Diaries to Read, Part 1 (Available Online)

It is useful at times to read published diaries and get a feel for why and how others have taken up the pen. Some have written with the expectation of readers, others not so much. The common denominator is that these are diaries which are in the public domain and available to read for free online. Enjoy.

Emilie Davis (1839-1889) – A civilian’s diary during the U.S. Civil War. Emilie Davis was free African American woman living in Philadelphia while writing in the diary. It was a pocket diary with a few blank lines for every day. Pennsylvania State University houses the digital scans.

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) During the plague in London in 1665, the author who would later write Robinson Crusoe kept a diary of the horrors he witnessed, later publishing the sensational journal. A Journal of the Plague Year is available at Project Gutenberg as a transcription of the original journal.

Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904) – A Swiss-Russian traveler who explored the Sahara was a prolific writer and diarist. Eberhardt at times disguised herself as a man to be able to travel with little incident. Her surviving diary entries were compiled and published in a book titled, Isabelle Eberhardt, ou, la Bonne nomade: d’après des documents inédits. The English title is The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt. This diary is available online at Project Gutenberg in French. For a translation, you will need to purchase the book wherever books are sold.

Matthew Henson (1866-1955) In the autobiography of Matthew Henson called A Negro Explorer at the North Pole, the author weaves his personal history with his diary entries from the last expedition of the Peary Arctic Club. They give context to who he is and what the group set out to explore. You can find it at Project Gutenberg and Google Books.

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703)The diaries of Pepys are online as a personal project of a tech enthusiast in Herefordshire named Phil Gyford. They are a transcription of the diaries rather than a digital scan. Pepys was a young civil servant in London starting his diary in 1660 and stopping a decade later. You will find ruminations of his daily schedule.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) Digital scans of diaries from U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s collection are available at the Roosevelt Center. You can see his diary from the age of 9, his teen years, his diaries during law school, and as a member of the New York State Assembly, as president, training for war, travel diaries, etc.

Robert Scott (1868-1912) – Captain Robert Scott let British Antarctic expeditions -the Discovery (1901–1904) and Terra Nova (1910–1913). The Terra Nova Antarctic Diaries are available at the British Library to read online. The diaries, “document all aspects of the expedition, including: · the voyage · establishment of the winter base · scientific work · sledging expeditions,” according to the British Library. Interestingly, Scott “wrote most of his entries sequentially on one side of the page, leaving the other side blank,” says the British Library. “In some instances he later used the blank pages to write further entries, reversing the diary and writing from the back of the volume forwards. These entries appear upside down in the original volumes,” they continue. The website allows you to rotate the diary so that one does not need to read it upside down; they also have a transcription in san serif typeface for easier reading.

Peace,

Deborah

Elements of a Journal to Consider

The contents of your personal book can vary with your purpose for journaling. No two writers or purposes are exactly the same.

Still, here are a few elements to consider using in your journal, if you do not already. Take what works for you and toss the remainder.

Art

We have discussed different Types of Journals to Consider. In that essay, we mentioned the art journal and the commonplace book, among other types of journals with drawings or art in them.

Many set aside an entire journal for painting, sketching, etc. However, for this section we are considering art as an accessory to the words. Some will create a drawing of, say, the location where they are writing – a cafe, a train station – and incorporate prose in the left over spaces.

For those of use who are strictly writers and not artists, drawing in a journal might feel intimidating or forbidden. (Or even embarrassing because we are not Picasso.) We can join the fun as well. We can doodle. We can affix an image to a journal page and write about it. It would take exploring a new type of guided journal before yours truly felt comfortable drawing in a journal, but give it a try. It enhances the book, adds another layer, and catches the eye upon re-reading.

Date

Adding a date to your entry can be useful, especially for those of us who re-read our journals or expect someone else to read them someday (such as with heirloom journals). The date dredges up lots of memories that the rest of the content does not. Dates give context and enrich the content.

Date Headers

Now that we have established that adding a date might be useful, let’s go one step farther. Date headers are an embellishment of the date on the page that can help your eyes see the start of your day’s entry with the greatest of ease. For example, drawing a box around the date might arrest your eye quickly. This is especially useful if you write more than one day’s journal entry on a page.

You can be even more creative than that and draw banners around the date or chevrons. The sky is the limit. We have discussed this before with examples here: Date Headers for Your Journals

Index

In the back of your journal, you can preserve the last page or two for the index of your new journal. In alphabetical order, write a few topics that you think might come up in the journal, leaving space in between for other topics that will come to you later. You can mark the index with the topic and page number (or some use Topic + Date). Alternatively, you can leave the index blank until you have an entry.

After you write an entry, think about what topic or topics it represents and note that day’s entry in your index. For example, you have written about your birthday at a water-based theme park. This entry might be placed under “T” for “Theme Parks” and/or under “B” for “Birthdays.” Choose the topic you are most likely to look for to re-read the journal.

