In the previous post, I managed to convince myself that journaling is definitely a worthwhile activity that not only heal the soul but our physical body as well. In this article, we look at how to write one.
According to Brett McKay from The Art of Manliness, there are three basic steps to get you started on your journaling journey. Let’s adopt that method for now.
1/ Choose a medium:
- There are many electronic options out there.
- You can write in the good old fashion word processor of your computer.
- You can use programs such as OneNote, EverNote to store your writing from all devices
- Or a blog entry in popular blogging sites such as Tumblr, WordPress, Blogspot, Livejournal or even email yourself the entries.
2/ Schedule a time:
Starting anything the first day out of impulse is easy, but consistently doing it is hard. I have no doubt even avid diarists miss out a day or two, but to get yourself to write your journal entry everyday, you’ve got to decide what time you want to write. Some people prefer to write it at night, just before they head off to dream land because it helps them unwind, and sum up their day. On the contrary, some people prefer to do it in the morning as they are too beat at night to reflect on anything. Others just jot down in their journal from time to time as the day progresses. There’s no fixed method, actually, you just try them out, and pick the one that suits your schedule, liking, and energy level the most. After you’ve picked your time, you have to be adamant about it. It’s a non-negotiable time, and if you break it to do something else once too many time, you might just weaken your resolve, self-discipline and end up half-finished!
3/ What to write?
McKay suggested to write whatever the hell is swimming in your head at the moment, but that might be hard for those who do not have the habit of writing. In the last article, I’ve shown how journaling can lead to different results. If you have a certain result in mind, here are some suggestions.
- Better English: if you want to improve your writing or language skills by journaling, you should do it in that language (obviously). Try to include as many words/phrases and jargons you have learnt into your entries as possible. You should make it a rule to write in complete sentences, and develop the habit of catching a mistake in spelling or grammar while you write.
- Legacy: if your desired result is to keep a legacy, then you’d have to be a bit more personal with what you write. You should write about the activities that you do, and your feelings and reflections. Maybe include a lot of interactions with other people, too.
- Problem solving skills: now, obviously if you want to improve your problem solving skills, you would have to write about problems. Write about what’s bothering you, your fears, your doubts, and everything that needs dealing with. It’s almost magical how one can see so much clearer, and thus deal with an issue more quickly.
- Improved knowledge retention: if you want to remember more of what you’ve learnt by journaling, then it makes sense if you write about it in your journal.
- Critical self-reflection: it is exactly how it sounds like. You should spend time just reflecting the hell out of your feelings, perceptions of yourself, of others, of everything! Try to dig into the root cause of things. It’s nothing short of miracle when you realize a reoccurring pattern in several problems you’re dealing with. Without probing into yourself, you may never really know who you are.
- Self-shaping: if you want to arrive at a better self by writing a journal, then you should pay particular attention to what you really want to become. For example, if you want to become more disciplined at your work, you can make it a point to reflect on your discipline on various tasks over the day, recognize it as what it is, and make necessary plans to improve it in the following day.
- Let loose: now, this is an easy one. Just freaking write whatever you want, whatever is floating in your consciousness at the moment!
Now, that was a tad restricting, wasn’t it? After all, journaling should be a private act of enjoyment rather than just another writing assignment. I agree with you. For my part, I only write whatever the hell I want. Sometimes, I write about my travel reflections if it’s exciting. Sometimes, I write about crushes, and sometimes, I write about my obsessive feelings to a fandom. Really, just let loose, and get to know your mind!
Here are some general tips for your journaling though (for real):
1/ Perspective: According to Seih, Lin, Huang, Peng, and Huang (2008), writing using first, second and third person perspectives make a difference. Basically, writing that uses first-person pronoun promotes emotional disclosure while second-person pronoun stimulates a dialogue with a supportive partner. Writing in third-person pronoun makes the experience objective and distant. The research concludes that anxious people who oppress their emotions benefit the most from shifting their writing among these three perspective. I think its benefits do not only apply to the anxious ones. When you want to vent off, you should write in first person. (I got bullied. It made me sad. Clexa gives me life.) If you need support or motivate yourself, use second person. (You know, you’re a pretty cool gal. Don’t listen to what they say. Just go on shipping your OTP) And after making sense of everything, you may want to distance the event by describing it in a third person perspective. (Sokcheng got bullied, but she’s alright. Clexa shippers are strong.)
2/ Meditation/reflection: The School of Life has an amazing video on how to meditate by writing. I find it helpful to do it once every two weeks or so just to catch up with my soul. You can learn to do it by watching the video here. Basically, there are prompts that will give you a chance to dig deeper into what you’re excited, doubtful, and fearful about in the moment.
3/ Read this article to see how Bruce Lee kept his diary just because he was awesome and philosophical.
Well, that’s about it. Now get that writing material, take a deep breath, and write!
- Seih, Y., Lin, Y., Huang, C., Peng, C., & Huang, S. (2008). The benefits of psychological displacement in diary writing when using different pronouns. British Journal of Health Psychology, 13. 39 – 41.