“The words of my book nothing, the drift of it everything.”
I can’t remember the first time I decided to write something down in my journal because it seems to be ingrained in my life as something so natural. Over the years I’ve written in many notebooks, scraps of paper and letters tucked away in an envelope. It’s undeniable the value of finding your old passages at a later stage in life. These writings are a snapshot of who you were at the time and provide a renewed perspective and clarity in your current life. I talk more about the value of the handwritten word here.
However as I grow older I find it increasingly difficult to keep my habit of journaling daily. As our responsibilities increase and our lives get busier it’s easy to let journaling fall by the wayside. I don’t believe the habit of journaling is inherently easy for everyone. Journaling is muscle that needs to be exercised. The following are tips that I’ve personally found helpful to keep an active journal:
Your writing doesn’t have to be epic to have substance
I take comfort in the words of Whitman whenever I beat myself up about how “profound” my writing needs to be. The words by themselves may not be describing some epiphany or miracle you’ve experienced but they are still valuable. In fact, the very mundane and ordinary events of your daily life described in your writing can speak volumes. They are the substance in which your writing is built on. Don’t force yourself to make tenuous connections between every event to larger-than-life revelations. Instead appreciate the ordinary things exactly for what they are. If you are having a particularly uneventful day, describe it as such. A cup of coffee can just be that and the slow-moving hands of the clock should be appreciated on its own. These minute details are the building blocks of your life. It’s not so much what you write but more about the “drift” (as Whitman puts it) of your writing – or rather the feeling that emits from it.
Read, read, read
This shouldn’t come as much as a surprise but reading and writing go hand-in-hand. You simply can’t have one without the other. Reading gives you inspiration and ignites ideas for your own writing. The material in which you read doesn’t necessarily have to be scholarly; it just has to be something which interests you. This could be magazines, newspapers, comics or blogs. It is also helpful to re-read some of your previous journal entries. As older entries give you a snapshot who you were at that point in time it could provide clarity for your next journal entry. By re-reading your old entries it will force you to continuously re-evaluate your previously held thoughts and beliefs. I talk more about the value of rediscovering yourself here.
Find a Quiet Moment
I think one of the reason why it’s such a struggle to keep an active journal is the hectic lives we lead. The only quiet moments we usually get are the moments right before we wake up and go to bed. Therefore I urge you to take advantage of these moments to write in your journal. Sometimes being in a crowded place can be advantageous to journal writing. However if you find the noises in a crowded café too distracting carve out some quiet moments for yourself and see where it takes you.
Don’t beat yourself up
When the New Year kicked in I always had the goal of writing daily. And every year I would always beat myself up when I skipped a day of journaling. This is counter-productive. Journaling shouldn’t be thought of as this looming chore or task that needs to be completed but when I beat myself up about it that is exactly what it became. Instead journaling should be a form of release and creativity. If you miss a day don’t let that discourage you from continuing to journal. The most important part is to endure. Journal every day. You will fail sometimes but you will keep trying.
I know this all seems tedious and unnecessary work to keep a journal but our memories fail us where words do not. So go the distance with your journal and I’m sure your future self will thank your present self for the words you put down today.
I would love to know some of your tips on keeping an active journaling habit. Comment below!