I have a journal problem. Literally, I have enough journals to last me for the next five years, at least. But every time I walk into a bookstore, I buy another one (I'm literally sitting in Barnes and Noble right now with another journal on my lap).
It’s a sickness, but I have no interest in curing it.
Two weeks ago, I was in Washington, D.C. for a youth education summit. They kept us on our toes all week, and there was literally no moment of free time from Monday morning to Saturday night. Granted, they kept us busy with amazing and fun things, but still - it was a little crazy. I had no time to myself, no moment to breathe.
I realized something. I really missed journaling. For me, it’s my time to process the day, collect my thoughts and write my ideas and hopes and fears. It’s a safe place for me to really express what I’m feeling.
Journaling is a subject I’m really passionate about. I think that everyone can benefit from some form of journaling - be it a prayer journal, planning journal, morning journal, or traditional diary.
Even a simple recording of the events of the day and a short notation about them is all it takes to be start to see patterns in your life story. Toni Morrison said that “Gaining access to that interior life is a kind of archaeology: on the basis of some information and a little bit of guesswork you journey to a site to see what remains were left behind and you reconstruct the world.”
Keeping a journal allows you to be the one who records your story and reflects on it. Our story is our most powerful weapon, but it’s a double-edged sword. We can use it to grow or to tear ourselves down. Journaling allows us to learn our story and own it, keeping a record of our growth, accomplishments, dreams, and hopes. As put by Dan Allender in his book To Be Told, “The problem is that we so rarely tell our own stories. Stories surround us, but those stories are not ours.” Journaling uncovers the story within us.
So, here’s how you can start.
1. Buy a journal you love.
This is no problem for me. I consider myself a journal connoisseur, and I am well-practiced at recognizing with which journals I have a soul connection. But shop around for one. Bookstores often have a stock of lovely journals, Etsy always has beautiful handmade journals, and of course Target or Amazon has a large surplus. Or pick up a simple notepad, and even that can become the canvas for your story.
When will you write? For what purpose? Who is the audience? Are you writing to identify ways to grow as a person, to preserve memories, or to catch ideas? Will this journal be intensely personal or open for public viewing or posterity?
Knowing the answers to those questions will help you start your journal. I journal to process my day, and I intend to be the only person who reads the whole thing. Ever.
3. Start now.
Often what holds us back from journaling is the fear that it’s too late to journal; we’ve already missed too much of our lives, too many memories have slipped away. We can catch them all, why try to catch any? We doubt that we have anything worth saying.
Alexandra Johnson, author of Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal said “No matter how raw or incomplete, journals are already full of patterns.”
Start here. Start now. Yes, there will be things you have missed. But that’s okay. Life is a constantly evolving story that you can capture right now, in your own unique way and from your own unique vantage point. Don’t hold back. Don’t be scared. Start "write" now.