Dear Diary (How To Best Start and Keep A Journal)

Have you ever tried free writing before, dear readers? It’s a technique where you write continuously over a set period of time, ignoring the majority of the typical conventions of writing – The purpose for free writing is not to produce great content, though that can potentially be a by-product, but rather to address self-esteem and internal criticism.

I’ve tried it a few times before myself, but I’ve found that writing a blog works to that end as well and is even better because of the regularity involved with the creative process. Because whether you believe it or not, what you are reading right now is not the first draft, it’s more like the 6th or 7th version of this post.

For those of you who do not pre-date the internet, a journal used to be the main method of delivery when it came to combining free writing with purpose. Though in many ways the blog has effectively replaced that practice. Or has it?

Now just hang on a tick, I know what you’re thinking.

Keeping a journal seems like one of those monumental tasks which will eat into your personal time and which is mostly self-gratifying. But the reality is that there is no right or wrong way to do it, and it will help provide value in a number of ways

Don’t believe me? Let’s list some reasons off really quick.

  1. Greater focus and organization skills (ie. to do lists and goals)
  2. A record of past achievements and milestones
  3. Emotion management and stress reduction
  4. Reflection time which leads to self-discovery
  5. Perspective on your own thoughts and feelings
  6. Cathartic release from trauma
  7. Alleviate negative effects of stress and strengthen your body
  8. Working memory improvement
  9. Creativity becomes more common
  10. Thinking about and articulating the next step in the plan
  11. Becoming inspired beyond the obvious and intentional in all work
  12. Accountability for our actions
  13. Inspiration for ourselves and others

Yeah, and that’s just a short list. I read somewhere between 10-15 articles in preparation of this Wisdom Wednesday post, and I just thought those examples were really solid.

The truth is this, journals help facilitate personal growth. To quote this article:

It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes a journal such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

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I initially wanted to start this post by pointing out that writing a journal is something that successful people do. It’s not just for hormonal teenagers or those beset by grief and cats.

For example, Mark Twain, Anne Frank, Sylvia Plath, George Lucas, Virginia Woolf, Ludwig van Beethoven, Frida Kahlo, Marilyn Monroe, Courtney Love, Pablo Picasso, Agatha Christie, and Leonardo da Vinci are just SOME of the examples of creative people who regularly journal/journaled.

Of course, there are also tons of articles out there that will tell you how you should get started and how you should keep up the habit of journaling. I’m going to tell straight up that you shouldn’t worry so much about the details of writing at this point, but rather, you should figure out when you are going to do it, then build some good habits to ensure you keep at it.

And if you really want a detailed how-to, this wiki will do the trick.

If your journal features content from other sources, so be it. You might find that source material is a great jumping off point or a good visual reminder for the period down the road when you revisiting your work and want to reflect on ideas.

Another good habit to get into is to have a log with each entry so that you know where you were when you wrote, the time of day, and the calendar date. The details will help solidify the moment in time and allow you to only focus on the current event(s), which will be great when reading previous entries – And besides, if you only stick to the negative things or the major milestones you’ll run out of ideas quickly.

The biggest thing to keep in mind though is that it’s not your responsibility to fill in the gaps if you take a break from writing, whether its for a day or a month, resume with the day you’re in and the stuff you’ve forgotten about or missed recording will crop up.

Lastly, if you can figure out a way to personalize the diary with a unique cover (collages, stickers or drawings) that will also help down the road. And consider including “if found” information at the front in the event the journal is lost, after all, this is not a blog and it could get lost.

Okay one more cool thing, you might want to hide your journal from prying eyes, so consider a hollowed out book for storage, because that’s super cool.

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And now I’m out of theories, so keep it cool and I’ll see you tomorrow with something timely.

Tim!

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