Monday, 23 July 2012

Journalling School Session 1: Recording Your Life

Welcome to the first session of Journalling School. Today's session is about why you might want to keep a written record of your life and how to get started.

Life for most of us happens very quickly. Often we do not have time to assimilate events and experiences, but simply allow ourselves to be carried from one episode to the next. Holidays and special times pass in an instant. But a month, even a week after they are finished, how much of their detail is forgotten?

Keeping a journal is something most of us will have tried once or twice when we were younger. For many people, a childhood journal is the start of a record they continue to keep throughout adulthood, but for others interest wanes fairly quickly, perhaps before the first full week passes. So why should you add to your already full schedule by making time to keep a journal? Well, some of the benefits you might derive are listed below.
  1. You create a permanent log of certain events, such as when you had a particular business idea, when your child lost his first tooth, or how much you paid for that antique chair. When you start writing, you won’t know how useful this might be in the future, but it will be.
  2. By writing, you get to filter events and feelings and your brain gets a chance to process them properly, a chance that otherwise it rarely gets. Without this opportunity, it is difficult to fully appreciate what is going on in your life and what it means.
  3. You are able over time to check progress towards a goal or other long-term changes in your life. When trying out a new personal development idea, for instance, you can log your progress and reactions as you go and later look back to see the long term change.
  4. Your handwriting quality and/or speed will improve if you use a pen; your keyboard skills will improve if you use a PC.
  5. Writing can help you solve problems in your life. The act of writing is slower then the act of thinking, so you have to slow down and be more careful in your approach. Opportunities and ideas you would otherwise have missed can flow in this environment.
Writing your journal isn't really about following rules, and absolutely any subject is fair game. You can write about the events of the day or the week and your reaction to them. You can use it to consider choices you are facing, sound off on something that angers you, or brainstorm ideas for meeting your goals. Or write about plans, dreams, fears or chicken livers. It's up to you. I tend when I'm journalling to try and write grammatically in paragraphs, because this helps me order my thoughts better, but if you want to cast syntax aside and write a stream of consciousness that's fine too. The only real rule is: write about what matters to you.

People sometimes find it difficult to start a journal, and there is a certain amount of self-consciousness involved that you will need to get past. The best advice is probably to trick yourself into it. Decide that you’re not actually going to write about yourself, but simply record some random thoughts and ideas, perhaps with a view to improving your writing, trying out a new pen, or keyboard, or word processor.

Maintain this ‘random writing’ for a few days and without ever trying or meaning to you will simply start writing about what is happening to you or around you and how you feel about it. And then you’re off.


If you haven't started a journal yet, find a comfortable place where you'll have a little time for yourself, and start. Write the date and under that write about anything you like; it doesn't have to be about you. Write until you feel like stopping. Then stop. If you like, do this more than once.

If you are already writing a journal, then one day this week make your entry about how and why you began your journal. Write about what were you were hoping to achieve in journalling and reflect on how well that has panned out. Think and write about the unexpected benefits and rewards you've got from it.

That was the first session of Journalling School. In the next session we'll look at sustaining the habit.

Feedback, thoughts and ideas are welcome. Please share your experiences in the comments.

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