With the New Year upon us I am full-on reflecting and planning, which means I am writing in my journal a lot. To be fair, I write in my journal almost everyday now, it is where I organize my thoughts, which needs to happen daily. It is not uncommon to find me in a coffee shop, sitting at a table by myself, papers strewn across and me writing in my journal. This sight is especially common this time of year.
That’s how I appeared when I met Sean for coffee a few weeks ago. He quickly observed that my journal was very organized. I mustered that it was, now brace yourself this is really cheesy, “my life”! He was gracious enough to forgive my faux pas and admit that, like many people, Sean had tried journaling but “couldn’t make it stick.”
I confessed that I wasn’t always this organized and on-point with my journaling practice. So we talked about how I got started in journaling. It was over 20 years ago on a cool spring evening. I was a teenager, and my dreams of being a writer had been dashed by my ninth grade English teacher so I turned to writing stream of conscious in a “journal.”
It was something I started because I needed a place to release and process my thoughts without the fear of judgement, ridicule or shame. It took me three years to fill my first journal, almost all of high school.
My journaling practice really solidified in college. One of my college BFF’s, Julia, and I used to hangout and read our journals to each other. We didn’t necessarily read everything, just the parts we felt the other would find interesting. And we talked about it. What it meant, how we felt, what we were learning about ourselves and the world. I filled one journal my first year of college and wrote often throughout.
My practice continued after college but it was very sporadic. I still benefited from writing stream of conscious and processing my thoughts, but it usually happened in response to some sort of negative trigger. Some event or conversation or experience would cause me to feel like my wheels were spinning, stuck in the mud of my own mental anguish. Journaling helped me to break free and move on.
For years, that’s what my practice looked like. Occasionally I would write a poem or a list of goals. But by and large, I journaled stream of conscious for over 14 years before my practice started to transform into what it is today. How that happened is a story for another time.
My point here today is this: if you want to journal you can. If you’ve tried to journal and failed you still can do it. It doesn’t matter how you journal or what you write or how much you write, you just have to write.
Write when you can’t not write. For me it was a stream of conscious verbal vomit. For others it’s lists. For some, like my friend Karina, it’s sketching. Others are drawn to write things down as a way of tracking progress, like how many miles you ran at the gym. For you it’s…
Don’t force it, don’t follow some magic journaling trick. Follow your own path of least resistance. Write when writing feels good to you. Write the way that comes most naturally to you. Use the tools that make it the most fun, if they aren’t fun change them. I have incomplete journals because I didn’t like the feel of the paper, the binding or the size.
Stick with what feels best for you and over time you will establish a journaling habit, revel in that routine. Then seek to understand it so you may transform your journaling practice from random dribble drabble to an organizing, high performing, momentum making system.
Getting back to the basics, like writing pen to paper in a journal, is one of the most powerful ways you can set yourself up for transformational growth this year! Level up your journaling practice by making it work for you. Start by turning to a blank page and writing your reflections to these questions:
1. When does writing feel cathartic for you?
2. Where do you enjoy writing?
3. What you do like to write with?
4. What can you do over the next five days to experiment with your journaling practice?
Are you ready to level up your journaling practice this year? Join me at one of the EntrepreNerds Annual Planning Workshop where I will be showing participants how to setup your journal so it’s a momentum making machine.