Journaling is an exceptional way to simultaneously leave a legacy for others as well as process your own life as it comes. There are times when the days are so intense that there really is no better way to address all the joys and pressures but to write them out.
Whether you’re new to the practice of journaling or are making a fresh start, these five considerations will assist you in your purpose.
First, you must ask yourself: what is your motivation for journaling? Is your goal the preservation of memories? Is it that aforementioned chance to process, or even vent? Or do you simply find pleasure in the physical act of putting pen to paper?
A commitment to any frequency is fine, but it must be just that—a commitment. Set an appointment in your agenda just as you would jot down a coffee date with a friend. Be faithful to your practice and do your best to not show up late.
The answer? Do what works for you. There is no judgment. This is your practice. Some days you’ll sit down and write for pages, and other days only a sentence or two will suffice. The consistent habit and act of writing, even for a short time, is what matters.
This journaling practice, unless you choose to pass on your writings for posterity, is for you and you alone. Therefore, the content is entirely up to you. You may write whatever you want, in any language you want.
Just as there are no stupid questions, there is no wrong way to journal. David Sedaris puts it bluntly:
I guess in my diary I’m not afraid to be boring. It’s not my job to entertain anyone in my diary.
Sometimes the best inspiration can come from the words of another. Take this beautifully simple suggestion from William Wordsworth:
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.
The Diary of Anne Frank is a heart-wrenching glimpse into the journal of a young girl. Thirteen-year old Anne wrote to herself:
I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.
Few have surpassed novelist Dorothy L. Sayers’ words on the subject, spoken through the viewpoint of her character Harriet Vane:
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In the meanwhile she had got her mood on to paper—and this is the release that all writers, even the feeblest, seek for as men seek for love; and, having found it, they doze off happily into dreams and trouble their hearts no further.
A love of reading is often discovered at a young age and is a tremendous asset for anyone; readers have an entire world available to them that non-readers don’t benefit from. They can learn skills, entertain themselves, glean wisdom from history, and find inspiration for self-improvement using nothing but a (free!) public library. Yet sometimes, though children can read, they see it more as required work than a privilege and miss out on the joy that the habit can bring.