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My Practical Journaling Journey

Social media gives journals a bad wrap. Either someone shares an embarrassing entry from their tween years or they share a beautifully crafted and artistic journal that is unattainable for the average person. But there is another kind of journaling that isn’t often exposed to the world. The practical kind of journal that is not perfectly written, embarrassing, or a social media flex. The kind of journals I have written for the past eight years.

 

Like most people I tried and failed to start journals. I would start a journal in some gifted notebook with a page about how I would write everyday and then I would forget about it until five years later when I'd find that one entry journal in the back of a drawer. My experience isn’t unique. Not only did I start and fail on multiple journals, so did my sister, and I have even found one entry journals written by my grandfather.

So what changed for me? What got me journaling? Well, I started journaling for two reasons. 1) I wanted to be a writer and I thought that that would be a good way for me to make sure I wrote every day and 2) because I wanted to write down the important moments in my day to day life. Along with these things, I thought I could include story ideas and poems in my journal, but I discovered that I didn't want to use my journaling time to write down creative ideas. Instead, I wanted my journal to be a place where I could debrief the day before I went to sleep and I have been writing that way ever since. Now, I journal out of habit, to get my thoughts out, to think things through, to remember the good things that happened in a day, and to calm me down when bad things happen.

Despite being a writer, my journal entries aren't eloquent or interesting. They are boring, straight forward, and aren’t worth reading. Generally, I start with the date then I write “Got up, had tea…” going through each movement of my day. Towards the end of an entry I make sure I write down the important things like how my dog slept in my arms or how he looked at the clock when I asked him what time it was and anything else (mostly dog related) that I want to get down. If I am upset about something, I can get it out in the pages. If I’m happy, I try to write down at least one happy moment to remind me of the good things in life.

 

I think the most important thing I did when I started to journal was that I forced myself to write every day. I chose before bed because I procrastinate everything and I thought journaling would fit in nicely with my before bed procrastination. Occasionally, I miss a night of writing because I'm too tired or I forget, but I still continue to write in my journal because it is a part of my routine.

 

As someone who enjoys journaling, there are a few things I would suggest to a beginner journaler. First, think about what you want to get out of journaling. This can mean writing because you want to remember, you want a place to assemble notes and ticket stubs, you want a place to think things through, or you want to write about life in general. Second, find a time of day you can commit to writing and make it a part of your routine. For me that was before bed but it could be over breakfast or lunch or right after work. Third, let the journal shift as you need. Change things that don’t work. Maybe it’s a weekly journal. Maybe it’s two lines every day. Maybe it’s a "whenever I need it" journal or it morphs into a place to draw. Finally and most importantly, don't put high expectations on your journal. I enjoy journalling because I don't strive for perfection. I strive for reflection, self-discovery, and to write a journal that is helpful for me.

 — Chef Amy

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