Note that some journals come with an alphabetized space for indexing, which can save you time.

If you have already completed journals and would like to do this, consider using the end papers to create an index.

Also note that digital journals solve this problem with the ability to keyword search.

Page Numbers

Page numbers are another wonderful addition if you plan to re-read your journal. They work well in concert with indexing and with tables of content.

Some journal writers write the page numbers on every page before writing an entry. Others do it afterwards or as they go along.

The top corner on the outer edge, near the fore edge of each page, is an eye-catching spot to place the page numbers. In any case, it is helpful to put them in the same or similar spot on each page for ease of finding them when you re-read. Use your pen to write them or use number stickers to make it even more noticeable among the handwriting.

Some journals are pre-printed with page numbers, which can save you the trouble of having to write them yourself.

Place/ Setting

Noting where you are when writing is another element of context that can enrich the journal if you plan to re-read the book. Doubly so, if you draw the place or take a picture of it and affix it to the journal.

For example, you penned an entry about feeling exhausted and tired; you decided to rest all day. You jotted down the place – Asbury Lake. Now, when you re-read that entry, you realize that you traveled 30 miles to get away from whatever stressed you. You allowed the quiet of the lake (with noisy, greedy geese) to help you to heal.

By noting the place and how it helped, this activity can be replicated some day if needed.

Special Spaces

People who use Bullet Journals sometimes add a special space to their personal book that they want to highlight regularly. Among the to-do lists and errands (for that is what a Bullet Journal is – a hand-drawn planner and calendar with bullet points), one might draw a square in the middle of the page called a “Gratitude Box,” forcing oneself to write at least one thing per day for which to be grateful.

Think about a theme that you might want to highlight each time you write and consider giving it a special space, perhaps even a header.

Table of Contents

A table of contents for your journal is another way to help you re-read your personal book. In fact, a table of contents can save you time in re-reading the journal since it is a summary of what you have written.

You set up the table of contents as any published book might do it – at the beginning of the journal. You preserve one or two pages in the front of a new journal. After you write your journal entry for the day, you can summarize that entry with a title or a word or two. Place that title (and preferable the date or page number) on the first page of the table of contents. Rinse and repeat.

Some journals come with pre-printed spaces for your table of contents, saving you the time of having to create the space yourself.

For completed journals that have no table of contents , you might consider using the end paper of your journal for the task.

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Ultimately, your journal is your own and it works to serve your purpose. It is our job to Make Progress, Not Perfection, so fiddle around with how you organize your personal book and have fun with the journey.

Peace,

Deborah

Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages (Journaling Exercise)

Author and creativity expert Julia Cameron espouses what she calls “Morning Pages” to help “provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand.”

What are Morning Pages?

It is a style of journaling wherein you produce three pages of longhand writing about anything at the beginning of your day. You can even say something to the effect of, “I have no idea what to write.” Just write whatever is on your mind for three pages.

What is the point of this? Why in the morning?

Cameron says it has been her experience that writing sweeps away the cobwebs of negativity. “What they do,” Cameron says of Morning Pages, “is clear your mind.’

According to Cameron, it is best to write down what you think at the beginning of your day. That way, you have captured the idea before other obligations take over your time.

Thus, if you work a night shift and you wake up at 6pm because your work day starts at 8pm, then your pages should be done sometime after 6pm. It is not an exercise elusively when the sun rises; it is really a Start-of-Your-Day exercise, whenever that might be.

“What I find is when you put the negativity on the page,” she says, ” it isn’t eddying through your consciousness during the day.” This exercise frees you to appreciate the little miracles and other good things during the day.

Tips?

Cameron gives a few tips on her website Julia Cameron Live – “A lot of people think [Morning Pages] should be artful. I say ‘No! They should be whiny, petty, grumpy – whatever you happen to be.'”

Further encouraging the practice, she says, “There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are not even ‘writing.’ They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only.”

What do you think of Morning Pages? Have you tried them? Do you have your own version of Morning Pages?

Peace,

Deborah

Journal Writing When Exhausted (Inspirational Quotes)

As with anything, there comes a time when you are tired and might not wish to journal.

Only you can decide whether to give in to the impulse and not write for the day or barrel through and do it anyway. Either way, learn to be gentle with yourself.

In the meantime, here are a few quotes that might help you to pick up your will to soldier on and write.

“Start before you’re ready.”

– Steven Pressfield

“Pages [a type of journaling] clarify our yearnings. They keep an eye on our goals. They may provoke us, coax us, comfort us, even cajole us, as well as prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. If we are drifting, the pages will point that out.” —Julia Cameron

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

– Jack London

“Let’s end the notion that ideas have no value unless they turn into a business or have some other practical use. Save them all in a beautiful book like Leonardo did. ”
— Barbara Sher

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
— Flannery O’Connor

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”

– Margaret Atwood

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I wish you peace in the midst of whatever is exhausting you.

