This is a question I’ve been asking myself recently. I’ve kept a diary on and off since I was eleven and feel that my life is more productive when I keep one. In recent years my writing has been more off than on, however, over the last few weeks I’ve had the urge to start writing again, but I don’t know why.
Of course, one of the main benefits of keeping a journal is the record of your life, which could become historically important (think The Diary of Samuel Pepys). However, there are also meant to be many other benefits of keeping a personal journal:
- helps goal setting and measuring progress
- simply your life
- strengthen your relationships
- empower you
- aids reflection
- reduces stress
- helps focus
- helps to practice writing skills
- creates personal space
- helps to develop self expression
- helps with problem solving
Why did I start writing a journal?
I started my first journal in 1989 because of the book The Diary of a Teenage Health Freak* because I wanted to have a diary published too. My entries were just writing about the day and thoughts on future events. I didn’t think any more deeply about journal writing until Amazon recommended a journal writing book in 1998. This opened up a whole new world to me that I had to know more about.
Why did I stop writing a journal?
Basically, I think I got overloaded with information and I forgot what a journal is actually for. There are so many different techniques that can be incorporated in to writing a journal and I think I was trying to use all of them so it got too complicated and stressful.
Should I keep a personal journal?
Since I’ve started writing again I’ve gone back to just writing a quick summary of the day or my thoughts as I go to bed, but I have many questions that I still want to resolve:
- how do I get maximum benefit from writing a journal?
- should I write in the mornings, when I get in from work or when I go to bed?
- should I free write or use exercises?
- is it better to select exercises as random or follow a routine?
- should I read my previous entries?
- how do I learn about myself from my previous diaries?
- how do I look for patterns from my diaries?
Plus, what is the best way to preserve my journals? In the past I have started typing my entries in to LifeJournal software* hoping to use it as a backup tool as well as a search tool. However I don’t think I put the effort into using it properly, perhaps I was put off by the number of entries to enter.
I think a journal is important to my life so I am keep to research this topic further, especially because I have noticed that when I keep a journal my life tends to be in a ‘good’ or productive phase (although I don’t know which comes first the writing or productivity). The simple thing I want to discover is why should I keep a personal journal? Once I know this I think the answers to the above questions will be easier to find.
There are a large number of books on journalling you can find if you do an Amazon* search and I already have a good selection that I will use to start my research:
- The right to write
- Writing for self discovery
- A book of one’s own
- Journal to the self
- A year in the life
- Leaving a trace
- Harvesting your journals
- The journal wheel guide book
- The new diary
- Wild minds
Plus I have more on my wish list
- Learning journals
- Life’s companion
- Awaken the writer within
- The decorated page
- The decorated journal
- Simple days
- Soul catcher
What is your experience of journal writing? Do you think I should continue writing? What techniques would you recommend? Have you read any of these books?