Thoughts on Journal Writing
Journal writing is one of the last bastions of writing that is often best done by hand. We now send e-mails and type up our lab reports and of course here I am blogging this in the hopes that someone is reading this on their screen. While lots of people have both public and private blogs, and the advantages of having a digital journal are there, including being able to copy and paste writing that you like or uploading photos from your travels, there is something still kind of tactile about journal writing. A customer once asked if I was a "writer" or merely a "pen vendor." At the time, I said I'm not a writer...so I guess that makes me a pen vendor! - but actually I think all of us write and are writers, just like all of us speak and communicate. I don't know if this is some remnant from my not-so-long-ago teaching days where I had to convince young mathematicians and athletics alike that we all have something to write about and we're always working on the means of doing it, but I'd like to think that this is true. Regular journal writing can help you reflect a little more on your day, and maybe help you become more thoughtful or understanding. I think there are studies that show how this can help you relax and reduce anxiety, but it's also just a way to appreciate the good and understand the not-so-good. Authors or creative thinkers sometimes describe journal writing as a way to note observations and thoughts about the people they encounter and what happens during their day. It's a way to keep an open mind and become more observant or perceptive to things happening around you. Googling famous writers' journals and seeing their handwriting is also a fun way to pass a few minutes. Journal writing helps some people wind down at the end of the day, or even thoughtfully prepare for the day ahead. Sometimes looking at our screens is addictive, but also brain-frying because there's so much instant information, so many blinking lights and flashing images all at once. Taking the time to just reflect on what we're writing channels our focus. Getting started! If you have a few old journals that you once wrote in but stopped, sometimes it's nice to put those aside and get a fresh start. Often us stationery addicts have lots and lots of brand new notebooks and journals anyways, and just having that first blank page can get a good way to set out on writing in your journal. It doesn't need to be anything fancy. In fact, I have a customer who comes in and buys some very inexpensive notebooks because she fills them up so fast and - gasp! - recycles them when she's done. She says it's very therapeutic to write about her days, but then it's also necessary for her to say that day's done, and the past is the past. There's no good hanging onto whatever happened in order to start the next day (or journal) fresh. A routine can help keep it going. A good strategy for busy lives is to aim to write one sentence a day. It can turn into two sentences or a paragraph or an essay, or maybe it will end up as simple as "my day was pretty hectic and I don't have time for this." But sometimes, once you open up the book and once you start, what rolls out of you may surprise you. Or delight you. (maybe).