I’ve always loved the idea of keeping a daily journal, though maintaining my pages was something I’d only done intermittently until my wife gifted me with a Macbook a few years back. Prior to that, I found it difficult to convince myself of the value of emptying my thoughts daily.
Now I know better.
It was the ability to finally keep my thoughts organized by date and safely harbored in a hard drive that finally pushed me into consistent practice. I now realize that gathering thoughts is a treasure, and that having a basket to collect at least a handful of the countless ideas from each day is something that will one day lead me down a road of remembrance and remind me of who I was and who I once wanted to be.
There are no fixed rules for journaling.
How often you choose to empty your brain, the length in which you allow your thoughts to run, and how carefully you keep to your schedule are all your decisions. The benefits of journaling are best when it slips into your life with ease. And the benefits are countless, from having a record of your life to practicing your writing techniques to generating ideas for future projects, journals can serve whatever purpose you choose. So long as you stay invested, the rewards are waiting.
1. Carve Yourself a Corner.
Everyone needs a space where they can write without interruption. Your space doesn’t need to be isolated, but it should be comfortable. If you thrive amongst the steady thrum of others, perhaps a coffee shop is the perfect place for you. Maybe solitude is best. Either way, find a spot where your mind can run free.
2. Prompt yourself.
If you find there is often idle time before you start writing, try filling the first page of your journal with a few prompts you can call on to get going immediately. “What are you thinking?” “How was your day?” “What makes you happy?” The questions themselves don’t matter, but you need a spark if you want to make fire.
3. Be consistent.
The more consistency you can build into your routine, the more success you will eventually see. If you can carve a time each day when you count on time alone, are able to manage your minutes, and can control the flow of interruptions, you will be far more likely to receive the full benefit from your writing exercise.
4. It’s the doing, not the done.
The point of journaling isn’t to write the great American novel. It is to use your journal as a conduit, keeping the flow of language moving in a direct line from brain to page. Do all you can to keep your current alive without stopping to worry about the words. Even if you’re only moving your pen in spirals across the page, promise yourself you’ll show up and then follow through.
5. Look forward to it.
How we approach our day’s duties is largely in our mindset. It is all too easy to manufacture escape clauses for the mandatory. If you consider journaling a peaceful time of anticipated reflection, where ideas are exercised and tea may be sipped, you are far more likely to greet it with a smile. Journaling should never be thought of as something to cross off your list.
6. Journal because you want to.
The moment you allow journaling to become an obligation, the exercise will lose its value. Don’t ask more from yourself than you can give, especially when it comes to nurturing a journal. If you miss a day or even 10, don’t sweat it, just start right back where you left off and keep right on going.
7. Dig deep.
Some days you will write only a little. Other days you will find yourself traveling places you never imagined. These days are a design in wonder. Greet them well and never let them pass without recognizing their beauty. Gather the seeds and plant them in fertile soil.
We grow each day, even if we don’t particularly like where we’re headed. We can never return to who we once were, but by writing each day, we are building a continuous bridge that will forever allow us to look back at where we came from. Return to your past pages in search of patterns and repeated themes to see how much you’ve grown.
9. Above all, enjoy the experience.
Maintaining a journal is like bringing a new best friend into your inner circle; a friend who always listens and never forgets. A journal can hold the raw materials for a million adventures, but they are up to you to foster.
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