How to keep a GREAT journal

April 1st, 2015

how to keep a great journal

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:

  1. We don’t know how to make time to journal.
  2. 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.

The risk versus joy of pausing

March 20th, 2015

the risk versus joy of pausing

Remember the scene in You’ve Got Mail when Meg Ryan decides to step on the podium and fight Tom Hanks with his Big Bad Fox Bookstore? She’s got her hands in fists, taking little punches and jabs at the air. She’s ready to fight, not just for her store, but essentially everything she believes in.

I adored that movie when I was in high school. It’s funny now to see how my own story mimics Meg Ryan’s. I have a small bookshop, a journal shop really. I have dreams and ideals for living a life that’s about passion, not money. My goal is helping people celebrate their stories and themselves–both my customers and the people who manufacture my raw materials or work for me at Gadanke. And every day, I kind of have to keep swinging, too. I don’t have a Fox Bookstore to battle with, per say. But like any business person, I think I’m not supposed to stop. Ever.

I wonder if I should really be telling myself, “It’s not personal. It’s business. If you want to succeed, you can’t let it be personal.”

But the thing is: I want the things I do to be personal. To me, that means intentional. That means heart, soul, joy, and fulfillment.

It’s hard to be intentional when you feel like you have to keep swinging. Jab. Jab. Jab. Where’s the beauty of silence? Punch. Punch. Punch. Should my goal be the bottom line? Jab. Jab. Jab. Forget about unfair factory labor? Pollution? Ethics? I can’t do that.

Over the past few months, I let this blog go silent. Really, this blog let me go silent. It let me pause. I stopped swinging at the air; I quit feeling like I had to. That was the greatest gift. My husband and I have switched up our roles at home and in work a bit, as our son has become a very busy toddler boy. Our son helps me unload the dishwasher and the washing machine … well you know: “helps.” We read books. We swim at the hot springs and feed the ducks. We wrestle a giant stuffed moose at the library. I journal; he colors or tries to eat the crayons. I think about the next steps I want to take with the journal shop, Gadanke. And I start working toward them when I am not busy being Mom.

Confession: this blogging break has been perfect. In today’s world, are we allowed to say that?

Pausing gives you the chance to think. It gives you perspective. It reminds you why you’re doing what you do.

Inevitably, Meg Ryan had to put down her fists and close her bookshop. One person might say it was a loss. But what happened when she paused? She found new life … she began thinking of writing. Instead of selling children’s books, she was going to write them!

Now don’t compare the specifics of her bookshop course with mine. I don’t want you to draw any conclusions about Gadanke going anywhere. (Although if you get the storycatching newsletter, you know that we’ve made our last run of the beloved Jump Up kid journal.) You can know that of course, it’s going to change and evolve, just as we all do. I just want to say how much pausing filled me up.

It also gave me the opportunity to begin something new, something I knew I needed the moment our family sang Happy Birthday to my baby boy. Suddenly, he wasn’t a baby anymore. But my gosh was he loved, and he always will be. With all of this pausing and celebrating, I wanted to create a Gadanke product especially for him and other kids so deeply loved. (You know, besides the mother son journal!) And I was able to do that with this birthday journal. It’s an insanely cool time capsule; I’ll tell you more about it later. The point is that I was able to think through this journal in a totally different way. Now it’s not just a physical product you hold in your hands. It’s also adding the experience of online courses and printables, too. I’m excited to put it out in the world, and out to you and the kids you love.

I hope you like it. I wish all my blog pausing is worth it to you, with the fresh experiences coming to the journal keeping and intentional living I can offer you. I love blogging – but even more, I love living.

I hope you join me sometimes. Now if only pausing could result in snagging Tom Hanks for all of us!

A journaler’s New Year’s Resolution

January 5th, 2015

This time of year is equally exciting and intimidating because you can see hundreds of bloggers posting resolutions, lists, projects, goals – all these really incredible things that they want to accomplish in the new year.

Like many people, I’ve always tried to define my hopes for the year in one word. (They’ve been: Together as we built our home in the hangar, Slowly as we whittled down the project list, and Unleash as we became parents.) I’ll gladly take an opportunity to reflect on where we are and where I’d like our family and myself to be in another year, mostly because I enjoy looking back at the previous year. I’ll share more of that with you shortly.

Right now, amidst all the goals and resolutions, I don’t want you to burn out when it comes to journaling. Dreaming big is important, but if we’re not careful, those giant dreams can quickly transform into another to-do item. You’re busy enough as it is. Your journal keeping shouldn’t become another chore you need to cross off to consider each day a success.

And if you set a resolution related to journaling, sometimes that happens. Yuck.

That’s why I made this week’s complimentary Gadanke Workshop all about the idea of having fun and not worrying about where your writing takes you.

why journaling isn't a waste of your precious time

Play. Embrace imperfection. Make mistakes. Have fun with it! In this week’s workshop, let me show you how. (Hint: it won’t involve journaling every single day. I promise!)

By the way, how sweet is that little tracing of Niklas’ hand in my introspective She journal?! I’m so lucky he stayed still for me – gosh, I love that kid.