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.


Steve Morton said...

Hi Everyone
The first recollection I have of keeping a journal was back in about 1987 when I first got a Filofax. In January of that year my son was born, so there is a lot of details about what we were doing at the time.

I kept a more or less daily journal for about two years and then for some reason it fizzled out. Why I can't remember.

But reading back through those diary pages now it really does bring back the memories of 25 years ago as if it was only yesterday. So much so that it encouraged me to start keeping a daily journal again in the last couple of years.

This year I have been more successful in keeping my journal going not everyday has an entry but I try to enter something each day.

I'm hoping from Ray's sessions to pick up some useful tips to improve the way I keep my journal.

As you might have seen on Philofaxy I now use two diary inserts one for planning (Present and Future) and the other for my Journal (Past) I'm finding that this really works well for me.

I archive both lots of inserts because together they tell a more complete story.

Once again thanks Ray for coming up with an excellent idea for a great series of posts.


SNARLing: said...

Hi Ray. First of all, thanks for all your contributions (and you too steve - in case you're reading this) to philofaxy! although i've been crazy busy lately, i still make time to skim through my reader in the morning and most special attention is given to my "FILO" grouping and i have to smile evertime i read all of them. sometimes, i'm like, man there's only 5 but then i'm psyched when there's 25+ in commetns and all related blogs...

anyway, i used to journal quite regularly when i was younger and when i was in school, i was really good about keeping a sketchbook where i would write a lot as well. since getting married and having a kid and being in my early 40's i kinda stopped. last year i put some graph sheets in my compact that i would change out weekly. they were set up as 2ppd and it was supposed to be just for 'journalling/drawing'. i was pretty good about it and decided that for 2012, i would do a large daily moleskine journal which i have been writing in everyday but i do feel it's turned into more of a chore. i find that i'm writing more surface level stuff, which is ok i suppose, but there are some personal things i really need to let go of. in my current compact setup, i'd been using wpp w/notes in conjunction with a 2ppd but just changed that again (been meaning to blog about it...hopefully soon - currently cc 2ppw for "serious stuff") but i really like those 2ppd for some reason so i've included a week's worth of them as well for fun playful banter with myself and whoever will read them someday. I still have the large moleskine but i'm sooo looking forward to the end of the year when i won't have it anymore. it's nice having a bound book for that stuff but i think it's nicer having everything in one book. we'll see how it works. i love that the filofax (and my collection heh heh) supports my ever-evolving ways

Ray Blake said...

Steve and SNARLing, thanks for sharing your experiences. I hope you'll both be able to take some ideas from the series.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the first lesson Ray, i'm just about to do my journal entry and why I started journaling and how it's going is something i've been thinking about a lot lately, I tend to journal to get unhelpful thoughts out of my head but it's tending to get a bit miserable and whiney, I want to journal about the fun things to and funny things the kids say etc etc .....

I've been using an A5 Leuchturm1917 but i'm considering using an A5 Filofax but still unsure as to what will work best for me. With the bound journal it's all neatly together and they can be filed side by side nicely, with the Filofax it's easier to get rid of a page should a mistake be made but not as easy to store neatly once taken out of the binder, decisions decisions !!!

Ray Blake said...

It's interesting that our journal writing can sometimes become focused on the negative. There's an extent to which this allows us to 'dump' the things that are bothering us, but there comes a point where it goes beyond just reflecting our mood to perpetuating it. One of the aspects of journalling I will be looking at is its ability to influence mood and lead change, so look out for that.

Raine said...

That is so true. I had a long break from journaling a few years ago because looking back all my entries were so negative.

I'm loving your approach of journaling to "influence mood and lead to change"

aprilquilts said...

I'm very excited about this project, but as usual, I'm stuck on the format rather than the content, specifically, do I use a filofax for my journal or Moleskine or other journal. I'd love to hear your thoughts. I use the personal size filos.

NinaRaffaela said...

Hi everybody.

I'm using the business-Range DpP in my A5 Malden. The integrated week per Page overview behind every sunday is for work related Things and the several days are for journaling. I'm trying to encourage a Routine here and jot down my thoughts and latest Events almost every Day in the first break at work.
I also use a selfmade month on two Pages overview to keep myself in Track on all the Personal appointments. Doctors, insurance, Important payments And also the "Meetings" with my Friends. So also the m2P Diary is great to reconstruate my days and memories.

I'm really looking forward to your next lessons. And though it's working very well to write down, whatever is on my mind, i'm hoping for some hints to add a little more Fun, style and technique into my Daily journaling

So thank you for your Great Idea Ray!

Ray Blake said...

Ah, yes, the question of what book or format to use. Well, the short answer is 'whatever works for you'. There's a rather longer answer based on my experience. I favour bound books, for reasons I'll go into in a later lesson. My personal favourite is the A5 Red 'n' Black. I personally don't like formats that require me to write a set amount (or - more specifically - don't allow me to exceed a certain amount) each day, so I'd choose a plain book or paper, writing the date for myself each day. But I know people who rely on a pre-printed format to give them the discipline.

In short, I think you should try what you have readily to hand for a few days, work out its deficiencies (if any) and then try something different, that's likely not to have those deficiencies.

This approach also means you're less likely to get 'journalling stage fright' when you open the new journal, because you've already had a bit of a run up.

the Merry Lemon said...

Ray - I am loving your journalling posts. I have struggled with journalling for a long time. I'm good for a few days and then nothing. I have finally found a way to keep it going.

I found that I need to be directing what I write to someone. I am thinking about people in my family with whom I am not close.

The subject/direction of my present journal is to those who will come after me - so they can know who I am. I think about relatives who have passed and wish I knew more about their lives and who they were. That keeps me journalling. Some posts are light - my favorite color, music, books, etc. and some are deeper and explore some difficult times and issues in my life.

I am really looking forward to more of your posts.

Diane Perin said...

I like your journalling school idea! I journal off and on... Frequently I will start in again during a phase where life is complicated and it helps me to sort things out. But I have noticed that I tend to drift away from journalling when things get better.

So over the last 6 months or so I am trying something new that seems to be working well for me, in my A5 Finchley, I have a section with the week on two pages/ notes version. I use that for writing brief jottings abut what I did, who with, just what will fit in the inch or so of space.

For a while I used another section with a page on two days format for longer, looser journalling. But I hated the feeligpng of having blank pages if I missed a day and I found the rings awkward for longer writing, so I ordered a Flex bound journal which slides perfectly into the back slot and I do my long journalling there. Mostly daily but sometimes not. I just write the date when I start and keep going. It's working beautifully and I figure when it's full Ill store it and switch it to a new Flex journal insert in the same Filofax.

crofter said...

I think I started keeping a journal because of my father. He didn't so much keep a journal, but he kept meticulous notes of EVERYTHING. You never wanted to argue with him about an event that happened years ago, because you would lose every time. He used 6 ring pocket notebooks, and later spiral bound pocket daytimes. Any event in question, he could go to his notebook from 20 years previous, tell you who was there, what was discussed, and what was decided. On the same day, could tell you how much it cost to have a flat tire repaired, and the mileage on that tire.

I was always so impressed with that from the time I was just a tyke. My notes take more of a narrative form, but have been able to use it much in the same way. it benefits me so much, and is very enjoyable to me as well as being good therapy.

Ray Blake said...

Diane, I like the idea of using a Flex notebook.

Merry Lemon and Crofter - you both raise interesting points around a subject we'll be tackling in a later session. This is the extent to which journal looks inward vs. the extent to which it looks outward. I believe there needs to be a balance between the two, although this can shift depending on your personal needs over time.


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