Friday, January 3, 2020

Start Journaling: Tips and Tricks for the Reluctant Writer



Journaling is one of the most important tools you can learn to get a grasp on your day or week. 

One of the main problems we can feel when starting the new year or a new project is that our minds are just full of ideas. We have a great concept for the book we want to write, we know we want to plan a month of healthy meals, but wait!--we also wanted to slate more time with friends or family...

Journaling can help get all those ideas out of your head and give them someplace to live and thus freeing up mental and emotional space.

There are a few ways to go about it.

Morning pages: Popularized by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way it is just a brain dump. Write it down. That's it. Take 10 minutes and write down how disappointed you were in the way the movie ended. How happy you are when you get your Chick fil A order. Describe your perfect garden. Write about how rude the cashier was to you and what you wish you'd said. Anything. Just write for the allotted time with no editing.

Gratitude journal: I'm sure you are familiar with this kind of journaling which is exactly what it says. Write down the things you are thankful for. Try to get beyond family or a place to live and name some of the small but nice things that happened that day. Also a great exercise for when you are having a bad day or struggling to stay positive.

Creativity or Ideas Journal: Brainstorm 10 ideas for things to make or do. As fast as you can, no matter how impossible or terrible. A great exercise for stretching your creativity muscle.

If the idea of a blank page waiting to be filled is causing you anxiety then expand on something you are already doing to work in a little journaling with less intimidation. Here are some ideas for how you can do that. 

Start using your calendar or personal planner as a pre-journaling tool.

I get that if you aren't comfortable with writing a blank page can be super intimidating. So stop trying to get over the idea of keeping a journal and begin to tweak your calendar to help with the process. This is going to be an easier concept if you are keeping a paper calendar than if you are doing everything on your phone.

Look at what you already document. You likely have a monthly, weekly, and daily plan. You write down the urgent, the scheduled, the necessary. Your daily activities are there.

A form of this concept is promoted by Gary Vaynerchuck who says "Document, don't create." He's a master at using social media to do just that.

Think about the why. Why do you spend your time the way you do? Working. Shuttling the kids around. Working out. Posting to Instagram. Find some time to get quiet and dig around a bit. Obviously, you work to support yourself and your family and drive the kids to their various activities because they have no other way to get there. But the underlying reasons to investigate might be more complex. Maybe you are living up to a work ethic established by your parents and something deep inside wants to make them proud. Or perhaps you do work you are so passionate about you would do it even if you didn't get paid.

Add notes to your agenda.  You don't have to write a letter to your younger self or a dissertation on why you have a problem with your mother.  You might, however, jot down how something makes you feel, an idea you have, or something you realize about yourself. Write down encouraging quotes you want to remember.

Take a monthly meeting with yourself. As you turn the page on your calendar reflect over the previous month. So often we flip the page and start filling up the next month without looking at all that got accomplished in the weeks before. This is a great time to step off the distraction wheel for a few minutes and process the past few weeks of your life.

Invest in a calendar that lends itself to thoughtful planning and reflection. If you really want to start documenting your life but find the blank page intimidating, maybe even terrifying, there are now several planners available to help you along the way. Some have prompts to get you started or encouraging quotes. In the past, I've used the Passion Planner. Last year I used the Bloom Daily Planner, and this year I'm using the Bloom Daily Planner again along with the Elegant Excellence Goals Journal

Documenting your life along with your ideas, thoughts, and feelings is a worthwhile way to spend your time. In the long run, it will boost mental energy and help you feel less overwhelmed and more in control of your thoughts. 


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