This is a guest post by Susie Finney. She is a full-time missionary with Youth With A Mission in Tyler, Texas, working with the School of Bible. She blogs at www.missionsmusings.com, and be sure to follow her on Twitter!

IMG_0677Ah, the joys of journaling.  Grabbing a pen and a notebook, settling into a corner somewhere, and writing like crazy.  Taking the time to observe life as it unfolds.  Catching memories in the moment, so you can relish them forever.  Sorting through life’s twists and turns and trying to make sense of it all.  These are just a few of the things I love about journaling.

So why journal?  I mean, can’t we all just glance at our facebook and twitter feeds to remember what we did yesterday?  While that can work short-term, I’ve learned that journals are a concrete way of keeping memories.  I can search online to see what I ate for lunch a week ago, but I can’t google the precise nuances of a meaningful conversation with my best friend ten years ago.  A journal, especially when kept regularly over a long period of time, becomes part time capsule and part treasure room.

Each person is different, and I recognize that journaling may not be for everybody, but here is a journal junkie’s guide to journaling.

The Basics

  • Pen or Pencil
  • A notebook of some sort (individual preferences will vary-use whatever works for you.)
  • If you prefer journaling on a computer, you can simply open up a word processor
  • If you are artistically inclined, a journal is a great place to do some sketches, or collage with a glue stick and magazine clippings.  (I typically make collage covers for my journals.)

Where to start, What to write

I recognize each person will go about journaling differently.  It’s part of who we are and what makes us interesting.  For a writer, it can be a good way to pin down ideas before they can get away.  For a new parent, it can be a personal memoir of their child’s earliest moments.  For a businessperson, it can be an on-the-fly way of brainstorming.  An artist could have a sketchbook journal to keep the world around them in a new perspective.  The point of this post is really just to give some general ideas for someone who is interested in giving journaling a try.

Journaling your Journey

I’ve found that journaling seems to work best when I remove all the filters.  The fact that I journal with pen and paper probably helps somewhat, because I can’t go back and edit myself.  Write in the moment-what are you thinking and feeling?  What is going on around you?  Have you done anything fun, exciting, or memorable lately?  Even daily conversations with others go down in my journal.  You never know what you might find interesting a year or two down the road, when you dust it off and read it again.

As a writer, this is pretty natural for me on one level.  I think best on paper.  I have to pin my thoughts down so they can’t get away, and then I have the opportunity to sort through the good, the bad, and the ugly.  If I am looking at a major decision in life, I journal about it-my emotions, the pros and cons, input I may be getting from others, etc.  Then I can sit back, re-read it, and hopefully sort through things a bit more.

I’ve also found that journaling can help in relationships.  Just because I want to yell at someone doesn’t mean that I always have the right to, or even the justification for it.  My journal is my “safe place” for all my frustrations.  I can rant for as long as it takes, without destroying a friendship over a brief flare up of temper.  After it’s safely out of my system I can then take a step back, look it over, and hopefully have a better perspective of what’s going on.  Maybe there is a real issue that needs to be dealt with, and I can act accordingly.  Or perhaps I was just having a bad day, and someone else happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  If you vent your anger into your journal, you can work things through with others without ruining relationships.

The Ins & Outs:

One of the biggest benefits of journaling is flexibility.  You can adapt it to whatever fits best for you.  There aren’t a whole lot of absolutes here.  That said, here are a few suggestions for keeping things consistent:

  • Date each entry-I usually give the full day, month, and year.  Heck, I even put the time I started an entry, but that’s probably overkill on my part.
  • Write regularly.  While I don’t necessarily write every day, I usually write at least once a week.  Sometimes it comes in spurts.  I may write three entries in one day, then nothing appears until a week later.  You miss a lot of life along the way, if it isn’t captured immediately, so write often to save those memories.
  • Find a good way to end each entry.  It can be something unique to you.  I sign my name at the end of each entry.  For someone else, it may be enough to leave half a page between one entry and the next.

Write On

So there you have it.  The best way to journal is simply to grab pen and notebook (or laptop) and go at it!  As simple or fancy as you want.

Do you journal?  What are some of the benefits you’ve seen from journaling?  What tips do you have for a better journal experience?