Movie studio head, director, philanthropist, and compassionate billionaire Tyler Perry is known for his comedies and dramas. What might be less well known is that he uses journals.
According to Success Magazine (as well as numerous interviews of the director), at a young age, Perry watched the Oprah Winfrey Show wherein the talk show host encouraged everyone to use a journal for catharsis.
Finding self-therapy by being able to offload the problems onto the page helped to lighten his load at a young age and encouraged him to continue living.
However, there was another problem – the fear of others reading his private writings.
Some of characters he created when he couldn’t write about himself in the journal became the basis for characters he would later write into plays and films.
One take away from this story, in addition to the catharsis that sometimes comes with journaling, is that when you do not feel comfortable writing as yourself, you can write as a different character or write as if talking about someone else.
Wherever you are in your journaling journey, I wish you…
If you have the habit of writing in a journal daily, but you have skipped a day or more and feel like a failure, here are a few tips. (If you don’t feel like a failure, that’s great. This might not be the article for you.)
If you find yourself missing your daily writing habit, especially if it starts happening often, reassess why you write every day.
1. If you write every day for discipline reasons, if you write to give yourself the habit, then you might need to address what interrupted your flow yesterday and how we can eliminate this problem and give you the uninterrupted time you need.
—Do you write at a busy time of day when everyone wants something from you? Then it might be time to write before everyone in the house awakens, or after everyone goes to bed.
—Do you normally write in long paragraphs and you knew you wouldn’t have time for that so you did not write at all yesterday? Next time, write a sentence or two. Stick to your routine, even if the result is not ideal on that day.
— Did you not feel like writing yesterday? Why? That might be a topic to explore in today’s journal entry. Do some freewriting (i.e. just write whatever you think about a subject) to get to the root. e.g. I know a person who could not figure out why she was not writing every day. Eventually, she stopped writing altogether and felt like a failure until she began to freewrite and discover why – her parents were always strict. In trying to create a daily habit of journaling, her inner child felt oppressed again, too many rules. After that revelation, she decided to write whenever she felt like it, and began to enjoy the process of writing, even if it wasn’t every day.
— Do you give yourself the best possible chance to succeed at daily writing by making it easy to do? If you keep your journal where it is easily accessible for you, you are more likely to do it. e.g. There is a person who keeps a large journal propped open on his desk. Every time he passes the desk, he is reminded to write something.
2. If you write every day to brag that you write every day, then I cannot help you. This sounds like a form of perception management that is best discussed with a therapist. I wish you the best.
3. If you write daily because you enjoy re-reading your entries, then perhaps retroactive journaling might be the way for you. The following tips are best if you have a space all laid out for the day’s entry and just did not write in it so it is blank.
— Write yesterday’s missing journal entry so that you can have the information. The data is still fresh enough in your mind the next day; jot it down and back date it.
— Write yesterday’s activities in today’s journal entry. e.g. “Yesterday I went to the store and bought a bushel of apples. Today I am trying out an apple cobbler recipe.” If you do this, then you can use yesterday’s blank space for doodles or art.
—You might not have written in a paper journal yesterday, but there might be a trace of you from that day in some other media. Did you take a photo yesterday? Put that in the journal and back date it, using the image to prompt your memory.
—Let’s say that the day that you skipped journaling is farther back than yesterday and you cannot recall what you did or how you felt. Look at the search history on your mobile device or desktop. This will give you a glimpse of what you were thinking that day. Did you search for paste in your area? Will that prompt the memory of making a papier-mâché dog? Look at receipts (paper or digital). Did you fill up your gas tank using a rewards card? Was that the day you took a trip out of town? Write about it.
— Let’s say that you cannot remember what happened that day, or you would rather not recall what happened that day. Then write in general terms about how you have felt lately, as opposed to activities on the specific day. You can write about your latest music playlist, a particular movie genre you have explored lately, a thought that you’ve ruminated over for a while, etc.
Ultimately, don’t berate yourself about missing a day of daily writing. Grieve the loss of the time you could have spent journaling, if you need to do that. After that, find your way forward.
There are those who only write at home. There are those who enjoy writing on the go, whether on vacation or just as a regular practice. Let’s discuss the latter.
When writing in public it has been this author’s experience that it is rare that anyone cares what you are writing or that you are writing at all. Meaning, try not to worry whether someone will be nosy. Just fall into the joy on the page.
Where to write? Anywhere.
Write in the waiting room while having an oil change. You might overhear a fun turn of phrase to jot down.
Write in the lobby of the hotel as you wait for your friends to join you. Explain in journal why you all are there.
Write in the family room at the hospital. The journal can be a planning space or a place to think through next steps.
Write at your place of worship. Jot down notes for spiritual guidance later in the week.
