Earlier this week when dinner was finished, we pulled out the iPad to video chat with my parents. The biggest thing we all wanted to talk about, of course, was the toddler beside me. What mischief was he causing? What words was he saying? What foods was he gobbling up?
“Oh!” my mom said, as I finished describing the latest antics. “You have to write that story in your journal, Katie!”
We told them another story. “Write that one down, too,” my mom said.
She was getting pretty excited about this whole journaling idea. She is not a journaler. She always had great intentions, as I think we all do. The challenge is to take those intentions and turn them into actions. It sounds easy enough, but life shows us that what appears easy is seldom so. It’s like theres this indescribable pressure, because we think we should have zero problems. Just pick up your pen and go, right?
There are two reasons we can’t grab our pens and keep great journals:
- We don’t know how to make time to journal.
- We don’t know what to write in a journal.
The key to keeping a great journal? It’s finding your balance between those two challenges. Every night, I pull out my journal. It’s become a very distinct part of the nighttime routine. (Having a toddler means our evening routine gets pretty specific, starting around 5:00 when I get dinner going.) My whole day revolves around being a mom and work. But when I tell my son goodnight and close the bedroom door, my own evening ritual begins. I take out my contact lenses. I make some tea or pour some wine. Then I go to the couch to write. I read online articles. I read novels and non-fiction. Then I find myself reaching for my favorite pen, to just write a little more.
But first, no matter what, I write. I use a writing prompt journal from Gadanke, of course. That immediately gives me the solution to the second greatest problem we all have with journaling: what do I write about?
I like sitting down with no specific writing plans until I open that journal. In my head, I only tell myself that the requirement for my journal is quite simple: I want to document something happy. There are so many sad things in our world and in our lives. Right now, I want a journal that celebrates the good. I suspect you feel the same way. Truthfully, it makes going to bed so much easier. We often dream about whatever was on our minds right before bed. This is why I don’t do bookkeeping, business brainstorming, or any work at night. I just can’t shut my brain down, and I will toss and turn all night. The same goes for journaling about sad or frustrating things.
I write about happy moments I want to remember. I let the writing prompts guide me into memories of favorite childhood foods, what made my day awesome, what passport stamps I dream of …
Ultimately, the key to keeping a great journal is not setting up the expectation that it has to become a great journal. If you do that, your mind goes blank. I promise. I used to keep pages and pages of “I don’t know what to write” journal entries. Now, I want to embrace joy. Sometimes, it can help you carve out more joy. It can help you discover a better sense of your direction or your value to our world.
Journaling isn’t just about celebrating your story. It’s celebrating you.
P.S. There’s becoming quite the archives of journal page tutorials here, so you can really sink into some good thoughts.