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The beauty of journaling

July 2, 2020

Journaling is one of my favorite habits, and I love it. I do it almost every day. If you're not sure about the value it provides and are thinking about quitting it, this article is for you.

I've started journaling two years ago, and I've been doing it on and off for a while. I've since become more regular with it.

At first, I didn't understand it. It was nice to remember what happened during the day and to write down my thoughts. It felt like a conversation. I could go on and on about events and exciting things that I've thought or experienced.

I thought the primary value of journaling was the sentimental value it provides. In a couple of years, I'll read these entries and amuse myself by all the changes that happened. I'll witness how much wiser I've become. How I had all these silly thoughts and worried about things that never happened.

While this is true, that is not the main benefit of journaling. It took me two years to discover that. But more on that later.

First, I have to explain why I've ditched journaling many times and why I was so sporadic about it. You might identify some of the problems in your journaling practice.

Journaling at the wrong time of the day

I've tried out journaling at every possible time of the day and even many times a day. In the morning and before going to sleep. After a bunch of trial and error, I've found out that mornings are the best time for journaling for me. If I do it before going to sleep, I'm rushing it and am not thinking enough. It feels forced, and that's why I've quit it many times.

Journaling by following prompts from other people

This is another problem that made me quit. I would find a prompt from someone and copy it to my journal. After some reflection, I've found out the reason behind this. It is my feeling of inadequacy when it comes to journaling. Believing that I'm doing it wrong and that those other people will show me how to do it. That's the reason why I started writing twice a day in the first place. A template I've copied had prompts for both morning and evening. How dumb.

Prompts also asked me what I'm grateful for or what amazing things have happened. It turns out writing what I'm grateful for doesn't make me more grateful and feels repetitive. Writing about amazing things that have happened is better. I've incorporated that into my Roam database. I don't use it only inside the journal; I use it all over the place by tagging amazing things that happen. Tagging makes it possible to look at all the great things that happened at a glance, that I usually forget. Now, this makes me grateful.

I always tend to try to improve things, which is why I search for templates and systems. This article will also suggest a system. Oh, the irony.

Journaling about things that don't matter

I've made another error with journaling. I wrote about things that are not interesting to me but felt like they should belong in a journal. This made the journaling experience boring and made me quit journaling again. If it's boring, why am I doing it?

The only hobbies worth keeping are those that increase my energy. Those that fulfill me and make me happier. It's my free time, after all. The best way to spend it is to do things that I love doing. To do whatever I can't stop thinking about.

Not journaling because it drains my energy for writing

This is another stupid mistake I've made. I thought I have to preserve my energy for writing articles and that I waste that energy by journaling. In fact, the exact opposite is true. I've written and published most articles when I was journaling.

Morning Pages

After years of on-and-off journaling, I've finally found a style that suits me. I journal first thing in the morning, and I write at least 750 words.

This is the practice of Morning Pages. Many people are writing about the benefits of doing this regularly. The benefits include reducing anxiety and clearing your mind.

While I've noticed these benefits, the most significant advantage is that I get new ideas. I bump into them, and Morning Pages encourage me to write about them. I discover more of them.

Another significant benefit is that I learn to silence the inner critic. That nagging feeling that my writing is not good enough. To fight it, I let the words flow out of me, and I don't worry about what I'm writing.

These two things are the reason I journal daily, and I'll continue to do so. I'm sacrificing the sentimental value. I don't go into too much detail about events that have happened. The sentimental value the journal provides is extra, so I'm willing to sacrifice that.

It's not universal

Finally, if you have to take one thing from this long article, understand this. Many people claim that there is no right or wrong way to journal. I want to change that claim a bit: There is no universally right or wrong way to journal. No one can serve you the "best journaling template". It's different for every person. It's like the question: "What's the meaning of life?". There is no single answer that applies to everyone, and journaling is the same.

You can journal wrong, and you'll know it if you feel it in your gut. If you don't look forward to it and don't enjoy it, you'll quit. That might not be because you hate journaling, but because you use the wrong style. Find your style. Try different things. You might just find out how beautiful it is.

@shime_sh Hrvoje Šimić
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