In which I write. A lot. And love it. In a journal.
That’s why I’m a writer and not a waiter. A writer and not a salesman. A writer and not a pastor.
I like people. But I like words more. [Pray for me. Seriously.]
And that’s why it’s natural for me to keep a journal.
I’m comfortable on paper. Put me in front of a stranger…and I want out. Quick.
Don’t get me wrong: Before Christ I hated people and sold my soul for words. After Christ I loved people and sold my gift to Jesus.
But here’s my point: That particular discovery occurred while journaling.
So, whether you love to write or not, keeping a journal is a beautiful tool to help you in your spiritual and emotional life. Here are 20 tips to help you get started.
1. Go cheap and big.
You’ll see why in a minute.
2. Write junk.
If you have an expensive journal, you’ll tend to self-edit while you write…which is a big no-no. Freewheel. Give yourself permission to write trash. And go at it like a maniac. That’s when discovery emerges.
3. Keep more than one journal.
But not too many. I’ve got a fatty journal that gets the bulk of my thoughts and ideas. I then have a small notebook I take when the fatty is too much. Then I use Google Docs for an online journal, which I keep open while I’m on my computer so I can easily toggle between work and journal.
4. Make lists.
Grocery list. Saturday task list. Blog post lists. My journal is a dumping ground. This way I have everything in one place.
5. Carry it with you everywhere.
Either the big one or the little one. Don’t rely on your memory. And if you use the little one, copy the notes into the big one.
6. Write your name and phone number in it.
Losing a journal is an agonizing experience. Make sure it can find it’s way home.
7. Explore your feelings.
Disturbed, frustrated or sad? Then document those feelings and ask yourself why you are feeling this way. The idea is to sharpen your sense and heighten self-awareness.
8. Meditate and pray.
I find it very helpful to write prayers into my journal because it makes me aware of what I’m saying. Again, self-awareness.
9. Tape things in it.
Whether it’s an article from Fast Company or your daughter’s still life of a parrot…attach it inside your journal. Remember: Your journal is a dumping ground.
10. Keep a master list.
11. Use tabs.
Break a thick journal into sections. Devote half your journal to a diary, a quarter to master list and a quarter to prayer list. Your choice. Post-It Notes make nice tabs.
Your journal is not sacred. Be creative in it. Get it dirty.
13. Use highlighters.
I’m writing blog post and short story ideas into my journal all the time. Then I go through and highlight the post ideas in purple and the short story ideas in yellow. This way I can find them easier.
14. Map out your day or week.
I like to write out a blog content schedule two weeks in advance. I do it in pencil in my journal. Pencil so I can erase. Erasing is good.
15. Ask your children to write in it.
I adore the pages of my journal where daughter and son got a hold of it and wrote or drew pictures.
16. Keep your Bible notes in it.
Need an explanation?
17. Document your dreams.
Not all of them. Just the vivid, startling ones of note.
18. Put your hate into it.
For instance, write an angry email. Print it out. Tape it into your journal. Delete the email. This will save you tons of grief while nurturing that path of self-discovery.
19. Capture all thoughts.
In the shower. Before bed. In the middle of night. Rule is: Journal close, thoughts down in it. Who knows if that’s a juicy answer to a perplexing problem.
If all else fails, just grab some blank paper, fold it in half and stick it in the book you are reading. You can later tape the paper into your journal.
I’ll end with a quote from Walter Scott: “What is a diary as a rule? A document useful to the person who keeps it. Dull to the contemporary who reads it and invaluable to the student, centuries afterwards, who treasures it.”