Friday Fun – Let’s talk about journaling

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Do you keep a journal? If no – why not? If yes – what kind and what do you write in it?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I’ve kept journals since I was seven years old. I don’t mean that I’ve written every single day, but I’ve been pretty consistent over these past forty years. I’m honestly not sure what first inspired me to keep a journal, but I’m guessing it was my mother’s doing. I do know that once I started, I was hooked. I’ve kept autobiographical journals, dream journals, poetry journals, idea journals, nature journals … you name it. And I’ve saved each and every one.

Though the massive amount of hours I’ve spent writing in journals has, at times, stirred doubts about the usefulness/value of journaling (is this time spent scribbling with no real purpose a waste of precious minutes?), I always come back around to my steadfast love of the practice. Almost five years ago (five years?!?) I penned a post here listing 10 Ways Journaling Makes You a Better Writer. Reading that piece over today, I still stand by it 100%. I will probably journal to the end of my days. I have NO idea what anyone will want with two tons of old journals when I’m gone, but I’m going to write them anyway.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I’ve been journaling since I was 11. I know exactly what (who, actually!) inspired me to start keeping a journal: Harriet the Spy, from the book of the same name by Louise Fitzhugh. I loved the idea of writing down my thoughts and opinions and, as a twin with three other siblings, the idea of having something that was just for me, a private place to write whatever I wanted, was very attractive. I’ve continued to journal ever since. Not every day, although I come pretty close.

I’ve experimented with different types of journals over the years. I always have a lined notebook that’s a regular journal, but I take notes in it, and write blog post ideas in it. I’ve also kept a gratitude journal, a thought of the day journal, a list journal, a travel journal, and scrapbooks that always include a lot of journaling.

Since January 1st, I’ve been keeping an art journal. It’s really my planner but I’ve added lots of little journal boxes to it and I’ve been adding little drawings of the weather and words that represent the day, etc. It’s been fun and I end up writing different things in it than I write in my regular journal.

I know I’ll keep journaling as I find it a great way to know myself. The dialogue that happens in my journal always creates movement, reflection, and resolution–something I find much harder to get when my thoughts are chasing themselves inside my brain!

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: I started keeping a journal after reading The Diary of Anne Frank, and I began the entries, “Dear Kitty.” I was about eleven, and I’ve been journaling ever since, though the purpose has changed from expressing pre-adolescent angst to a kind of writing meditation and memory aid, where I often make notes toward essays, posts, stories.

There’s no question in my mind: my journal is pure therapy. It helps me discover what I think, and a place to exfoliate feelings and ideas to better examine them. And I don’t keep just one: I start my writing day with an electronic journal; it’s a great way to arrive at my desk. I also carry a day book: a simple, wire bound notebook into which I write whenever and wherever I am – sometimes a single sentence, sometimes the title of a book I want to read. I also write letters, some of which I send.

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: I don’t journal (I know quelle horreur! ) I’ve never been able to sit down and write without a purpose (a deadline or a specific topic.) That’s not to say that I don’t constantly take notes about my life (which is a type of abbreviated journaling, I suppose – sort of like the twitter of writing.) Like Deb, I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go and I am constantly jotting down brilliant (at least to me) life thoughts. But do I ever sit down and write a complete “Dear diary” entry? Nope. It’s just not my cup of tea.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: I journal daily. One is a Gratitude journal where I write at least 5 statements a day that start with “I am grateful for”. I write the phrase and let whatever wants to come next flow onto the page.

I also do a daily entry in a 5-year journal. I’m on the 4th year of this journal and it’s interesting and fun to read my entries from the past 3 years — a “what impressed me enough to write about on the same day”.

21 thoughts on “Friday Fun – Let’s talk about journaling

    • That’s probably a wise principal, Andrew. I sometimes worry that my ghost will haunt this earthly plane until all my journals are destroyed. Perhaps I’ll put in my will that a bonfire must be held at my wake. ; )

  1. Every thought I’ve had (almost) is written down in a collection of spiral notebooks. Calling this process journaling is a stretch, but it’s a definite part of my day. I keep other notebooks that map out my stories as well. I always tell my husband: if anything happens to me, get rid of the notebooks!

    I’ve done the gratitude journal in the past, but now I feel like I’ve outgrown that (why, I don’t know…), but I love looking back on the past.

    Great topic!

    • I have filled several gratitude journals – online and off – but also feel like I’ve out grown the practice. I still make time for gratitude each day, but I no longer feel compelled to write it down.

      My regular journals, however, a a habit I can’t give up. And I do sometimes wander down memory lane by leafing through their pages. I’m overdue for my review of the past years starred entries and passages. Maybe I’ll have time this weekend. I love digging up trends and patterns in my thoughts and ideas. 🙂

  2. I’m glad I’m not alone in my lack of love for journaling — thank you, Wendy! I’ve tried, because I know so many people who swear by it, but could never get into it. I have a dozen or so beautiful hand-bound journals, goal-setting books, memory scrapbooks, wine tasting diaries, restaurant diaries, you name it – all given as gifts, and all either blank or with only the first few pages filled in. Just another source of anxiety and guilt. Maybe it’s the writing-by-hand thing, because I type tons of notes into my “story ideas” files.