Deborah

Book Store Serendipity

Enjoy the journey of finding the proper journal for your needs. I currently use a certain brand that has worked for the needs of my main journal for the last few years. I do not anticipate moving on from them.

However, in earlier days, I would randomly search the shelves of a book store or two for a new diary. I still do, from time to time, to see what is available.

I recall once spotting a journal on the shelves of an independent bookstore during my university days. It had a magnetic closure. 7 inches by 9 inches – just wide enough for my hand to fit inside and rest on the pages as I would write. It sported pastel, horizontal stripes.

It had a name – Tribeca by Peter Pauper Press. The stripes were to mimic the awnings in New York City’s Tribeca area. How charming.

However, the stripes reminded me of a skirt that Pier Angeli wears in a photo shoot with Vic Damone in the 1950s. She wears a dark blue turtleneck, black belt, an a-line, tea length skirt with light blue, white, and black horizontal stripes. Old Hollywood reminds me of my childhood when we would watch such people play around on the screen at home and marvel at the talent.

Thus, every time that I would write in the Tribeca journal was a pleasure. To this day, long after I have filled its pages to the brim with thoughts and ramblings, I still smile when I see it in my collection.

There is something wonderful about the serendipity of finding a journal in a store. Take a journey through a store and see the many different choices that await you. You might find one you like or inexplicably love.

Peace,

Deborah

Holiday Journal Prompts

Holidays can be a sensitive topic for many people. A journal can be the perfect place to download your feelings and attain a bit of relief from a stressful time. Conversely, if you enjoy festive seasons, journal writing is the perfect time to remember as much as you can about the day or days that you celebrated.

Here are a few prompts to get you started.

Journal Prompts for Holidays

  1. Recall your earliest memory of the holiday or festivities.
  2. Do you have related ephemera that you can attach to the journal? e.g. A photo, a concert ticket, a leaf from a long walk?
  3. Do you have a favorite part of the holiday? Is your favorite part when it is all over? Write that down.
  4. Where were you during the holidays?
  5. If you celebrate with others, who attended the festivities?
  6. If you celebrate with others, what excites you about the gathering?
  7. If you celebrate with others, what could be improved in the gathering?
  8. If you celebrate with others, what is it about this gathering that induces you to attend?
  9. Was there travel involved? Describe the trip. Was it fun? Why? Why not?

I wish you peace,

Deborah

Harvesting from Your Journals

If you write for the public, if you are a novelist, screenwriter, blogger, etc., your journals might be a source of inspiration. You might be able to harvest from them.

Let’s say you are a Young Adult novelist. Could your diaries from the age range of your reader help to get you into the mindset of your characters? Could some of the problems of youth become the main conflict for your protagonist? Would reading your older diaries at least get you in the mood for writing for this age range?

How can your private journals help you to write for the public?

Peace,

Deborah

Use the Acronym G.L.A.D. as a Daily Journal Prompt

Perhaps you can use a regular set of prompts for your journal. I like to use the acronym G.L.A.D. as headings for some of my daily writing. I grabbed this prompt from somewhere on the internet years ago. This article from Norton Healthcare is the closest I have come to finding its origin: Try the GLAD technique to foster gratitude and push out negativity

Here is my way of doing this popular journal prompt technique.

G is for Gratitude. I write a sentence about that for which I am grateful. This gets me out of any sour mood that I might have when I realize that life isn’t as bad I think. Or perhaps it IS as terrible as I think, but there is still a rainbow in the clouds. I like looking back on this section of my diary whenever I feel gloomy. This is a challenging one as I want to be able to look back on more than just “I am grateful to be alive.” I force myself to dig deeper for gratitude, to be specific, for my future self.

L is for Lesson. I have to write down a lesson learned for the day. That is actually difficult for me. However, in anticipation of this part of the journal, I make sure to learn something during the day to incorporate into this section.

A is for Accomplishment. What did I achieve today? Even if the achievement is that I hopped out of bed when I did not feel like it, or that I have been consistent in some goal, I write it down. It does not have to be an epic accomplishment every day.

D is for Delight. For some reason the idea of delight means to me to remember your day as if you were a child. What would have been awe-inspiring to your younger self? When I think of the answer to that question, somewhere in there, around the corner is a sense of delight for me. You may interpret the word “Delight” in any way you choose. It is just another way to appreciate your day.

From G.L.A.D. to G.L.A.A.D.E.- an Expansion

This week, I have expanded G.L.A.D. to G.L.A.A.D.E. which is not nearly as pithy and catchy, but it helps me to remember what I want to write about. I have added an A and an E to expand what I want to write about every day.

