what i’ve learned about journaling

by Joanna on June 13, 2012

I used to think journaling was like keeping a diary in elementary school.  Every night before bed you’d write about what you did that day:

“Dear Diary, today I went to the my friend’s house.  It was fun. We played…”

I knew there were benefits to journaling but writing in that way always seemed forced and rarely brought the therapeutic relief it is supposed to bring.

When I was planning my wedding I carried a small notebook around with me to take notes and jot down ideas, lists, etc. When I started blogging, I continued to carry the notebook around with me to jot down notes and post ideas, random thoughts, emotions, etc. And what began as drafting potential blog posts turned into an appreciation for exploring and expressing emotions through writing.

Now I write when I feel like writing: waiting for the bus on a Saturday afternoon (when this post was drafted), at 5am when I wake up with lots of thoughts, on the bus, when I waiting for my computer to re-boot at work.

I’m still finding my way, learning more about what I like to write, what prevents me from writing certain things, and how to get around those hang ups.

You may have noticed that I rarely write posts that recap a weekend or a day or a trip (Chicago part 1part 2part 3). It’s because for me writing posts like that is kind of excruciating.

Writing a timeline narrative is not my thing.  I like to explore feelings and events and I always feel like I go too off course. If the main idea is “what I did today,” I can’t do that because I feel like I have to get to the end of the day and list every single thing I did and until I get there it will not be over.  I also feel like I have to include every. single. detail or the post is somehow dishonest or inaccurate or I’m not telling the whole story. [I had to edit myself in the most recent what’s for dinner? wednesday post and assure myself that not sharing that I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things did not take away from the point of the story: I made lunch, then decided we should go on a picnic and made it happen.] And that makes me stressed. Journaling should not be stressful.

Here’s what I’ve learned, what I would share to beginners (and I advise that you all try journaling if you don’t already), and what I continually remind myself:

  • you don’t have to start at the “beginning”
  • you don’t have to get to the “end”
  • you don’t have to include every. single. detail.
  • remember how good it feels once you write (kind like how good it feels once you get your butt to the gym)
  • write when you feel inspired
  • it’s therapeutic to write about things that happened in the past
  • it’s energizing to write about hopes and dreams you have for the future…in detail


I’d love to know…

Do you keep a journal?

If so…

How often to do you write?  | When do you write? | What does journaling mean to you?

Have you had any issues journaling? | What have you learned through your journaling practice?

If not…

Why not? | Do you have concerns or blocks about journaling like I did? | What’s your favorite way to explore your emotions?

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