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10 Reasons You’ll Be Cooler if You Journal!


Whenever I ask people why they don’t keep a journal the usual response is, “I don’t have time.” or “I try all the time and I can never manage to keep up with it.” Both are valid excuses, but reveal a lack of understanding of the benefits of taking a few brief moments to spend some time with a journal and pen in hand. I began penning my thoughts during my family’s tumultuous move from the high desert of California to Crete, Greece. Prior to my move to Greece I don’t think I had ever left the country, though I had certainly already done my share of moving around. As I recall, the journal itself was rather unremarkable; probably a Hello Kitty key and locket job, designed for style and not necessarily service. But housed between the covers were all the first sights, thoughts and impressions of an undiscovered country.

1. It doesn’t have to take hours and hours.

The adorable One Line a Day Journal pushes back against the idea that journaling, by default, be a time-consuming activity. You don’t even need a special journal to execute the idea. Any journal will suffice.

2. A “journal” can be anything.

Even mention of the word “journal” conjures up the image of a fussy old gilded edge, extravagant paper contraption, usually given as gifts by well-meaning, but often clueless folks. The intimidation factor only often discourages people from cultivating the habit. It’s a reason why I generally believe journals are something a person should purchase for themselves. Beyond the whole intimidation piece, journaling is a personal decision and the tools someone uses should be selected with their own tastes and needs in mind. If you like fussy, by all means, have at it. If you like lo-fi or mid range, that’s new hotness too. Any way you conceptualize the journal you’d want to use is the right one for you.

Carrie writes by hand, though for some reason I selected this picture.

3. The content is only limited by your imagination!

D.I.Y Sara does a glorious art journal, which is just as much a record of her life, creativity and whathaveyou as anything Bridget Jones might write in her bright red notebook. There are all kinds of types of journals and certainly there’s a format that will speak to you.

4. It’s actually a lot of fun.

Journaling is a lot of fun. Whether you’re applying your nascent skills toward a screenplay or a collage or a sketch of your coffee mug, there’s a lot of fun to be had allowing yourself space on the page. Or even if you’re a pro. Journaling can be one of the few activities that doesn’t make your life worse and often makes it better.

5. It’s distracting.

Ever read something on Twitter that made you want to light your hair on fire? How about the endless freaking spamalicious emails forwarded to you by people who at this point should know better. No, Bill Gates is not going to give you eleventy billion dollars for forwarding a spammy chain email. Instead of going online and becoming another person I secretly schadenfollow take out your journal situation and get it all out – in anyway you do it – and get away from that keyboard. You will be so happy and spare yourself ample amounts of grief. Trust me; I’ve done the legwork.

6. Journaling’s like collecting sea shells at the beach.

Or diamonds in the back of an armored car. Whatever metaphor floats your boat. I keep a story idea journal, which is often just whatever tiny notebook occupies the bottom of my beast-of-burden bag. I love finding old ones and discovering great and sometimes hilarious tidbits and dialog and old grocery lists. Not everything discovered is thrilling enough to make it into a novel, blog post or art project, but hey, it’s sure fun thinking so.

Probably not going to want to write PRIVATE across the front of your private journal, like Harriet the Spy did.

7. Your thoughts are safe(r) here.

Everyday the internet reminds us how of the folly in thinking any online spaces we occupy are impervious to public view. They’re not. I treat the internet as though it was my parents’ headboard. If I wouldn’t splatter paint it on the headboard, I tend not to want to write it online. Now, granted, my threshold is probably a bit more saucy, cheeky than many, but it’s still a pretty good rule of thumb. Your parents’ headboard, of course, may vary. I won’t front; journaling is not a 100% safe activity. There might be prying eyes and clever individuals armed with Encyclopedia Brown-esque powers of detection and a heap of unstructured time who want to get at your celebrity lust lists, drawings of kittens, vengeful poison pen letters you’ve no intention of sending and Nobel prize speeches that will never see Stockholm and those people are busters. Scrubs, even! And I am fully of the mindset that snoopers deserve any reversals of fortunes visited upon them during their violation of another’s private journaling space. Snoopers deserve to find out you find their jokes unfunny, their cooking lousy and their breath more deadly than gunpowder.