G is for Gratitude

L is for Lesson

A is for Accomplishment (Today)

A is for Accomplishment (Expected Tomorrow). This is to remind me to plan more.

D is for Delight

E is for Encourage Yourself. Give yourself a pep talk. Say things such as,”I know this day did not end the way you wanted, but you have weathered this before and you can do it again.”

Hopefully this can be of use to someone.

Peace,

Deborah

Be Willing to Continue Writing Even If It Is Terrible

Julia Cameron – author of The Artist’s Wayhas a blog post from January 2018 which resonated with me a bit. It is titled,”The Wall.”

The author says that when writers cannot think of anything to write – hitting the wall- they try to force optimism into the scenario, or we doubt our own creativity. This does not work towards reaching your goals. Instead, she says the following:

“…there is a better way to conquer The Wall, and that is to surrender. Instead of trying to convince ourselves of the brilliance of our idea, we need to say instead, ‘I am willing to finish this piece of work even if my idea is terrible.’ In other words, ‘I am willing to write badly.’

The moment we are willing to write badly, we begin to have freedom.”

Imperfection is one of the toughest things to accept in your writing. It has kept many from journal writing again or from ever starting in the first place. I have heard many people state that they did not like the way in which they write; it is not like the published books that they read all the time, so they do not want to come face-to-face with unedited writing.

Does your journal consist of a wall of text? That’s OK. It’s not beautiful, but functional. Is your attempt at an art journal laughably rudimentary? That’s OK. It is fun to do. Sometimes we are our own worst critic which is keeping us from the fun of journal writing. As we keep going, day by day, at some point we reach a journal writing habit which helps to ignore what we have deemed as imperfections, and we just get on with it.

Keep going.

Have you ever hit The Wall in journal writing? What did you do about it?

Peace,

Deborah

Your 5 Senses as Journal Prompts

Here’s one way to journal if

… you have not yet started

…do not know what to say

… would like to recall a moment more vividly later

…or have not journaled in a long time and need a boost.

Use your senses!

Ask yourself the following:

  1. What do I see right now?
  2. What scent or scents do I smell right now?
  3. What do I hear?
  4. What do I taste right now?
  5. What texture is in contact with my body? Or what does my body feel right now?

It has been my experience that when you are this detailed, you remember the moment better. I do this prompt at funerals when I want to remember not only who was there, but the texture of the pew, the smell of someone’s perfume as they hug me, etc.


Truth be told, the taste one is usually the one I have to stretch to find. I am not usually eating and journaling simultaneously. I often end up describing the taste of toothpaste,but that is ok. It is the truth. Tailor the prompts to fit your reality and your world.

I bid you peace,

Deborah

Image as Journal Prompt

Use an image as a journal prompt.

It can be a personal image or one you randomly find online or in a print publication. Allow the image to evoke an idea or a memory.

If it is a personal photo, who is in the picture? Where are they? Let yourself tell the story of what led to this moment in the photo, or what happened after. Or perhaps, you can use the personal photo to write details about an individual that you know.

If the image is not personal to you, such as an image from a magazine, you can still use it as a journal prompt. You can recount why you selected that image, where it comes from, what it reminds you of, how it inspires you (or not).

Peace,

Deborah

Journal Writing Suggestions

This is a letter which I sent to an acquaintance -Mr. X- who asked for journal writing suggestions. Two decades have passed since Mr. X has written in a journal. He wanted to start again and asked if I had any tips.

I did.

What follows is my answer to him, reprinted with permission and with a few edits for clarity. Hopefully, this might prove useful to others.

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Hi Mr. X,

Via text you asked for journal writing suggestions. I started thinking of everything I wanted to say and it was too much for a text message over the phone, so I’m writing in a longer form. Here are journal writing suggestions that I hope will be useful. (By the way, my mother always says this about taking advice: glean what works for you, and then toss the rest.)

Here we go:

  1. There is no right or wrong way to write in your journal. Your journal is neither an exam nor a measure of your worth. Some beginners become obsessed with doing it “right,” choosing the “perfect” pen, not making mistakes, etc., to the point of paralysis or negative thoughts about themselves. You are not being judged or graded. This book exists to serve you.
  2. Understand your purpose for the journal.
    • Knowing why you journal helps to choose your format. If you journal for future generations 100 years from now to understand what life is like for you in 2017, then you might choose a leather journal or a digital journal -something long-lasting- as opposed to a paperback sketchbook.
    • Knowing why you journal helps to choose how frequently you should journal. I write every day because I would like to look back on what I was doing a year ago today and see my progress (or lack of it). Other people only write on vacation, because those trips are important to them. They do not need to write 365 days a year.
    • Knowing why you journal will come in handy on the rare days when you do not feel like doing it. Your “why” can be your motivation through writer’s block.
  3. Here are a few reasons that people journal:
  • Some use a journal to record a history of their lives for the next generation. I call these heirloom journals.
  • Some use it to think through an issue, e.g. Sometimes I don’t know everything I think about a subject until I write it all down.
  • Many use a journal for personal development, to establish goals for the kind of person they would like to become, the kind of life they would like to have, etc.
  • Others use journals to vent frustrations.
  • Others keep interesting quotes in their journal so that it becomes an inspirational reference book.
  • Some record their progress– physical, mental, academic. E.g. One guy uses it to record his daily diet and exercise regime. He can refer to an entry from 10 years ago to sculpt his body the way that he did in the past.
  • Some use journals for specific events – e.g. They buy a new journal to record their thoughts during the first few months of their newborn’s life; they sometimes include photos.
  • Many people use journaling just to find a home for the thoughts which ricochet inside their minds all day. e.g. Leonardo DaVinci used his notebooks to sketch many things that would not be invented for centuries, including the military tank.