    • If it doesn’t float your boat, don’t do it. No guilt! I used to keep calendars – those spiral-bound kind with a small space to write each day. I did it for YEARS. Religiously. And then, suddenly, I didn’t want to do it anymore. I forced myself for a while, and then I just kind of let the practice peter out. At first, I felt guilty, but then I realized that if the practice wasn’t serving any purpose, it was pointless. Why bother? I stick with the journaling that I like to do & don’t worry about the rest. And if journaling’s not your thing – that’s find, too!

      • Thank you Jamie! I agree, why bother if it’s not helping? I sometimes wish it did work for me, just to have another useful tool in my box. I mostly feel anxious when I’m trying to keep some kind of journal (oh no, I *have* to write in it again tonight) and then guilty that I’ve ruined a perfectly lovely journal that someone gifted to me by using only the first few pages. Now that I’ve (mostly) come to terms with the fact that this doesn’t work for me, I keep those pages blank and re-gift whenever possible.

  3. I used to have a rainbow colored pages hello Kitty diary. It was a gift from the mother of a kid I used to babysit. My mother found it, gave to my father who fed the thing into a fire. I never keep a journal again. I bought few though that I find beautiful and tried to write on them when on vacation to document my travel but I never succeeded to do it properly again. I keep little notebooks everywhere (glove compartment, bags, under pillows, night tables… ) to record my thoughts but not a proper journal.

    • Sorry about the sad demise of that first journal. 😦
      I think that sometimes the “little notebooks” you keep can be more interesting than a “proper journal.” I have looked back through my “miscellaneous” (vs. “morning pages”) journals/notebooks and found that they are often a more dynamic distillation of my thoughts and ideas than the rambling entries that meander back and forth over the same territory. It’s all about whatever works for YOU. 🙂

  4. I don’t journal for myself. But I do keep journals for my kids. It started because it was easier than pulling out their baby books for recording those “first” moments I wanted to remember. But I kept doing it because it was a great way to record their achievements and funny moments in their lives. Sadly, as they’ve gotten older I haven’t kept up with it as much. I really should update them more often.

    • That is such a lovely idea, Lisa. I wish I’d written more about/for my daughter when she was younger. She just turned twelve (!!), and I have never put together a proper baby book. We have oodles of photographs, videos, and even audio recordings, and I also have a large collection of her artwork, but I haven’t yet curated a sub-collection into a baby book. Maybe one of these days. Probably not until she’s grown, and then I’ll sit in my living room and cry while I put it together. 😉

  5. Hi! I once found a journal which did not require daily entries, and I love that… no pressure, but many memories kept… I have my first one. These days, I write creative non-fiction, and I also write about the everyday stuff that makes up the real stuff of my life now. As for disposing of the evidence, I probably should give that some thought. Even the two year old gkid can say “flashdrive.”

  6. I used to keep journals but I don’t any more. Although, for my birthday this month I received a lovely 5-year journal where I’m supposed to note down everything important that happens across five years! It’s set up in a way that the same day each year is on the same page, so I can easily compare what I did two, three years ago 🙂

  7. I don’t keep a formal journal, but I do have notebooks in which I jot down notes from research, observations, snatches of dialog, ideas for stories. The funny thing is I rarely read through them again, other than to refer for exact quotes or descriptions… when I can find them again! I find the process of writing it down cements it into my memory and I rarely have to reread them.

  8. I keep some journals, I write far more than I keep. I just worry about my children reading them after I’ve gone and what they will read into them. So when I write, I write with that in mind. Now, I tend to keep notebooks, it feels safer. The older I get, the more I think about what I’m leaving in print. And it makes it more for the ones left behind, and not for me, not for what I really want to say.

  9. I keep a pocket diary just to jot down very short notes of what I have done each day. It gives me a sense of achievement. Sometimes I use it as a to do list for the next day. I know that does not count as journaling. I think I should add the gratitude thing. Just to remind me that I have a lot to be thankful for when I feel dissatisfied with life. We bought a little farm three years ago and since then I have kept a journal. We only go there every second week and it is specifically for what happens there. I photograph the plants on the farm to be able to identify them. The photographs gives you a date, but not a location. It is helpful to go back to the journal to see which area we explored on that day. So for me, it is almost more record keeping and functional.

  10. I love this topic because it’s close to my heart. I started journaling in college and its been a joy all through the years. I have a personal journal, and I keep a special journal when I travel. I write wherever and whenever I have the desire to express my thoughts. Recently I added a daily quote, creative ideas, and sketch journal to my library. I find interesting journals which inspires me to write even more than before. I also keep a prayer Journal. Need I say more !I love writing because it allows me to express my thoughts and feelings when I am happy, sad, ecstatic or frustrated. I learn a lot about myself by writing my true feelings on paper.

  11. I write in journals. It can truly be a tool to self-heal, find ones innermost feelings or make decisions. I like to make mine colorful and sensorial. Good friends know I journal and I have received journals often as a gift.

  12. Like most who have expressed here, I echo most of your sentiments in maintaining Journals. I tried doing the same on my Ipad but it didnt feel personal enough and fear of losing data is a niggling thought. My small diaries are an essential little book that I TravelLog with. I buy quite a few of these little journals ,some really fancy with a rubberband across. I even have one which has a personalized lock and key!

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