If you don’t have time to read this whole guide, stick with #1 and you’ll do just fine!
1. Keep it Simple
Journal writing at its core is simple. You get some paper and a pen, you write a few pages about what’s going on. You do it again tomorrow. And the next day.
We humans are a curious bunch — we make things needlessly complicated. So if you feel yourself getting mired in whether or not you’re doing it right, which journal to use, or when when you “should” write, or if the color of your pen will affect the outcome, take a breath and get back to basics. Words, on a page. It’s really that simple.
2. Keep it Private
Don’t share your journal and shelve it out of reach. Your journaling privacy is essential to the process. Your journal is a safe place for you to explore whatever is on your mind without worrying about how it will affect anyone else. If you fear it will be read, you’ll censor yourself and the benefits of journaling will be lost.
I’m a big believer in the power of the handwritten word. I do the majority of my journaling by hand in a bound Blueline notebook. I’ve experimented with different methods of journal writing, from stacks of loose-leaf paper to password-protected online documentation. I get the best results writing by hand.
Journaling is a powerful tool that everyone can benefit from, so I encourage you to do it however works best for you. The most important part of keeping a journal is keeping it. Writing by hand is my method of choice for several reasons, which I’ll outline here. Give it a try and see if you experience the same benefits.
1. Visual feedback
Flipping through my notebooks, it is evident immediately what mood dominated a writing session. Some pages are filled with neat block letters made by my Pilot Precise V7 black roller pen. Others are smudged with uneven scrawl because my hands were frozen from riding my scooter to the cafe without gloves – evidence I was out of sorts enough to forget details like protecting myself from the elements.
Most cherished, perhaps, are the pages scribbled frantically with a foreign pen – the urgency transparent – stranded somewhere without my usual writing instrument. Perched atop a toilet in the restroom of a restaurant, or writing excitedly in the closet of a sleeping lover.
Privacy is often a central concern for journal writers, especially when you’re first starting out. If you are concerned about someone reading your journal entries against your will, it’s essential that you find a solution to this problem right away.
The need for privacy is one reason people turn to electronic journaling, which enables you to secure entries with a password and “hide” files. This is a perfectly acceptable solution.
However, as I detail in another post, writing by hand in a paper-based journal can be enormously beneficial. See if any of these privacy methods help you feel safe enough to try giving handwritten journaling a shot.
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.
I love stationery. I love stationery in a way that defies explanation. As a result, I have tried dozens of different journals through the years, to varying degrees of success. After many journal trials and tribulations, I’ve found my life partner in Blueline Notebooks.
It’s Just a Phase
I journal daily so I fill my journals in a about two months. (One time I filled one in two weeks, but I was on vacation for much of it with little else to do besides lie in the sun and eat fruit.) I’ve been motivated to write voluminously knowing the faster I fill my current journal, the sooner I get to pick out a new one. Not very zen, but there you have it.
One day I was cruising the University Bookstore, which has a mind-boggling selection of notebooks. I accidentally happened upon a misplaced Blueline A9 hardcover notebook. I promptly bought a case of them and never looked back. I’ve been using them exclusively for more than 15 years.
Below I will walk you through the features of these great notebooks, providing photos of the new blank version, as well as my personalized versions. (more…)
One of the biggest barriers to dedicated journaling is a perceived lack of time. I say “perceived” because there’s always time hiding somewhere. You just have to scare it out and grab it.
Twenty minutes is a respectable amount of time to spend journaling, especially if you do it daily. In my experience, journaling daily for 20 minutes provides better results than journaling for an hour twice a week. Plus, it’s easier to find 20 minutes throughout your day.
What Are You Already Doing?
The easiest way to carve out a pocket of time for journaling is to associate it with something else you’re already doing regularly. Doctors often recommend that a patient store their new medication next to their toothbrush. You don’t have to remind yourself to brush your teeth. But when you’re about to, bam – there’s the visual medication reminder.
What habitual activity can you attach journaling to? (more…)