8. Journaling is surprisingly healing

When I pondered what to do with old journals I wrote the following: ” I came across a couple of journals I kept after graduate school while I was on a hopeless and demoralizing job search. Reading the journals beamed me back to a pretty miserable time, which thanks to my fantastic writing skills, was faithfully and vividly rendered on the page. Those journals got stomped on, soaked in the bathtub and eventually burned to cinders. I contemplated backing over the journals with my car, but figured tire damage would mitigate any satisfaction experienced.” and while I certainly didn’t enjoy visiting the ghosts of disappointments past, I still was very aware of the healing salve my old journals had been to me. There had been times – if I can be so melodramatic for a moment – where it did feel as though my journal was my only friend. A terrible place to be, for sure, but they’ve been good friends. I have no license to practice medicine – dubious or otherwise – but I gotta tell you, nothing beats journaling (as you define it based on your needs) to making you feel better when things are stressful, fortunes are reversed and the damn oven keeps burning up your cupcakes.

Wonder if these two kept journals. Probably not.

9. It doesn’t have to cost a heap of cashmoney.

Sure you can spend all kinds of cheddar on journals that perform no more flights of fancy than the decidedly more modestly priced models, but why. Unless you are into that sort of thing – I tend not to be – there’s nothing wrong with a $.25 spiral notebook and a $.10 Stic pen! They keep thoughts just as well, and perhaps even better, given that people aren’t generally as curious about the contents of a nondescript spiral notebook as they are some gilded truffle of a notebook. Moreover, notebooks are something people are always trying to give away, yet don’t always have willing recipient. And shoot, if the lack of journal is a problem for any reader who leaves a comment, I’d be willing to send one from my stash.

10. If you keep it long enough it might become famous!

Anaïs Nin and a host of other folks have gotten all famous for the journals they’ve kept. I’m not saying that everything written is fame worthy, but you won’t know unless you give it a shot.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. 12/02/2010 12:42 pm

    I have a site for smashing and burning those idiotic chain letters. Years of getting that junk from people made it necessary. Though I haven’t told most friends about it, (they probably would think I’m a huge meanie) at least I don’t scream at them directly in their inboxes. I like reading other people’s venting about this junk, as long as they don’t offend me on some other level. My journals or blogs, well, one is general stuff, another is where I put my music. The platforms I like are those that let you post entries via email. It takes the hassle out of posting shorter entries. Posterous and Blogger have this feature.

  2. 12/02/2010 1:41 pm

    I love this post. I carry a journal with me everyday and go in spurts writing in it. Sometimes its just for notes and other times I truly journal. Sometimes I will write in it everyday and other times weeks go until I write in it again. I have a stack of unwritten in journals and I love to buy them and I love to start a new journal, before I spill water, ink or food in it. Journals are awesome.

  3. Laura permalink
    12/02/2010 3:41 pm

    Great post 🙂

    I would add, perhaps, that one doesn’t have to journal everyday. It’s great if you can, but not at all necessary.

  4. 12/02/2010 6:42 pm

    Thanks for the post. Great summary. I’ve been enjoying adding sketches too. Fun and rewarding later when I review my journal entries. Thanks.
    Dave’s illustrated journaling

  5. 12/02/2010 8:46 pm

    I love love love this post. I think everyone should be given a notebook in their first year of secondary school and told to use it how they see fit. It’s a skill that should be encouraged!

  6. arcane_scholar permalink
    12/03/2010 6:42 am

    I have been wanting to journal more and more lately. I buy notebooks all the time, and they just sit around looking awesome. I don’t know what to write though. I worry they’ll be filled with angst, and while that was fine when I was 19, now that I am 27 I want to pretend I am somewhat mature. lol I tried looking for journalling prompts, yet they were all very middle-school. Any suggestions?

