Saturday, January 9, 2010

How to Keep a Journal

Three easy steps:
  1. Get a blank book of some sort.
  2. Get a writing implement of some sort.
  3. Every day, write something about your life in the book.
Unfortunately, keeping a journal isn't as easy as it sounds.  How many people have begun writing with the best of intentions, only to find themselves days, weeks, or months later with yet another failed journal to add to the pile?  Here then, are some suggestions for those among us whose journal-keeping habits are erratic at best.
  • Don't feel guilty if you don't write in your journal every day.  If you miss a day, don't waste your time trying to think of something interesting that happened that day.  Just continue on.  I know from experience that feelings of guilt just make it even less likely that you will continue writing in your journal.
  • Just because your journal has been gathering dust on your shelf for months doesn't mean you can't write in it today.  Who cares if there are gaps of months between entries?  I have a journal that I began keeping in September of 2004.  I am still writing in it, and I haven't even filled 20 pages.
  • Set a specific time each day for writing in your journal.  If you don't have anything else to write about, write about the weather.  At least this gets you writing, and it may help you to think of something else that happened during the day that you want to write about.  I nearly always begin a journal entry with a few lines about the weather.
  • Don't feel that you need to have a fancy notebook and pen to keep a journal.  I used to write in my journals with a pencil, because I thought that if I gave up the journal in a few days, then I could at least erase what I had written and use the book for something else.  The result was that I put less pressure on myself and actually wrote more easily.
  • Don't worry about anyone reading the journal in the future.  The important thing is to write for yourself.  Just write about whatever interests you and don't worry about what other people might think.  It's not their journal, it's yours.
  • Don't try to write everything down.  You're not keeping a logbook of every action in your life.  Just write down what you like, and if some days nothing happens that you want to write about and even the weather is the same as the day before, then you don't have to write anything.  Or make something up.  Write about what you would be doing if you didn't have to go to work, school, etc.  Or write about the day from the perspective of your dog or cat.
  • If you feel that your journal entries are stagnating, go back and read over some of your earlier entries, when you were still enthusiastic about keeping a journal.  Hopefully you will think, "Hey, this isn't so bad after all," and you will feel inspired and encouraged to keep writing.
  • Don't feel that you have to write a page a day or anything like that.  Sometimes just a few lines are enough.  I rarely write more than a paragraph a day.
What are your suggestions for keeping a journal?

4 comments:

  1. Nice post! The most important think I learned on journaling was from my teacher, Sue Meyn (www.journalmagic.com) and that was "THERE ARE NO RULES." Talk about freedom! Off I went and that was over 6 years ago.

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  2. I meant "thing" not "think." *grins*

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  3. Really GREAT advice! I'd love to see more posts here about journal/diary writing since I am a constant fan of your site. As a 'pen-geek' and 'Notebook-lover-extraordinaire' the main reason I buy so many pens and blank books is to use them for journalling!

    Keep up the good work!

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  4. Thanks, Anon.! I always love hearing from my fans. And I might be considering doing some more posts on journal writing or just writing in general in the future. Stay tuned.

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