Back in February, I wrote a blog called How’s Your Heart.
In that blog, I mentioned that journaling is a great way to get to know yourself. So, today, I want to talk about journaling in greater detail.
What Is A Journal?
When you think of journals, what comes to mind?
I used to think a journal was a book you wrote in, filled with flowery and poetic language that you would use to describe the mundane parts of life.
And that’s definitely true for some people.
Several people in my family have a natural bent toward poetry, so their journals are filled with deep thoughts, beautiful prose, and quote-worthy sayings.
The History of History
Throughout history, people kept records of their daily lives, which is where much of the information we know today as history came from.
Scribes and clerks kept records of the everyday lives of kings, emperors, and pharaohs—not to mention the famines, floods, and other conflicts in their lands. Julius Ceasar kept his own diary of the Gallic war, and explorers like Marco Polo wrote about their travels.
Of course, apart from the well-known figures in history, many other people kept their own records.
What’s The Point?
Today, many people choose to record their everyday lives, thoughts, and emotions.
But why should we keep journals?
When I was little, I used to dream of writing a diary that would last years after my death. That, people would find the contents of my journal so interesting that they’d want to write a book or make a movie out of my life.
And so my obsession with journal-keeping began—and quickly ended a week or two later. My desire to put my thoughts onto the page never left. Several times over the years, I tried to get back into writing in a journal—with varying levels of success.
Common Journaling problems (And How to Fix Them)
Now, I finally have a journaling strategy that works for me, but it wasn’t easy to come by. As I tried to get myself into journaling, I ran into the same problems over and over again.
Problem #1 My journals were too pretty to write in.
I know it sounds ridiculous, but I really felt this way. Many of my journals stayed untouched for a long time before I began writing in them.
A few years ago, I’d been given a cute little journal labeled “Great Ideas” and it took me nearly two years to write in it. Why didn’t I write in it? Because I didn’t feel as though I had anything good enough to write inside a journal labeled “Great Ideas”.
So yeah, having a nice-looking journal can be surprisingly intimidating.
Recently, I’ve found that writing in a regular notebook takes a lot of the pressure off. If you’re having trouble writing in your fancy journals, I recommend you try writing somewhere else.
Just remember: The things you put inside your journal don’t have to “sound nice” or be “perfect” just because the cover is.
Problem #2 Getting started.
My mom gave me a journal for Christmas several years ago, and I resolved to write in it every day. This, of course, did not last very long.
While creating a daily routine for journaling does work for some people, it can turn into quite the chore for others, and stress them out to the point where they quit journaling completely.
If this is something you struggle with, then don’t force yourself to write every day. Write when you’re inspired, or have something you want to say.
Journaling is supposed to relieve stress, not add more to your life.
Problem #3 Time.
During my middle school years, there wasn’t a lot that I didn’t do.
Sure, I had quit ballet, but I still played soccer, did VEX Robotics, sang in a choir, and was elected to our student council—not to mention all the schoolwork I had to do.
To say I had a lot going on would be an understatement, and as a result, I didn’t journal often.
But when we think of journaling, I think we have the misconception that our journal entries have to be long and detailed. That we have to sit down with a large cup of tea or hot chocolate and write something that will amaze the world.
Now that I’m older and busy again, a lot of my journal entries are smaller, and I’ll write at various times throughout the day while I’m on the go. Sometimes I don’t even get my journal out. I’ll just write out some thoughts in the notes on my phone.
The important thing about journaling is that you record your thoughts. Where you record them is less important.
Problem #4 NINJAS
Perhaps you actually do like having a routine, and you want to write in your journal every day, but you find that you don’t have anything worth writing about.
Maybe you’ve been home all day, so the only things you can write about are NINJAS (not interesting nor journal-appropriate stuff).
So, how do you deal with NINJAS?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Write about something you’ve learned in the past. If you have nothing to say about what you did today, try writing about something you did or learned in past days.
- Try writing a poem, or a short story. Poems can be a great way to put inner thoughts and emotions on a page without having to talk about a dull day.
- Look for journal prompts. The internet is filled with ideas, and some of them are actually helpful.
- Start writing about the fact that you have nothing to write about. You may be surprised to find that you have more to write about than you think.
Write For You
In the past when I’ve heard people give advice about journaling, one of the things they often say is that you should write for yourself. But that’s easier said than done.
After all, maybe you have a nosy sibling, parent, or friend, and you don’t feel comfortable sharing your thoughts on the page if you think someone else will see them. Or maybe you have the opposite problem. You want people to one day see your journal, so you want the words you write to be inspiring. Worthy of admiration.
These two problems don’t have easy solutions. You can get locks for your journals, or spend hours trying to find the perfect words to use, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you how authentic you want to be.
Your journal is yours.
There’s no right or wrong way to write.
Before You Go…
Do you keep a journal? What sort of journaling strategy do you use?
Did you know that some people kept coded diaries?