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SO YOU WANNA JOURNAL…

11/16/2012

I started journaling in a Little Twin Stars diary when I was 12. I didn’t realize it would eventually lead to a lifelong love affair with writing by hand or cataloging my thoughts on paper. I’ve written previously about the benefits I get from journaling (and you might too). And yeah, all those reasons are valid new hotness. However, based on the number of desperate emails I receive with subject lines written the way Ike Turner talks (IN ALL FUCKING CAPS) asking how to actually sit your ass down and journal day in and day out, I suppose my post wasn’t as comprehensive as I might have hoped.

As a writer, it’s just not that difficult for me to settle down to pen long, stream-of-conscious entries – I hope to Xena are burned to a crisp rather than auctioned off to some pervy old literary collector with a house filled with smelly books and fifteen cats – without much provocation. But I’m fairly certain that’s not the case for most people. Particularly people who don’t consider themselves writers.

There’s certainly a case to be made for not journaling. You don’t actually have to. Your life will work out just fine if you opt to never write a single thing down. Most likely you’ll remember what’s worth remembering and probably not have notebooks filled detailing all the shortcomings of the people you encounter on daily basis or every whiny thought you have. But since you’re reading this post, I’m guessing you actually want to journal so here are my tips for how to do it.

Be fussy about it in the beginning

Whenever I want to develop a new skill or habit, I am incredibly fussy about. I do all kinds of research about products, practitioners and theoretical perspectives. Not only do I get a little background on my budding interest, but it also gets me really excited about doing it. Go out and look at journals, notebooks and sketchbooks. Read reviews of any products that make an impression you. Read about paper, ink and whatever materials you plan to use for your journaling.

Just start writing

Don’t worry about being perfect or ruining your notebooks. Just write or draw or make lists or responses you wished you’d said to the surly Rite-Aid pharmacist. Experiment with different formulas, whether it’s posing a single question and responding or listing 1000 things you love/hate about whatever. Once you get comfortable with the blank page it won’t be as challenging to fill them.

Commit to journaling everday for a month

30 days is long enough to either get into a groove or realize journaling is not for you. It’s only a month.

Put it down when you don’t feel like doing it

My secret for being a voracious journaler is that when I don’t feel like doing it I just don’t. There are days when the thought of journaling feels like an obligation rather than a fun. Giving myself permission to journal only when I feel like it has had the paradoxical effect of making me consistent.

Don’t ever ever ever ever show it to anyone

Seriously DON’T. Even if you’ve written something lovely about them, and especially if you haven’t. Your journal is your own space and keeping that space sacred is imperative. I am not woo woo by any means, but I do believe in the power of writing it down on paper. The source of that power comes in the privacy it affords the journaler. It’s also why I advocate getting a journal/notebook/sketchbook that’s attractive to you, but not necessarily attractive. And for Xena’s sake don’t pull a Harriet the Spy and write, “PRIVATE KEEP OUT!!!” unless you really want someone to read all about how much you want to put laxatives in your coworkers snack cakes.

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