leonardo

  1. Choose a format which works for your purpose.
    • There are traditional paper journals, which I use often. Paper journals are good for slowing down and thinking through an idea. They are also great for heirloom journals, since your heirs can hold the same book that their ancestors touched.
    • There are digital journals –online and offline- such as the ONE DAY journal app for Apple products, or the JOURNEY journal app for Android phones. Digital journal apps are the best for searching through your old entries, creating tags so that you can re-read all journal entries that are under one category.
    • You might type your journal on a WORD document on a password-protected flash drive or external hard drive, so that it’s offline and private.
    • There are audio journals. In those moments when I do not want to write, I use the voice recorder on my phone to talk through an idea.
    • There are video journals. You can record yourself using your camera phone, a point-and-shoot or a DSLR set up.
    • An entrepreneur named Roberto Blake uses social media apps, like Instagram, as a public journal to record his life visually, to recall where he was, geographically and psychologically, on that day.

roberto

You can choose one of these formats or use a combination. It all goes back to your purpose for doing this, your lifestyle, and personality.

  1. There are different formats for organizing the contents of journals. Here are a few types:
    • A log. In a log, you talk about what you’ve done today or during the week.
    • Self-Improvement Journals. Usually you are hashing through what you’ve done, how can it be improved, what you’re going to do moving forward.
    • Art journals. These tend to have fewer words and more images. An art therapist from Australia, Jade Herriman, says that art journaling is therapeutic and helps you to develop a creative mind.
    • Bullet journals. These are mostly custom-tailored to-do lists more than traditional journals. Visit Boho Berry for bullet journaling tutorials.
    • Commonplace books. These feature inspirational quotes or images that you have come across.

It’s best to make a combination that you prefer.

  1. It is helpful to have your form of journaling handy. I keep my paper journal nearby because I write at random times of the day, whether at home or away from home. Other people write at a set hour and at a certain desk, so they keep the book on that desk, ready to go for when they want to jot down an idea.
  2. On the days when you do not feel like writing, or when you would like inspiration, you might discover how other journal writers write.
    • I have written a blog post on Tim Ferriss and a journal process that takes only about 5 minutes to write every day. Here’s a link to “How to Write a 5-Minute Journal.”
    • Clark Kegley, a Youtuber, started journaling in 2013, I believe, for personal development and sharing what he has learned on his channel. Kegley uses only one journal per year. He suggests that you divide the journal into different subjects like a school notebook, e.g. He might section off 30 pages for each subject – 30 pages reserved for inspirational quotes, another 30 for ranting, another 30 pages for his goals, etc. He can go back and forth between the different sections throughout the year as he deems necessary.

Here’s a link to one of his many videos about journal writing called 4 Questions to Upgrade Your Journal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIqMzigWx04 (The four questions are also in the description box below the video if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing.)

Kegley

Here’s another Kegley video that you might find useful, he takes you through how he sets up his journal in The Ultimate Guide to Keeping a Journal. (It’s not really the ultimate guide, there is no ultimate guide; it’s just Kegley’s way of journaling.) The talk starts at the 7min 12sec mark; this is a deep link to that part: https://youtu.be/kcNz4AE1FiI?t=7m12s

    1. Austin Kleon has a blog post about journaling called, ”On Keeping a logbook.” Here is the link: https://austinkleon.com/2010/01/31/logbook/

Basically, he explains that his journal is a list of 4 or 5 things he has done that day, with a few doodles. I’ve noticed that calling it a list instead of a journal seems to help many people to write more often.

Here is an image of what Kleon’s journal looks like:

KLeon

Ultimately, the journal is for you and your purposes. After a while, journal writing becomes a habit. Journal writing can become something as useful to you psychologically as eating or drinking water is for you physically.

Always remember, however, if you decide to walk away from it, that’s fine too; it’s your life. (Plus, you can always pick it up again, if you wish.)

Peace,

Deborah M. Thomas


What are some of your journaling suggestions? Let me know.

