Over the years, I’ve come to believe that daily journaling is the best method for consistent personal growth and emotional clarity.
If you haven’t kept a journal consistently before, or if it’s been a while since you were dedicated to journaling, I recommend writing daily for at least a month. Once you are in the habit of doing it every day, you can assess your needs and experiment with your schedule. See how you feel after a day or two off. Are able to get back into the swing easily? Or have you totally lost your momentum?
I wrote every single day for several months when I first began, and I did it until I wanted to write daily. Until it was no longer a chore or something to be crossed off my todo list, but an activity I looked forward to and depended on. Until I began holding that time sacred and protecting it possessively from intrusion.
Now I can go a day or two without writing and it doesn’t register on my radar. I normally write every weekday morning. I often don’t write on Sundays. Occasionally I skip Saturday, too. That means Monday is a “brace yourself” kind of journal entry. I have a lot to say, and it usually starts awkwardly. I feel like I haven’t written in forever.
Let’s face it. As much as we love journaling and all the benefits it brings, journal writing is not always a picnic.
Sometimes we just get, well… sick of it. We’re bored with our journals, bored with our writing – even bored with listening to ourselves.
Here are some tips that have worked well for me in the past when I’ve hit the journaling wall. Give one of them a try next time you don’t want to journal and see if they work for you. Let me know how it goes – I always love to hear about your experience!
1. Journal about why you don’t want to
Yes, this is a bit of a trick. But it’s okay to trick ourselves into action once in awhile. When you don’t feel like writing, just write about why you don’t feel like journaling. Your writing may sound like that of a petulant 3 year old, but that’s okay. I don’t wanna! I hate journaling! This is stupid. This is boring!
Once you’re done venting, you may discover that you start writing about the real reasons why you don’t want to journal. Maybe you’re about to hit on some inconvenient truth. Maybe you’re on the cusp of discovering something about yourself that’s going to shatter your worldview, shake up your life. (That is scary stuff. Take it slowly.)
Maybe you’re mired in perfectionism. Worried that all this journaling is happening but you’re not seeing any progress. Or you still can’t write. Or you’re not doing it properly.
Or perhaps you’re concerned deep down about privacy and your fear of being discovered is hampering your desire to document your world.
Maybe you’re just worried about the long-term consequences of putting it in writing — whatever “it” is.
2. Change it Up
Sometimes we fall into a rut. It’s been said the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole. While rituals and regularity can be helpful in establishing habits, a ritual that steers you into a rut is a hinderence. It’s time to shake things up and try something new in your journal.
Write someplace you’ve never written before. Switch morning for evening and vice versa. Try a different pen. Just do something different, something new. A change of scenery can have a huge impact on your journaling.
Novel experiences physically alter your brain chemistry, stimulating you and boosting creativty and motivation. It’s an instant hit of inspiration!
3. Get Creative
If your journal writing has become tiresome, try putting the words aside for a day. Try taking photos instead to tell the story of your life.
Infuse your journaling with some heart. Or make a collage to explain how you’re feeling. One of my favorite ways to collage is to chop up old magazines and use the headlines and text to tell my own narrative.
Try some art journaling.
4. Use Tools
There are plenty of journal writing tools out there, including great decks of cards that supply you with ideas for topics to write on. I really like the Wide Open deck and the Inner Outings kit.
Sometimes a little external nudge will get you moving in the right direction.
5. Use Prompts — or don’t
If you normally use prompts to write in your journal, try taking a break from that and just write from your heart and mind. If your writing is normally unstructured, try a journaling prompt to get you writing again.
6. Change Your Point of View
Write in the third person. Write from the point of view of yourself as a child, or as your significantly-older self. This exercise is like looking at a familiar room while hanging upside down. Everything seems new and different.
