What is journaling?
I’ve been reading a few articles recently about the benefits of journaling, both to mental health and writing development. A journal is a simply a written record of your thoughts, feelings and experiences. It can be a daily record, like a diary, or you can just write as and when you get the urge. In fact, you don’t have to write at all – you can type in an online journal or even record your words in a video journal. There are no hard and fast rules, although the psychologists seem to agree that regular journaling carries the best health benefits.
I don’t keep a formal journal but I always have an orange notebook on the go that I carry about with me. Over time I’ve developed some particularities: it has to have an orange cover, a nice smooth at least 90g weight paper that doesn’t allow ink to bleed and, at present, I’m preferring the small-squared French paper although at one time I detested it. Sometimes I like to write in pencil and other times in biro – I haven’t progressed to fountain pens and coloured ink, yet. My orange notebook contains everything from draft blog posts, personal thoughts and quotations, to lists of things to do, notes taken at meetings, research, and new recipes to try.
Why keep a journal?
There are numerous reasons for keeping a journal. You can write to learn about and understand yourself, or others; you can analyse your writing – maybe to help you overcome a bad experience or develop new habits; you can write to ‘unblock’ an aspect of your life, or you can write to record events and pass on a legacy. You can also write to improve your writing. Some time ago, when I was first considering starting my personal blog I found that I couldn’t write; I was blocked. So, in my notebook, I wrote about the fact that I wanted to write, but couldn’t, and I analysed the reasons for this (a self-consciousness going back to childhood). As soon as I had done this the words started to flow again.
In a way a blog is a type of online journaling, especially those more personal blogs that record the writer’s progress perhaps with travel plans or property renovation. When I look back over my personal blog I can see how my journey along the road to becoming vegetarian once again has developed over the past few years, and how my interests and motivations have changed.
If you are thinking of starting a journal you’re in good company. Famous diarists range from Samuel Pepys (1633–1703) and James Boswell (1740-1795) to Anne Frank (1929-1945), and it’s almost de rigour for any retiring politician to publish an autobiographical diary once out of office. Of course, it can be difficult to get into the habit of writing daily, so have a look at some of my writing motivation tips, or if you’re stuck for ideas about how to get started or what to write about there’s some good advice on Lifehack. When you’re faced with a blank page my best tip is just to write – anything, even the first thing that comes into your head. Just get something down on paper and the words will start to flow. Happy journaling!