Use Your Journal to Improve Language Skills

The premiere Korean language company- Talk to Me in Korean- suggests one thing to do to improve the study of Korean- use a journal. This can be applied to learning any language.

They suggest that you write every day in your journal using the language skills that you wish to improve. Use subject matter that is meaningful and important to you and you are more likely to continue the practice. For instance, if you enjoy writing about family or a friends, that is what you write about in the language that you are learning.

Watch the video where a Talk to Me in Korean host explains the method on Youtube: Do This One Thing to Keep Improving Your Korean.

Peace,

 

Deborah

Addressing the YOU of five years ago in your journal

The leader of a Facebook group recently asked a question similar to the following, a question which might be a great journal prompt:

What have you accomplished which would have impressed YOU five years ago?

That’s a mouthful.

This prompt is meant to help you understand the progress you have made in life.  Have you done something that five years ago you didn’t expect to have done? Have you accomplished something that, five years ago, seemed out of reach? Have you altered your life in ways that you had not even considered back then?

Contemplate it and record your answers.

This prompt can also be used to get your ideas flowing for what’s next. What might impress you in the next five years?

Peace,

Deborah

Social Media = Public Journals

Ten years ago I would give away paper journals to relatives and friends, hoping they would join me in recording their lives. They often did not take me up on the offer.

Enter the touchscreen phone/smartphone, the tablet, etc. Now they record their lives in more ways than I do, through Facebook, Snapchat, and other applications online.

There are many different ways to journal now, even if people do not call it by that name. I still love my paper journal the best, but I am thrilled that so many people are finding the way that suits them to record their endeavors.

I recently came across a video by online entrepreneur Roberto Blake called, “I’m No Instagram Model, But…”. In it, Blake notes that he had not found a way to use the photo app Instagram in a way that fits his personality. Then, he says,

“I decided to turn Instagram into a public journal where I can express what I’m thinking and feeling as a creative person, as a human. And so I can look back on that myself and know exactly when I felt something, where I was at that time – both geographically at the time and just where I was in my own head.”

He’s journaling on social media! But then again, so are most individuals who are on the app. He’s one of the first people that I’ve heard use the word “journal” to describe what he’s doing with it.

Recording your life and thoughts can be done; sometimes  it’s a matter of finding the tools that work for you and your life. Perhaps the journaling tool that best fits your life has not yet been invented. (Perhaps you should invent it.)

Peace,

Deborah

Templates Create Efficiency in Your Journal’s To-Do List

If your journal also houses your to-do list, then efficiency in creating those lists is necessary to get the job done.

One of the biggest culprits of to-do list failure, of not achieving the goal, is the tedium of having to write and rewrite your list on tasks to complete on a regular basis. Delay writing burnout by creating templates.

If you know that you will create a to-do list every day or every week in your journal, it might be a good idea to type a list template that you can print and affix to your paper journal.e.g. If you have a weekly to-do list for the foreseeable future that has as its focus Housing goals, Blogging goals, and Financial goals, then type those headings in a simple table, leaving blanks for you to write in the specific goal each week.

If you are using a digital journal for your list, create a to-do list template that you can copy and paste every day or every week.

Continue tweaking your journal and your lists until it fits your life. Pay attention to what fatigues you about your writing and what brings you  a sense of well-being.

And remember that what worked for you in a different phase of life might need to be tweaked for your current phase of life.

Peace,

Deborah

 

Which Pen Should You Use for Journal Writing?

Use the writing implement or medium that works for you and your journal. If a Visconti Rembrandt fountain pen makes you eager to write, go for that investment. If a store brand pen which you can buy in packs of 50 gets your creative juices flowing (because you’re not worried about someone “borrowing” it), then use that inexpensive pen.

Sometimes you’re not even using a writing implement. There may be times when you  glue an image to a page to speak for your mood instead of words.

The pen (or other medium) you should use for the journal is the one that serves you.

Onward,

Deborah

Old Journals Are Like Letters to Yourself

Have you written a letter to your future self? Depending on the purpose of your journal, your personal book can serve as an extended letter to self,  featuring goals,  wishes,  your ideology. . . Everything. Anything.

This morning, I read an entry from ten years ago. I was jaded,  dejected,  and hoped that my older self was having fun.

My younger self had been despondent for months. I do not recall those moments lasting so long, but there they are in black ink (sometimes red ink when feeling particularly dramatic).

I cannot help her now, but I can help someone else who shows similar deviations from their baseline behavior.

These journals help me to be aware of how a person might feel during different phases of life, phases long forgotten.

The journals help to empathize with younger people or those going through the doldrums.

Have you read one of your old journal today? What did you discover in what is, essentially, a letter to yourself ?