  7. Speck permalink
    12/04/2010 1:53 am

    Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous post! I think this is the best post you have ever written!!! Woot!

    I concur with the cheap notebook philosophy. I have a gorgeous $40 green leather one I’m scared to open, but I’ll spill my guts in a $1 marbled comp book.

    Journaling is addictive, for me at least. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t write each day. Have withdrawals I suppose. There is something meditative and zen-like about watching the pen go up and down on the page, drawing out the letterforms. I puts my brain in a tranquil place and soothes my soul. Mo’ betta than Zoloft, and cheaper too…YMMV

    @arcane_scholar: Forget that trying to be mature thing at your age. You can revisit that goal at 77, but for now be young and frivolous. This from someone old enough to be your momma.

    On journaling, I start each day’s entry with, “Asleep at xx:xx PM, up at xx:xx AM. I do this to check if I’m getting enough sleep. Usually I don’t.

    Then I record happened throughout the day (what I saw, did, heard, read, experienced), how I felt/thought about that, followed by the reason *why* I felt/thought that way. The *why* part is what I think is most important and worthwhile to re-read in the future.

    Next is an opinionated rant about the subject followed by a rhetorical question like, “Why are politicians so stupid about finance????”

    The last line is what I ate for supper. This to check if I’m eating healthy. Usually I’m not.

    This isn’t a suggestion per se, but perhaps it will give you some inspiration. Trust me, I lead a *very* boring life and I manage to write four pages a day about said boring life. If I actually do something, the daily entry can run 8-10 pages. I discovered I have a lot to say about a lot of things…as evidenced by this post-length comment. LOL!

  8. 12/05/2010 6:59 pm

    I love journaling, and I’m fully 0f the mind that a journal should be chosen by the journaler. Only a very few friends have successfully gifted me journals that got used, and I bow to those people. Most can’t hack it. I’m very picky about journals, and my taste varies between two or three fairly rigid paradigms. But when it’s good, you just know.

  9. Q.V. permalink
    12/06/2010 3:43 am

    Great to read about. I write a daily log in a lot of my jobs, and in one of them, it was a log that everyone contributed to, and you had to read over all the entries since your last shift. Some of my co-workers clearly needed to get some things out on paper–but they did it in a residential care log book, unfortunately. I hope they are happily journalling outside of work!

    One of my favourite books has a journal as the main character, Cure for Death by Lightning, and has reminders throughout of the importance of having a private (if not confidential) place to rest and renew a personal perspective of life.

  10. 01/05/2011 5:29 pm

    Great post. I’ve been journaling for a long time (over 20 years? Is that possible?) and I’ve found that I am happier when I’m keeping up with it regularly. When I lapse, I often don’t want to deal with the backlog of stuff to share. I’m thinking now that I might need to change diaries, though, because I don’t really enjoy writing in my current one. Maybe I should switch back to spiral, which (to me) is much more conducive to lap-writing.

  11. Mary permalink
    01/06/2011 2:52 pm

    While I do not journal consistently (tend to be angst ridden – the old journal as best friend saw) I do sketch frequently, if not daily. To overcome the “awe” of the new blank, pristine book, I have a character I created several years ago – and I use it to illustrate the opening page and the closing page of every sketch book. It is usually a small reflection of what’s going on – a new haircut for my kid, something that just happened. These are not typically detailed, but they are a type of ‘ice breaker’ to get me started. You could easily adapt this idea to journalling as well – use a standard line or question/answer. Today is January 6, 2011 and I have a new journal to begin. The best thing that happened today was…….. Today, I am grateful for a new journal and great coffee! You get the idea….
    Happy journalling.

  12. wolfy permalink
    01/10/2011 12:41 am

    I love this post and this blog.


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