Journaling can be a powerful tool in personal and business transformation. It is the process of recording your thoughts, feelings, important events and daily experiences in a notebook. It is a means of self-discovery and I am a passionate believer in how journaling can also unlock creativity and self-expression. Perfect if you are planning on writing a book or make fundamental changes in your life or work.
Following on from the first blog in this series, Part 1: The Benefits of Journaling, I wanted to delve a little deeper into journaling and discuss what it is, when and where to do it and how to use a journal and get started effectively.
What is a Journal?
A journal is basically a diary or notebook that you write in every day. It’s as simple as that. It can be a basic lined exercise book or a decorated journal made specifically for the purpose. I personally love moleskin books and lined exercise books from Paperchase and always have a stack of empty journals ready to go when the current one is finished. Sometimes by using a simple, inexpensive book this takes away any pressure you may place on yourself of not wanting to ruin the book. Remember that journaling is not about perfection or writing a beautiful manuscript, it is all about the journey and the process of writing and what it does for you. See Part 1: The Benefits of Journaling for a bit of background as to what it can help you with.
Can’t I use a computer?
Personally I strongly believe in handwriting a journal rather than using a computer or tablet to put down your thoughts. There is something very different when expressing yourself in your own handwriting – something permanent and tangible. You also can’t go back and delete words using the delete key for example, so your thoughts are recorded as they come out – there is no editing. There is something very different and almost peaceful about writing by hand.
It’s also a bit like drawing – you are creating the words and so tap into the right side of the brain which is going to assist you to tap into in the self-discovery and self-expression that you are looking to achieve. Take a look at how your handwriting may change from day to day depending on your mood or how a different colour pen can change the look of your writing.
For many people (myself included), writing out words by hand is a slower process than typing and therefore you take a little more time to craft a thought before it is committed to paper. It makes me slow down a little and take time over my thoughts rather than rush what I am trying to say.
Why not try a comparison? Write a journal for three days on a computer and then three days using paper
Where Do I write?
In terms of where you write, I would choose somewhere you feel comfortable and will not be disturbed when writing. It is important that you get into a rhythm or a flow and are not interrupted mid-thought. It is usually only after around 15 minutes that you really get to the heart of an issue or start to really tap into what you have been trying to express or problem-solve. The environment needs to be conducive to free thought and flow. Somewhere where you won’t feel like you are being watched or that is too noisy or distracting. I personally like sitting in the garden with nature around me, I sometimes sit in a café on my own, I use my home office or really any space in my house where I can get a bit of peace and quiet.
When Do I write?
Many people choose to write first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Both have their benefits. I like to writing first thing in the morning before or during breakfast to set me up for the day ahead. It often clears my mind and sets up some goals for the day or my working week. If I have been dreaming about something over night I can get it down on paper and I can start the day with the right frame of mind. Likewise many people write last thing at night to reflect on the day they have just had and go to bed with a peaceful mind and everything set for the following day. And other people will do both! I would recommend that you chose a time that suits you and your lifestyle – if that means at lunchtime or in your coffee break, then great. If you are not sure, try out a few different options and you will soon discover what is best for you.
Regular journal writing
One of the most important tips I can give you in this blog article is to make journaling a regular practice. You really see the benefits when you do it every day. It is a daily practice and builds, week upon week. Yes, some days you may forget or have an unusual schedule that means you can’t write or only write a short amount. That is ok – none of us are perfect and you can of course give yourself a break on the odd day. But overall you need to plan to journal every day to see true benefits.
How much writing should I do each day?
I would recommend that you spend at least 30 minutes or write 3 full pages in your journal. It may sound like a lot but to really tap into your creative brain and subconscious you need to write more than just a few sentences or bullet points. By writing this much you will really hit the spot, solve the problem or understand what is bothering you. It is a serious process of self development and therefore you need to dedicate proper time to it to see results.
What shall I write about?
I will cover what to write about in more detail in the third part of this blog series. I will talk about different ways to use a journal and give some journaling prompts. But for now to get you going, I would just try free writing. By this I mean just write what comes into your head or write about whatever is bothering you at the moment – thoughts, feelings, problems, things you are grateful for. If it looks like a mess of words, that is no problem at all. It is not a masterpiece, it is a process of putting words on paper and learning to understand yourself deeply. Go with it – write whatever comes into your head!
Should I read back my writing?
There are two schools of thought on this – yes and no! I mainly don’t read back my writing except for goal setting, cosmic ordering and any business planning I may do as part of the process. In other words, unless it NEEDS reading back (i.e. if you set a goal you want to check you achieved it) then let it go. An important part of journaling is sharing your thoughts and then letting them go. Accepting what comes out and moving on. As part of some of my creativity workshops, this is an important thing that I ask delegates to do. We destroy several pages of our writing as an important and therapeutic exercise. I believe in living in the present – writing with mindfulness and care as to what we are writing but not in lingering in the past and dwelling on things that have been and gone.
How Do I get started?
Buy a notebook, set aside some time and just get started. It’s as simple as that. Don’t make it a big thing just grab a pen and start writing. Start today or start tomorrow but don’t put it off and make it a habit.
In the next part of this blog series I will talk more about what to write about and provide you with some handy journaling prompts.