are nights I can’t manage it, but that’s life), and it’s working for me. Then again, sitting at my drafting table means I’m surrounded by art and stationery supplies and that’s pretty much the same as meeting your soulmate, right? Or perhaps I should get out more.
All that’s left to be done is the doing. Don’t get hung up on what you’re writing about. You’re not writing the next great American novel. It’s your journal and it’s only for you. Write whatever helps you in the moment. Whatever inspires you. Whatever comes out of your pen. Go write your story.
¹ And let’s be honest, we could all benefit from a little bit of therapy.
² I can tell you exactly when and where I acquired many of the marks on my leather covers.
³ To anyone reading this that actually has access to my journals. Errrr…just kidding. They’re all tucked away in super secret places and protected by hobbits. I mean…journals? What journals? These are all just empty notebooks with nothing interesting whatsoever. Yeah.