First, let’s let go of the idea that journaling is only for teenage girls writing about their crush, in a little ornate book with a tiny lock and an even tinier key. (Been there, done that.) Journaling is a powerful technique for increasing self-awareness. The power of journaling comes from the internal dialogue it fosters. You are writing to you, about you. It’s writing down ideas, events, dreams and even daily occurrences as a way of clarifying thoughts, impressions and feelings. As well, it’s a record of your life, a way of recording your personal history.
Thus, the value of journaling lies in the act of writing. Like manifesting, committing words to paper gives clarity. There’s a reason for writing down intentions, goals and plans. There’s a reason writing is a form of therapy. It forces you to express clearly, on paper, what’s going on around you and inside you. It will help you gain clarity and organize your ideas because it sets them out before you. You’ll find yourself rewriting as you strive to clarify a situation, a feeling, an aha! moment, explaining it to your journal. Ultimately, you are explaining it to yourself. Dear Diary is you. You are having a recorded internal dialogue.
Getting the Big Picture
Writing down an event can also jog memory and help you recall details that didn’t seem important at the time. This can lead to a change in perspective and new insight. Or it can bring two ideas together that create something entirely new. As your subconscious hard drive runs through its records and sends up a memo or two, the pieces fall into place. The subconscious forgets nothing. The journaling is the tool to activate this process. So don’t feel silly or obsessive if you feel the need to write repeatedly on something. I believe the subconscious mind sees patterns before the conscious mind. It keeps coming back to the key element (a person, an action, a feeling, an idea) because there’s a reason.
What, When, Where
Write what is on your mind. If that’s what’s going around in your brain, then that’s what requires attention. Something needs to be sorted out. Write to vent, to rant. No one is going to read it. I don’t write in order from front to back. I have notes and lists on the last pages. If you’re completely new and freeze up you can simply Google journaling prompts. Here’s a list from psychcentral.com.
Write as often as you want. A friend buys an agenda every year, the kind that has a day per page. She notes her day: the weather, exercise, errands, appointments, calls, special meals or desserts. Every single day. My entries are erratic, and more introspective: insights, dreams, writing ideas, thoughts on human behavior.
As for where, it can be anything from a notebook to an app. Personally, I like old-fashioned pen and paper. It limits eyeballs. No copies, no transfers. I’m far too paranoid to use anything on a device. Hard to access, easy to burn; that’s my motto.
Better than Fiction
Rereading your journal is a must. I reread mine every year, usually around Christmas. I start with the last one completed and work back. Where have you progressed? Has an idea come to fruition? What did you abandon? Can you see why? Was the writing on the wall at the time?
I have a journal entry that’s notes on painting watercolor flowers. I laugh now. What was I thinking? But there was an idea here that morphed into another style of painting.
Here’s the biggest lesson I’ve gleaned from reading my entries : I have worried about many things that, in the long run, weren’t worth it. Here’s the second-biggest lesson: some ideas take a long time to come to fruition and sometimes they are not an end but a segue to something else.
Whatever you style, journaling is intensely personal, rewarding and has nothing to do with writing ability. So don’t judge yourself. It’s just between you and your good friend you.
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