Recently I did a little experiment in which I journaled for 30 days. Well-spoken people with blogs, Youtube channels and prominent social influencer status claim journaling gave them deeper, more profound insight into their minds, as well as helped them sort out their thoughts in a stressful and/or difficult time. After becoming emotionally invested in these promises, even though keeping a journal isn’t something I’ve never managed to maintain consistency with, I threw caution to the wind and added paper to my disc bound bullet journal. I counted the pages to make sure I’d have enough (one “junior” size page per day) and eagerly embarked on my journaling journey.
15 days into my handwritten trek through time and space I stopped writing. I missed 10 days worth of entries. I did, manage to journal for the remaining 5 days. This wasn’t anywhere near surprising to me giving my discipline surrounding writing in general. Or, rather, the lack of it.
Over the course of those 25 days there was no deeper connection to my brain, no better understanding of my thought patterns and no assistance through personal trials. Instead, my journal reaffirmed what I already knew to be true about myself: when I’m inspired to work on a creative project everything else is put on hold, and when I need to figure something out I meditate on it before consulting people around me.
Writing came easy to me on the days I journaled. Within a few moments of opening up to my page, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. Some days I told personal tales, some days I wrote about deeper philosophical ideas and some days I just needed to vent to no one. Writing lasted somewhere between 15 to 20 minutes. Mostly I wrote at my dining table, but a handful of times I wrote in the car.
Entries include gems like this, from October 18th:
“New day, new pen. Well, its not a ‘new’ pen, but rather a pen I’d lost for one week. By ‘lost’ I actually mean ‘forgot to get it out of my backpack for an entire week, but thought I’d lost it somewhere within a 45-mile radius of my house.’ But that’s all neither here, nor there. Today I’m writing in the car on the highway with a pen I don’t really enjoy anymore. I feel like I might hurl from looking down at the paper. That’s why my penmanship is friggin’ awful. Why am I riding in a car journaling at 70mph? Because I’m a procrastinator that’s headed to a party.”
As well as this entry from October 29th, in which I start to voice my concerns:
“I’m honestly starting to run out of topics to talk about for the entirety of a page. Maybe it’s more so that I’m being more efficient with word choice. My poetry is showing…
I worry my journal entries from this point forward will get to be a bit… fluffy. Though, I may also just be vomiting words on paper.”
Even though dipping my toes in the waters of journaling didn’t shed light to anything hidden within myself, and it did fell like a chore, I enjoyed doing it most days. Maybe that’s because more and more of my time has been filled with writing and I enjoyed the 20-minutes devoted to creating something for me, just for me.
Since I liked it so much, I picked up a little notebook to serve as my journal. It’s by Moleskine, has a fabric cover, two bookmarks and is well made. The paper isn’t my favorite as I find their paper too thin, but I was drawn to the notebook and enjoy using it so far. Writing in it every day isn’t going to happen.
The writing I do here feels like journaling, or writing an email to an acquaintance, but having a space for more personal things would occasionally be nice. That’s my intended use for my new blue notebook. To be honest though, it’s probably going to turn into a Frankenstein of journaling, creative prose, and random thoughts/quotes.
Journaling for most of us is going to seem like a chore. That’s because it is a chore. Taking time out of a busy schedule to write something for your future self to possibly read one day in the near, or very distant, future is a chore. But it’s also often times a chore that feels good and a chore that doesn’t have any pressure weighing it down. Journals are meant to be personal. They’re also meant to be messy.
I, for one, have always found having a notebook of some sort hanging around to be wildly handy. I’ve phased in and out of carrying a notebook around in my bag in case anything crept up I would want to take note of over the years. This is good practice as a writer, but I think it’s also good practice as a human.
Jotting things down makes our minds more likely to remember them, helps us release things that need to leave our headspace, and helps us better understand the processing of emotions. The beauty of it is, these things don’t have to be written. Doodles and artwork achieve the same thing, as far as I can tell through my own experience. Whether you decide to keep a journal for 30 days, or just have one around to utilize when you need to, they’re a wonderful tool that isn’t always on everyone’s go-to list… but most certainly should be.