Some people are avid journal keepers while others have a very difficult time starting a diary. If you’re one of those that have trouble keeping a consistent journal, you’ve come to the right place. If you follow the instructions below, you’ll be on your way to creating a journal that will benefit you and your family for generations to come.
Reasons for Writing a Journal - Would you consider the diaries of individuals such as Anne Frank, Helen Keller, John Adams, and George Washington to be valuable to us today? I certainly hope so. Imagine what would be lost if we didn’t have the feelings and concerns of Anne Frank while hiding from the Nazi regime. We would certainly respect Helen Keller for who she was, but because of her preserved writings, we see into her soul. What if we didn’t have the thoughts and feelings of revolutionaries such as George Washington and John Adams to remind us what freedom, duty, and responsibility are all about?
Journals open a window not only to the soul of the writer but also to the times, seasons, beliefs, and happenings of the era. You may not ascribe as much importance to the journal you create compared to John Adams, but to your descendants, the information you convey will be priceless. So if you don’t keep a journal for your own reflection upon events, thoughts, and feelings, keep the journal for your posterity’s sake and benefit.
Journal Format - Choose the format/media for your journal that makes the most sense for you. Some people prefer a high-quality, leather-bound book, while others prefer a simple spiral notebook. Figure out what you’d prefer to use, and go get it.
Strategic Placement - Place your journal on your bed in the morning (after you’ve made your bed), and in the evening, before you get into bed, you’ll have to at least pick up the journal. While you have the journal in your hand, open it up and write a little note about the day. Keep a pen laying where you would normally sit the journal when you’re finished writing. The nightstand might be a good place. Remember, if you have your journal handy, but no pen, it probably means no journal entry for the night. Make it as easy on yourself as possible to get into the habit of keeping a journal.
Digital Journal - If you’re typing your journal on your computer, you can place a post-it note on or near your computer screen to remind you to write in your journal at least once a day. Make a backup of your journal especially if stored on computer. I’ve heard too many stories of people losing 200+ pages of journal entries because of computer problems. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to check out the best file formats for preserving your word processing documents.
Let’s move on to suggested steps for creating the habit of writing a journal that will be meaningful to you and your descendants.
Step 1 – Get Started
Write one line each night. Many people feel overwhelmed when approaching a project like keeping a journal or diary. They feel they have so much to write, and so little time, that they don’t ever create an entry. Don’t get caught in that trap. Start out very simple to get into the habit. Go for simplistic consistency first. Tell yourself, “Hey, anyone can write a sentence a day, and so can I.”
Keep your entries simple at first. Date each entry and write a simple sentence. Some examples journal entries may look like:
- “Went to the park.”
- “Got stuck in a bad traffic jam this morning.”
- “Had lunch with a friend.”
- “Lost my keys and spent an hour looking for them.”
- “Watched a movie with the family.”
Making simple one-liners will better help you start the habit of writing in your journal. You may not feel like you’re creating much meaning with these simple journal entries, but you are creating a meaningful habit. Hang in there, and keep going.
Step 2 – Build Consistency
Now that you’ve been writing a sentence a day, step it up just a little bit and write 1-2 sentences per day. Just expound a little bit on your first sentence that you’ve written. You’re getting more into the habit, so keep going!
Step 3 – Expand Content
You can guess what’s next, start expounding upon what you’re writing. Go for a short paragraph. Now that you’re in the habit of writing a sentence or two, a short paragraph should be no big deal. At this point, start to not only write what happened to you or what you did during the day, but write a few thoughts and opinions about what happened. Still at this point, we’re keeping it simple to build the habit.
Step 4 – Solidify the Habit and Deliver Meaning
By now, the habit should have sunk in at least a little bit. You should now be able to expand upon what you write each day. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to write more content; just write important content.
What’s important content? Much of what goes on in our lives happens to just about everyone, successes, setbacks, heartbreaks, but how we deal and think about each event is unique to each of us. As you look back over your journal entries, you’ll appreciate that you wrote down your thoughts and feelings about events as they occur in your life. You may experience very difficult times as you write a journal entry. Write down why it’s difficult and how you feel. Time seems to cloud the difficulty of our experience. If you were to write a personal history 50 years after your life’s most difficult events, it will be much different than if you write about the event as it unfolds.
Step 5 – Deepen the Content Meaning
The last leg in the the 30 day process should actually be the easiest of all. Up to now, you’ve set up a system to remind you to write in your journal, you’ve developed content that conveys your thoughts, feelings, and opinions about events. Now it’s time to keep it going and expound more on what you’ve experienced and what you believe. You may write journal entries that don’t have much to do with events that occurred that day, but they may have thoughts and feelings about politics, the community, and faith.
Below are a few suggestions for topics that you could write about that are beyond simply events that happened during the day. Write your thoughts and opinions about:
- Your children
- The community and society
- The town you live in
- Your likes and dislikes
- Your struggles
- Your strengths
- Your habits
- You dreams
- Your goals
- The times you live in
- Why you do what you do
There are many other topics that you could expound upon in your journal. The important thing is to keep it going.
Caution – Watch out for times that you get sick or go on vacation because your routine will probably get interrupted if your not careful (this happens to me all the time with my exercise habits). Make sure to work out a plan to keep in the habit when away from home. One idea is to get others involved in journal writing such as a spouse and ask them to remind you if you are keeping up on your journal writing.
TTFN – I better write in my journal before the day is through.