Today I’d like to talk about journaling. I realize there are hundreds of definitions of journaling with hundreds of approaches and at least as many benefits. I’d like to discuss my own journaling approach and what benefits this has given me so far. Maybe I can, with some modifications, get even more result out of journaling.
A useful definition of journaling for me would be ‘the practice of writing down your thoughts and reflections on a regular basis, in a dedicated notebook or digital file.’ Before, I did this on a more or less daily basis, if I was in periods in my life where I was struggling with ‘difficult’ emotions. These were emotions like sorrow, anger and especially, anxiety.
My current practice
These days, I aim to write on a daily basis, no matter in what mental state I find myself. I write exclusively longhand in a dedicated notebook. I tried digital formats also, both typing and scribbling on an iPad, but I feel there is nothing that can beat the feeling a beautiful fountain pen gliding over high quality paper. Actually, this sense of satisfaction is like a primary motivator to actually start writing!
My weapon of choice is a black Lamy Imporium but I also regularly use a blue Lamy Dialog CC. As notebooks I have used Moleskine (plain, not great paper quality) and Lamy (ruled, better quality). Now I’m going to try Rhodia (dot pad, A5), of which I already know that it has the best paper quality.
While I have filled a handful of notebooks, I never really read back my notes. Basically, the value of the writing down my thoughts and reflections is in the writing itself. That’s why I will not switch from a notebook to a spiral bound notepad. Due to the spiral, the pad folds better, takes less place on a desk and I can tear out and throw away the pages that I have written.
I typically write between two to four pages every time. My aim is to write as early as possible in the morning, usually after my mandatory early morning routine has completed. Sometimes that may mean that I only find time to write later during the day. Usually I write only once during the day. Only a few times I felt the need for another session during the same day.
The Artist’s Way
The other day I stumbled upon ‘Morning Pages,’ a concept by Julia Cameron that she described in her book ‘The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity.’ Without reading the book, I found the following outline of the concept:
- Write in a journal every day, as early as possible, preferably right after waking up
- Write your spontaneous thoughts for three pages every day. Even if you have no thoughts left, just continue writing
- Discard the written notes. Don’t write for an audience (other people or your future self) so that you don’t have to censor yourself.
If I compare this concept to my own practice, I see that there is a big overlap. A couple of times I tried to force myself to continue writing to fill the three pages. Sometimes I succeeded, other days I didn’t. Then I accepted that there would be only two pages that day.
I’m not sure if I would reach the promised ‘Higher Creativity’ because of my journaling practice. But hey, I didn’t read the book.
I do notice that journaling gives me much more clarity. Very often I find myself starting the day with an overwhelming load of thoughts and inputs that compete for attention. Writing down my stream of thoughts seems to slow down my mind. The thoughts that are now on paper are no longer in my head, at least no longer overwhelming. I get more clarity of what I want during the day, like what I will blog about.