Monday, 30 July 2012

Journalling School Session 2: Sustainable Journalling

Welcome to the second session of Journalling School. Today's session is about how to keep going.

Often, it can be hard to sustain writing in a journal. Perhaps you get suddenly busy and lose any possibility of spare time, or perhaps it seems that nothing interesting is going on. Maybe you just forget to write a few days in a row and then the momentum is lost. There are ways to guard against this:
  1. Try to develop the habit of writing at the same time every day, say first thing in the morning, or last thing at night. One reader, Josh, says he writes just before bed and this helps him to 'close the day'.  If you’re working, could you devote a few minutes to this in your lunch break?
  2. Don’t beat yourself up about making an entry every day; if circumstances mean just one or two entries a week, that’s fine. You can increase or decrease the frequency of entries as you like.
  3. Unless your PC is always with you and ready to go, use pen and paper, and keep them with you all the time if you can so you can snatch writing opportunities as they arise. We Filofax users will find this very natural.
  4. Use a plain paper book or your blank pages in your Filofax rather than a pre-printed diary, because you might want to write a lot some days, a little on others and sometimes nothing at all. Often, using a pre-printed journal, having a fixed space for each day can feel like tyrrany. Conversely, for some people it may represent a good discipline. 
  5. If you get stuck with nothing to write, just write yourself a question, take a breath and write down some answers to it. I’ve included some prompt questions to get you started at the end of this post.
  6. Think what it would be like if you had started a year ago. Imagine all the detail you would be able to go back and read.
  7. If you do lapse for a period, don’t consider the whole thing a failure. When you’re ready, simply turn to a new page, write the date and start going again.
Look forward to the time when you will be able to look back and find out what you were doing and how you were feeling a year ago or ten years ago. What memories you are preserving for your future, or for your children?

Journal prompt questions

When you're stuck, just write down any of these questions and then answer it. This can be the starting point for quite a long journal entry.
  • How am I feeling right now and why?
  • What was the best thing that happened today?
  • What is worrying me?
  • How will I spend the coming weekend?
  • What ambition have I had for a long time?
  • Who are the people that matter to me and why?
  • What is my earliest memory?
  • Where have I travelled and what did I see or do there?
  • If I could do anything with my life, what would I do?
  • If I won or inherited a fortune, what would I do with it?
  • What values do I want my children to hold?
  • How will I celebrate my next major birthday?
  • What would my ideal holiday be like?

Staying positive

You'll notice that among the prompts above, there are plenty of upbeat, positive topics. These give you a chance to break away from current concerns for a while. Now and then, this is important, because if your journal becomes a place in which you just whine and wallow, your motivation to keep writing will suffer, and so will your mood.

In a future session, I'll be talking about using journalling to influence your mood and to effect change, but for now make sure you choose strongly positive topics to journal about now and then.


If you haven't started a journal after last week's session, try to start this week. You can use one of the prompt questions to get you going. Do the same if your journal has stalled. Make sure at least one entry has a positive mood or outlook.

Try to write at least two or three entries this week, and do it at different times of the day. Think about which time works best for you? When do the words and ideas flow most freely? When do you feel most comfortable and least distracted?

That was the second session of Journalling School. In the next session we'll look at what to do if you want to restart your journal after a long period of not writing.

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

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