Peace,

Deborah

What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

What has prevented you from reaching your goals? Is part of it fear? Fear of what? Writing it all down in private, in a journal  (paper or digital) helps to process what’s going on internally. From there, you have a better stance from which to address the issue.

A journal can also help you to understand your patterns of fear as well as the things you continue to say that you want, the goals you continue to claim will be completed. Following the patterns of behavior recorded in your journal can help you  understand what you fear, at what points you tend to fail and why.

Reading my old journals where I would write that I plan to do X, Y or Z, and then seeing how little of that I had accomplished was devastating. I determined to discover where I continue to fail. A lot of it was allowing fear to make my decisions, or just not making a decision at all (which is a decision by omission).

Use your journal to help you understand what you would do if you were not afraid.

Peace,

Deborah

 

Do You Use a Table of Contents in Your Journal?

How many of you use a table of contents in your paper journal?

While it is perfectly possible to enjoy the benefits of journal writing without labeling each entry, a table of contents or an index will help to skim the journal for an entry that you will want to re-read later.

Plus, a table of contents gives you a summary of your year (or whatever time frame in which you used the journal). Sometimes you look back in wonder at all the thing you have done (or didn’t do) in a year, just by looking at the table of contents.

Peace,

Deborah

 

Journey® Digital Journal [A Review]

Inspired by the founder of National Journal Writing Month, Bakari Chavanu, who talks about his enjoyment of digital journal writing, this month I journaled using an app on my phone.

I used the Journey® brand of digital journal, which is for Android.

You type as you would a memo. (In fact, Journey  resembles the Memo Pad which comes automatically with your Samsung, but with a more aesthetically-pleasing interface.)

You insert video, photos,  stickers, etc., should you prefer to do so. I did not find an audio feature (other than whatever audio is on your video); I’m surprised since even Memo Pad allows for voice-only attachments to your entry.

There are other features which you access with an upgrade, however, there are plenty features in the free version to keep a simple digital journal.

Journey automatically dates the entry; the date and time remain even if you update. There is an option to change the date and time manually. (So that’s one up on the Memo Pad, which automatically updates your date and time when you change an entry and you cannot alter it.) When you start a fresh entry but use an old image, Journey asks whether you want to change the date from the current date to the date on the image.

journey digital journal - screenshot - Deborah Observes

To read the next journal entry on Journey, you can easily click the arrow at the bottom of your journal post (or use the timeline feature to have a big picture glimpse of your little essays). Journey, of course, comes with standard tag features and the ability to search. These features spark the feeling of creating a personal mini blog.

Journey is great for those moments when you do not have your paper journal with you, or when you need to add text to that image you have just taken so that you do not forget details of an event.

It’s a serviceable journal app to capture moments, but not so great for lengthy, soul-searching, life-altering journaling. For me, Journey would supplement my main journal writing, but not replace it.

I prefer the intimacy of a hand-written, paper journal; I’m accustomed to it. However, Journey’s ability to allow you to search for specific entries and categorize by tags is selling me on digital journal writing in general.

Ultimately, Journey is a less-clunky, journal-dedicated version of Memo Pad.

Journey digital journal might be for you if…

…you like an intuitive, streamlined, user-friendly app for journal writing.

…you need a journal app that can be used with a desktop or laptop keyboard.

…you need an Android app to capture moments while you are out and about.

…you would like to store journal entries on Google Drive.

Journey digital journal might NOT be for you if…

… you prefer to use your iPhone for journal writing. Journey is currently only for Android users.

…you prefer to journal exclusively on paper. (However, there is an option to export as a WORD document or a PDF, among other formats, should you prefer to print it off  into paper form.)

… you already use Memo Pad for digital journaling and are ok with not be able to sync the text to other devices.

Click here to view the specifics of Journey brand digital journal on Google Play.

Sincerely,

Deborah

How to Use a Journal to Remember a Recently-Deceased Relative

When a loved one dies, you might wish to remember the person by writing about your experience in your journal, writing about the deceased and keeping mementos.

Here are a few things that I have done with a journal during Aunt C’s recent illness and  death:

1. Print Text Messages

These days, some are irritated if you call them on the phone without advance notice. Instead, we send short text messages on our cell phones or other mobile devices when it is more convenient than voice-to-voice or face-to-face communication.

I’m so glad that this is the case, because text messages from loved ones who are now deceased become written (or, rather, typed) keepsakes.

I have texts from Aunt C that I will print out and place in my journal, including her last one in which she thanked me for sending a book about cancer and hope – not know the deceased very well, the speech tends to be an impersonal lecture. However, he or she might still have a few words worth worth your time; take notes. I do not put too much pressure on myself to summarize the eulogy if the person did not know the deceased; I just grab one concept from the whole speech, then write about something else.