7. Take a Break
Although I’m a big believer in the value of daily journaling, it’s okay to take a break, too. I need a day or two off every once in awhile myself. If you’re new to journaling, it’s a good idea to write regularly until it becomes a habit. But if you’ve been doing it awhile, there’s no reason you can’t take a few days away from the page. Go for a walk, get some fresh air.
I almost always find that a little journaling vacation refreshes my desire to write, and I often have lots of material to cover when I return.
Journaling should be enjoyable (most of the time). So if you’re finding yourself sick of it, bored with it, or just plain don’t wanna, try one of these tools to get the juices flowing again.
Have your own recommendations for overcoming journaling blahs? Leave them in the comments below so we can all give it a shot!
Ah, the dry spell. Writer’s block. A journal writer’s worst enemy.
Sometimes all you need to get going in your journal is a gentle push into writing mode. It doesn’t really matter what you write about to get there. It’s like jump-starting a car with a dead battery; once you hit that voltage, it runs effortlessly on its own. The trick is generating that spark.
Writing about what’s directly in front of you is an approachable way to get moving. No intimidating Thoughts or Feelings to worry about. Just tell it like you see it. Funny thing is, the brain loves to supply its opinion about the world. As soon as you start describing, you may find yourself talking about what you think and feel. It’s a little trick on your subconscious.
If that doesn’t happen, then you have a great journal entry capturing a time and place. Perfectly respectable! We don’t have to spend all our time mired in Deep Thoughts – sometimes snapshots of everyday life make the best journal entries.
2. Write a letter to yourself.
This technique works especially well if you’ve hit a stumbling block in your life or are working on some weighty issue, like a career decision or a relationship standstill. Get into the headspace of your favorite person, real or imagined. The one you would turn to for advice.
Now write yourself a letter from their point of view, with observations and suggestions about your situation. Sometimes changing your perspective helps you see solutions or insights that were always there.
3. Become a Feature Story.
This is one of my favorites, and probably the most fun. I’ve found it extremely useful when I need to infuse a situation with some humor. If I’m down in the dumps about the state of my union, I’ll write a press release, Tabloid feature, or even a comic book style story.
When my houseboat was infested with poisonous mold that was making me very sick, I wrote a story called “The Adventures of Tea Tree Girl and Borax Boy,” centered around my battle with removing the mold, superhero style. I later posted it on a blog and it got rave reviews. That made me feel much better about the crap infiltrating my stateroom ceiling, and I can laugh about it in retrospect.
4. Write a Wish List.
Write ten sentences that start with the words “I wish.” When you’re done, grab the sentence that speaks loudest to you and write about it in detail. Your wish list may be petty things like new shoelaces or timeless desires like world peace.
Just get them down on the page without analyzing. You may be surprised with what surfaces!
5. Set the timer and go.
If all else fails, there’s nothing like a dose of timed writing to get the juices flowing. Set your timer for ten minutes and start writing. Don’t even pause until the ten minutes is up. If you have to write “I don’t know what to write” over and over, do it. Eventually your brain will get bored from doing that and throw something colorful your way.
Hopefully these tips will help you get the pen (or keyboard) moving in short order. Just push through – once you’re rolling it’s much easier.
Do you have any tricks that work for you? Post them in the comments so we can all try them out!
Giving up negative behaviors is hard. But our bad habits and addictions hold us back from a truly fulfilling life.
This series of posts will walk you through the process of change from beginning to end. I’ll provide concrete tools and journaling prompts to uncover your motivation and get real about your habits. From identifying a behavior you’d like to change to maintaining your new healthy habits, I’ll walk you through the process beginning to end.
I used this process to quit smoking, change jobs, give up caffeine, start an exercise program, launch a new business and eliminate debt. It works!
Here is the outline of the series. Bookmark this page to follow along with the series.
Today I discovered the power of the most simple prompt in the world:
What do you want?
Try emphasizing different words in the question, and write your response each time. What do YOU want? (As opposed to what your mother or your partner wants for you.) What do you WANT? (Not what you need or what you feel like you should do.) (more…)