I’ve always been a journaler. I got my first diary when I was 8 years old and journaled from then all the way through my painfully awkward teen years (which I now share publicly as part of a comedy act, My Teenage Angst, which plays every other month in Denver), through college and into adulthood.
Despite the fact that my habit of journaling was the catalyst to the downward spiral of my marriage, the trauma caused by it hasn’t deterred me. I still journal on a near daily basis. In fact, I keep several types of journals now, each with their own unique purpose. I have a journal for big ideas that I want to eventually flesh out into something awesome. I have a journal for personal thoughts that I use to commemorate moments in my life as well as reflect on them. I have several art journals — I use these when words escape me, but I need to get something out on the page. And my blog, which I started in 2005 and have mostly abandoned, became a journal of sorts, and led to several incredible friendships.
All in all, the concept of journaling is about reflection. It’s meant to capture the feelings and emotions around what is happening in your life today, freely, unedited and most importantly, without tying shame to what comes out on the page. Getting it out on the page is the first step, but my favorite part is going back after a period of time to see your former self. It’s amazing how your perceptions can shift with the passage of time or moments of personal growth.
If you’re not a journaler by nature, here’s how you can get started:
1. Use paper and a pen. I know we live in the digital age and all, but there is an element of connection with your words when they are handwritten that is important.
2. Make time. I have personally become a big fan of morning pages, where I write over a cup of coffee when I get up each day. Remember the free writing exercise in high school where you just wrote for 15 minutes whatever came into your head? Guess what? This is the same thing. Write without a filter, without a plan. Just write.
3. Reflect. Revisit your writing later in the day or week. See if you can pick up on a theme or influence to what you’ve been writing about. Sometimes, those are intuitions on your next big idea. What does your writing say to you?
I encourage you to get started. You’ll be amazed at what you will learn about yourself when you use journaling as a means of reflection.