At some funerals, there is a point in the service when audience members may go to a microphone for a couple of minutes and reflect on the life of the person who has died. Usually, the audience member tells a story about one moment in time when the deceased was kind, or entertaining, or a welcome presence, etc. These are often stories that I’ve never heard before, so I take notes. I summarized these 2-minute reflections about Aunt C in my journal during her funeral.

You may decide to do all of this in your journal later at home. However, I have found that I tend to forget some of the things I want to record unless I’m taking notes in the moment, as if it is an important class.

(Actually, a funeral can be an important class in life. Everyone is thinking about death and what is important to them. It’s a time of reflection.)

5. Consider an heirloom journal

Let’s say that the deceased did not leave much of a personal record of themselves – their opinions, their thoughts on life, their thoughts on the family, etc. There’s little you can do about that.

However, you can consider leaving YOUR journals behind so that your relatives have a keepsake from you.  The heirlooms might be your daily journals or a separate journal specifically dedicated to what you want your relatives to know about you, about life, about concepts that you find important.

Aunt C did not keep a journal (at least, not that we know of); she was a private individual. However, after her death, a few relatives perused her papers to get a better sense of who she was, that which she never really told us about herself. It was a bit impersonal since the papers were diplomas, certificates, office papers, bills, etc., but they still told a story. It would have been nice to have something a little more personal from her.

Give the gift of your personal story to your loved ones by leaving your journals in your will.

Peace,

Deborah

P.S. If you are worried about what can happen to your journal after you die, read this article to consider your options: Journaling Q and A, Part 1.

Do You Reread Your Journals?

People write in journals for a variety of reasons. Depending on the purpose of the journal, rereading it can be useful. Sometimes, however, rereading the journal serves no purpose for you or perhaps it is too painful.

However, for those of us who use journals to record our history, our progress (or lack of it), rereading is essential.

I recently stumbled across Tim Ferriss’ book – Tools of Titans. In his introduction, I was struck by his use of journals. He calls them “notes.”

“I’m a compulsive note-taker…. I have recorded nearly every workout since age 18 or so…. It is the collection of my life’s recipes.

“My goal is to learn things once and use them forever.

“For instance, let’s say I stumble upon a picture of myself from June 5, 2007, and I think, ‘I really wish I looked like that again.’ No problem. I’ll crack open a dusty volume from 2007, review the 8 weeks of training and food logs preceding June 5, repeat them and -voila- end up looking nearly the same as my younger self (minus the hair). It’s not always that easy, but it often is.”

For Ferriss, workout journals and food logs are important.

What would be important for you to recall from your journals?

For me, recalling what I was doing a year ago  helps me to understand my progress and my process in any given area of life. Have I made progress on the goals mentioned last year?

Approximately a year ago this month, I said that I wanted to create a business. I’ve set those gears in motion.

One of the things I now do that I wasn’t doing last year this time is use the journal to record my goals for the week, re-reading the goals daily, and revamping the next week’s goals on Saturday.

Members of BTS, a music group that I like, ask themselves at least three goal-related questions every year, questions that I have adapted to a weekly form and ask myself every Saturday in my journal. They are these:

  1. What accomplishments excited you this week?
  2. What would you like to accomplish next week?
  3. Give yourself encouragement for the next week.

I answer these questions. Under accomplishments for the week, I note daily which things I’ve done and which I have not. I reread the answers at the end of the week. Sometimes I look back on the week and see lots of notes that something did not happen, that I did not accomplish this thing or that. It can be discouraging. But the great difference between last year and this year is that I correct the failings quicker because I  reread the list of things to do every week.

My journal is also where I record my feelings or thoughts about family, business, technology or anything else I’m thinking about. Not only is my to-do list there, but the mental state that I’m in when I accomplish (or fail to accomplish) a thing is right there as well. This helps me to see patterns of thought that I can change to alter my behavior, map my behavior towards the goal.

The person that I once was is always a familiar stranger. This is comforting. Since I made such terrible career decisions in my youth, I am forever in doubt that I’ll know what future self wants. However, according to my journals, the terrible decisions occurred when I stopped listening to myself and followed the crowd. Now, I listen to myself more, I follow the way that I am bent more, even if my behavior is difficult to explain. (This is another reason that rereading my journals comes in handy – if I can explain myself to myself, I have a better shot at being able to explain myself to other people.)

Do you reread your journals? Why do you do so?

Peace,

Deborah

Why Do You Write?

We all write for different reasons. Here are a few that I’ve found.

~ You write as a natural extension of the skill of reading, wanting to recreate  or create your own version of what you’ve seen.

~ Eventually, you write out of habit.

~ You write, sometimes, to review what you honestly think about a subject.

~ You write to express  yourself and put your stamp on all of the information you’ve ingested through the years.

~ You write to emulate some of your writing heroes. Sometimes what you read inspires you to take out your own pen and paper and give a little of yourself to the public.

Why do you write?

Sincerely,

Deborah