This is the first interview in a new series I’m very excited about. I will be interviewing all kinds of journalers about their experiences journaling and their roadblocks and successes.
I hope this helps you get to know your fellow journalers and readers of this website (say hi!), get some fresh ideas for new ways of journaling, and understand you are not alone in the unique struggles of the journal writer.
Our first interview features Kaley Henning, an artist and designer who’s been journaling for more than ten years.
How did you get started journaling?
Honestly, I don’t even remember. From a young age, I was always attracted to a blank notebook. The first time I remember specifically writing in a journal i was about 7 or 8 and I was watching Forrest Gump in my living room with my older brothers. It was a small journal with pre-dated pages.
Since then, I’ve bought countless notebooks, journals, and even had numerous online journals through various websites like livejournal.com, teenopendiary.com, opendiary.com, blogspot.com, etc.
How often do you write?
It varies. A couple years ago I was writing multiple times a day, but the past few months I’ve been in a rut and have barely written at all, once a month or so. Right now, I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, so far so good!
Where do you write?
Most of the time I write at home in my bedroom. I’ve tried writing in coffeehouses or other places, but I’m just not comfortable writing in public. If I really feel the need to get out of the house and write, I’m a lot more comfortable writing on my computer.
I think it’s a privacy issue for me; I’m always afraid people are secretly trying to look over my shoulder or are going to judge me for what I’m writing or what it looks like…and my journals are for me, not for anybody else. It also depends on what my mood is when I’m writing. If I’m happy, I tend to write at my desk, but if I’m upset or sad, I tend to get in bed and write as a means of comforting myself.
Do you prefer morning or night?
I prefer evening or nighttime for journaling. Interesting question though, I journaled immediately upon waking up for the first time this morning, before I even got out of bed. I got the idea out of the archives and thought it was worth giving a try.
It was an interesting experience because it was new to me, and it was great to be able to write with a clear mind, but I found that morning writing probably isn’t for me. I found myself writing ‘I don’t know what to write’ multiple times because my head was fuzzy, and I was a little bit distracted because I needed to go to the bathroom. I think I’ll probably stick to journaling later in the day.
Do you have a preferred journal or notebook?
Actually, no. I’ve yet to find that perfect notebook. I love the look and feel of a new Moleskin, but there is something really special to me about a marbled composition book. I have some problems with my handwriting (much like many other people) and issues with being a perfectionist, and it makes it difficult to keep a journal past 10 or so pages.
For a long time I thought it was a problem with the notebook or journal I was choosing, so I switched around a LOT. But soon, I realized that it was an issue with myself, not with the notebooks. So now I’m working on not worrying so much about what it looks like and trying to learn how to be okay with my un-perfect handwriting.
I recently bought Keri Smith’s “Wreck This Journal” in hopes that destroying (or attempting) a journal would push me outside my comfort zone and help me in all areas of journaling.
Do you use writing prompts, free writing, or a combination?
Most of the time I just free write. I rarely use prompts because I feel that for me, journaling is more beneficial if I’m writing about what is relevant and important to me at that time.
I have a separate journal that is only for prompts, but I rarely use it because I don’t really feel the need. Lots of times, I feel like journal prompts are a little bit trite and overused, which is the opposite of what I want for my journals. I prefer my journals to be my own thoughts and concerns, not responses to other people’s thoughts or concerns.
Have you ever found it necessary to take a break from journaling?
Necessary? No. Have I? Yes. In the past few days, I’ve been attempting to come off of a 5 or 6 month journaling hiatus. I didn’t intend to stop writing, but I stopped making time for it and I gradually stopped doing it.
I was going through a lot of emotional things and journaling seemed so overwhelming because there were so many things I needed to write about that I never wanted to even start. But really, had I kept going, journaling would have helped me tremendously through that time.
Has journaling led to any important changes or events in your life?
Without a doubt, yes! My journal is a place that I work through mundane, everyday issues such as a simple to-do list as well as big things like how to handle an abusive relationship or what major to choose in college.
I probably could have made these decisions on my own, but being able to journal about them helped me work through what would be best for me and make good decisions. I really believe that being able to write about big and small things in my life has helped me make the decisions that led me to where I am today.
What has surprised you most about journaling?
On the surface, journaling seems so easy and so carefree. It seems so simple – you buy a notebook and all you need is a pen or pencil and youre good to go. But in reality, there are a lot of things that can come up that make it more difficult than many people would think.
For me, I dislike my handwriting and I have a need for perfection that I’ll never be able to achieve. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the amount of things going on in my life and stop writing when I need it the most, then it is difficult to get back into the habit of writing. I learned this with my first journal, the one I mentioned earlier with the pre-dated pages.
While journaling is extremely rewarding, it can is not without its difficulties. But like anything else, those difficulties can be overcome.
What is your biggest journaling challenge that you’ve had to overcome?
Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve actually overcome any of my challenges or issues that have arisen regarding journaling. Even though I’ve been journaling for 10-15 years, I still consider myself a newbie because of the things I still struggle with and have yet to learn how to overcome.
I still struggle with getting past my handwriting, I still struggle with my journal being too pretty to write everyday things in, I still struggle with hating the way my journal looks. Yet I’m still so in love with the concept and art of journaling.
What is your biggest journaling roadblock or hurdle?
Honestly, my need for perfection. As a human being, none of us will ever be perfect, including myself and including my journals. No matter how hard I try to only write with my prettiest handwriting or only write using perfect grammar or great punctuation, it will never be perfect, yet I constantly want it to be.
Perfection is something I encounter in my journals on a daily basis and have yet to learn how to handle or overcome. Honestly, what keeps me going is knowing that in a few weeks or months, I’ll be able to look back at my journal and fall in love with the indents of my pen on each page, the sound the pages make after being written on when you turn them, and the look of a ‘used’ notebook.
Those things I find absolutely beautiful, and it is those things that keep me going, perfect or not.
Advice for journaling newbies?
Well like I said before, even though I’ve been journaling for 10-15 years, I still consider myself a newbie. But for people just starting out, I’d tell them to try not to let any preconceived ideas about what journaling is or what journaling is supposed to be influence what they do in their journal.
I know for a long time I thought a journal was supposed to be a collection of profound musings of that person, and never felt that anything I had to say was quite profound enough. But journaling can be whatever you want it to be.
Lots of entries I write are incredibly boring and really only give insight to myself about my own life – I imagine that if somebody read and found my journals, for 75% of it they would be bored out of their mind, the other 25% they would think I am crazy. So I’d say just to write whatever comes to mind and however often you feel is important.
Don’t let what other people may say or think or what your ideas about journaling may be influence what your journal can become – it may actually just limit you.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Actually, a few things: I am a little surprised at how much I learned about myself and my own journaling habits just by answering these questions. I realized there are a few main things i need to contend with, but overall, I still, and have always loved journaling.
To me, writing is much like therapy, which I find an invaluable tool for living life to the fullest. Writing, journaling included, is a type of art, and as an artist I could not imagine my life without it.