Many years ago, I picked up a paperback edition of the Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth at a used book sale. Dorothy Wordsworth was the sister of the poet William Wordsworth, and she kept a daily journal for several years when she was living with her brother in a cottage in England's Lake District. Her journals weren't at all what I had thought a journal should be like. They were straightforward yet lyrical in tone, chronicling Dorothy's walks in nature with her brother, and the ordinary, everyday events of their lives, from toothaches to transplanting plants in her garden. I fell in love with Dorothy's journals and I decided that reading them wasn't enough - I wanted to start keeping my own journal as well!
So I did. And I've kept a journal, off and on, ever since then. Some journals I have attempted to write in every day, while others have been more erratic. Last summer, I was keeping a daily journal, but it was no longer fun. I kept forgetting to write everyday, but I was still trying to write an entry for every day. Writing in my journal had become like punishment for myself - every week or so I would force myself to sit down and rack my memory to find something remotely interesting to write about what had happened last Thursday. I felt guilty about not writing everyday, but then I hated it when I did sit down and write, so I kept putting it off more and more. Eventually, I recognized how crazy things had become and I just quit.
I started keeping a daily journal again early this year and, while I didn't have any trouble remembering to write, I still wasn't having fun. My entries seemed to be full of nothing but complaints and worries and negativity about my life. I didn't enjoy writing them, and I certainly didn't look forward to the day when I would read over my journal. Then I remembered Dorothy Wordsworth's journals, my original inspiration for starting to keep a journal. She didn't do too much complaining. She stayed focused in the here and now, and found joy in her observations of nature. Maybe I could do the same? Maybe I could rethink the way I approached my daily journal?
I returned to my journal. Again. I picked a specific time of the day to write so I wouldn't forget. In each entry, I focused on writing first some simple observations of nature and of the weather. (Talking about the weather can be an icebreaker in conversation and it can be a great way to started writing a journal entry as well!) Then, I wrote about the concrete, positive things that I did and thought about during the day. While I may have mentioned some of the day's challenges and setbacks, I didn't allow myself to dwell on the negative.
It's worked. I've been writing in my journal nearly every day for the last several months, and, even more importantly, I've been enjoying writing in my journal more than I have in a long time. Now, I look forward to pulling out my journal every evening. If I do miss a day now and then, I don't feel guilty about it or try to catch up by writing more the next day, I just move on.
Do you keep a daily journal? What kinds of things do you write in it? Do you make sure to write about the positive as well as the negative? Have you ever had to rethink the way you approach your journal?