Write at the park. Enjoy the fresh air and pay attention to how you feel writing outside. Is it enjoyable? Not so much? Jot that down.
Write at funerals and capture the stories you hear.
Write at a fueling station while on a road trip. Just a quick note or photo that you can write about later.
Write on a pier at the lake. Listen to the sounds of nature. What do you hear?
Write on your lunch break. Sometimes journaling can help you decompress.
Write on the plane after liftoff, if you have enough elbow room. Write about what takes you on this trip. Use the airline logo on a disposable paper napkin as decor on your journal.
Why write in public?
To capture the moment
To ease anxiety around crowds and chaos
To give oneself something productive to do while one waits
To further a writing goal
To continue the writing habit
To entertain oneself
Whatever the reason, writing in your journal in public might be a great habit to start, if you haven’t already. It is enjoyable to write in your journal in public. Wherever you are, journaling is like falling into your favorite, cozy couch.
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. – Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest.
Writing in your journal regularly is not a waste of time because you are not a waste of time. Each person has intrinsic value.
Some people might protest, ” But my life is so boring. Why should I write about it?” Is it?
If our lives are boring then let’s challenge ourselves in our journals to go broad, or go deep,or both.
For instance, if you are tired of writing about your feelings, go broad and include something else. Write a movie review. Draw your best friend. Describe the couple at the next table and reverse engineer how they arrived there.[This is how screenwriter Aaron Sorkin practices creating characters.]
The point is to give yourself variety to write about.
Or go deep. You are bored of writing that you like flowers. Go deeper. Could you include a photo of a flower you saw today and write it’s botanical name and its common name? Could you read a book on flowers and discuss it? Could you join a botanical society and get even more ideas?
The point is that there are worlds beyond the surface. Explore them.
Your thoughts, goals, dreams, observations are assets to your life. Writing them down can provide focus, appreciation, perspective, or even entertainment. Journaling is not boring and neither are you. Dig deeper or embrace more of what is right in front of you.
Can you journal about more than one topic in a journal? Of course!
You can divide your new book into different mainstay topics. For instance, if you know you want a section on inspirational quotes, another section that plans your day, and another on how you are feeling, then you can section off a journal into three even parts and place a book mark, post-it note, tag, or other marker on the start of each section so that you can get to it easily.
You can journal about more than one topic on the same page. This is where headers will come in handy. Draw spaces for the different topics on the page and write about them in their designated spaces.
Play around with formatting to see what works for you. As always, have fun in the discovery process. Understand that even those of us who have journaled for decades change things from time to time. Do not feel obligated to stick with one format if it does not work for your needs.
The author’s preconceived notion was that the word “journal” or “journal writer” was associated with people who share carefully-curated pictures online of a life that seems to be without problems. A journal writer, to the author, is a kind of new hippie health enthusiast who eats granola and shares gratitude platitudes from their journal.
Although many people enjoy granola, in the U.S. referencing this food is sometimes used as a pejorative to describe someone who is out of the ordinary, but also someone who maintains their health. To this student, journaling was part of a lifestyle brand that no one can maintain.
The student found a way around her prejudice and admits that journaling has helped maintain mental health in tough times.
The article caused me to pause and ask questions.
What else can prevent a person from trying to journal?
What ideas come to mind when you think of journaling?
Where did this idea come from?
Could you journal about your notions of journaling?
Could one investigate the origins of why one resists journaling?
What preconceived notions do we have that prevent us from journaling or trying something new?
One preconceived notion that yours truly had (and I did not realize this until reading the article) was that when people think of journaling, they think as I do, that is, of famous people and their books that we are taught from a young age to revere. I was, I now realize, taught to hold in high esteem presidents (and thus, their diaries), monarchs and their personal books, and the diaries of people escaping tragedies that become best selling books. I was also taught to revere fictional characters with journals.
Journal writing examples are from generations past, I thought. Today, that might not be the case. For a younger person, a peer online is just as likely to influence a person to write in a journal as some august figure from the past. Or, in the case of that article writer, a peer online is just as likely to repulse a person and make the writing practice undesirable if it seem unattainable.
This is a new wrinkle for yours truly to contemplate as I try to discover how best to help and inspire people with their personal books.
What preconceived notions prevent you from journaling? What can you do about it?
There are those who are intimidated by a journal. Some people fear that they are not doing it “right,” that there is some prescribed method to which they should adhere because a famous person writes in that manner. Some are afraid of making mistakes in a journal.
Journals are your tools. They exist to help you reach whatever goal you have decided for your journal. You are not enslaved to the object, nor should you feel bound to a method used by a powerful or successful person if their method does not work for your goals.
It might be easier said than done for some, perhaps, but do not think of your journal as a master or slave driver. Think of your journal as a friend, a faithful assistant who stands ready and eager to enable your desires and goals for your writing.