“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” (William Woodsworth)
Three years ago, when I first started this blog, I wrote a post entitled ‘How to Keep a Journal.’ At the time of writing it, I was struggling with the idea of keeping a journal. There was something daunting about all those blank pages – I constantly felt as if I didn’t have the dedication and ideas to fill them all. But still, there was something about journaling that I just loved. It was so cathartic. No matter what you were writing about, you’d always feel ‘cleansed’ after every entry, as if you got a chance to pour out your thoughts or capture the moment you were writing about. What is even better is that it allows you to store all these memories – the big days, the heartache, frustration, and happiness – on paper. Over time, getting to read through them and look back on all of the things you documented will be so valuable. You might not feel that way in 5 years, but give it 20 or 30.
That year and that post (and the featured red notebook) was the start of my experience with being fully dedicated and committed to journaling. It became easier the more I did it, and the more I did it, the more it became a habit to do so. Since then, I’ve filled up four notebooks – it’s almost like journal fever.
Something that has helped me stay committed to journaling is to make it something I have to do at least once a week. Being super Type A, I’ve made it a recurring task every week in my To Do list app; I literally have a reminder set to write in my journal every Sunday. Some weeks, I have to sit myself down and force myself to write something that day. Those entries start off slow and it takes me a while to really get down sentences and figure out what to write about. Other weeks, I’ll just instinctively reach for my journal before Sunday has even come, and my pen will be flying. Don’t get me wrong – journaling is meant to be something you choose, something truly for YOU. It’s not meant to be regarded as a chore at all, and definitely not something you’re supposed to dread. But I find that sometimes, in life, if we want to stick to things and get them done, we have to treat it as a task to check off, or an appointment we can’t forget about. It’s so easy for other things to get in the way, and this ‘mandatory reminder or scheduling’ is the only way we can remember to keep doing it. We all just need that little nudge and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about; it’s part of human nature.
I chose Sundays because that’s typically my ‘stay at home and relax’ day so I have lots of time on my hands, and I also find it helps to either reflect on the week that just passed or even reflect on the week that’s coming up.
My weekly entries – the ones I do on Sunday – are ones that are typically longer – some take up 4 or 5 pages. I write about big thoughts that I had over the past week, or any major events that occurred. Sometimes, I find that as soon as my pen touches the paper, it can be so easy to start rambling. Often times, I’ll start off by talking about what I originally wanted to write about, and that will segue into another big topic which ends up taking just as many words to talk about. I view these “big entries” almost like going to therapy with your personal shrink. It’s such a great way to just talk about all the things you might not want to bother other people with.
Other things I’ll write in my journal?
- Really great quotes I either come across when reading or on the Internet
- Writing down my favourite passes from books
- Notes from events, seminars, or presentations I go to (I love having my journal for this because instead of writing all my notes on separate pieces of paper, they’re all together in a book and it makes it a lot easier to revisit.)
- Writing down notes during brainstorming sessions for whatever I’m working on at the time
- Travel plans
- Random poem ideas/lines that just come to mind
I mentioned this in my last post, too, but your journal does not have any specific purpose. The pages are blank for a reason; it’s your job to fill them, and you can do this any way you want. If you want to just copy passages from your favourite books in them and use the space for nothing else, then do that. If you want to use it for coming up with ideas at work, do that. If you want to doodle, go for it.
It’s your space; they’re your pages.
The more you see it like this, the less of a chore it will feel like, and the easier it will be to stick to it and reach for your journal every week.
So, if you’re not journaling already, start.
Jack London says, “Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.”
I genuinely believe everybody can benefit from keeping a journal, whether it’s because it improves your writing, it helps you find yourself, or it makes you a happier person.