One of the hardest things to decide when you start journaling is what, exactly, are you going to journal about? The common way to start is to record the things that happen during your day and how you feel about them (think diary entries in one of those little daily diaries with the lock). But that can get boring in a hurry, and more than one person I know abandoned their journal because they didn’t know what else to do with it.
A journal should be a place of self-discovery – a safe place to question your thoughts and feelings, and yes, even to write down what happens during your day if it has meaning. It makes sense, then, to use your journal as a place to answer those questions. This can be especially handy if you’re working toward a goal and need a place away from prying eyes to figure things out.
Here are four questions you can start with:
Why Are You Journaling?
The question of why you are journaling should be the first question that you ask yourself. This can splinter off into various different questions, but answering the initial one is vital. You should know why you are journaling, what your goal is, and what you want to get out of it. Remember, be honest with yourself during this and don’t worry if you have more than one reason. List all the reasons and let the ideas and entry flow.
What Are You Looking for in Your Journal?
When you go back and read over your entries what are you hoping to find?
The answer to this question will be different for everyone, but here are some ideas to get you thinking about what you may be looking for in your journal:
If you struggle with depression, will your entries show you what triggers it?
If you have a weight loss journal, are you looking for what patterns in your eating… when you have a great day, when you eat mindfully, or when you tend to eat emotionally?
Whatever it is that you’re looking for, write it out and see what happens.
Who Will See Your Journal?
This is a huge question. Sometimes your journal is just for you. There are other times when your journal may be online for others to see, especially if you blog about the same topics you journal about.
Personally, I’m one who protects the privacy of my journals with a vengeance. When I got married the last time, we hadn’t known each other for very long. I used to keep my journals on a shelf in the office because I would write whenever I had the urge. My husband decided he should read my journals, so that he could “get to know me better.” I said no, and because even in those early days I didn’t really trust him, I burned all my journals so that no one could ever even be tempted to read them again.
Journaling online gets a little tricky too. I often participate in a challenge called Rock Your Handwriting. Every day you get a prompt, and you’re supposed to write out your answers by hand and post a picture either in their Facebook group or on your Instagram account. I love to write by hand, and so this challenge is a perfect fit for me. But some of the prompts can get pretty personal, and those ones I’ll write out the answers to in my journal, but never share. I’m getting better at sharing pieces of me online, but there are still a lot of times I just don’t want a bunch of strangers seeing my thoughts.
You need to know who, if anyone, you plan on allowing to read your journal and comment on it. This may lead to what entries you allow to be public or read versus the ones that are strictly yours. This will also help you weigh the pros and cons of sharing the journal.
Where do you stand on this? Would you feel comfortable letting others read your journal?
Why did you choose this particular journal?
The journal you choose helps to narrow down the type of journaling you plan to do. For example, if you choose a gratitude journal you’re likely looking for ways to count your blessings and find the good in your life. If you choose a weight loss journal, you’re most likely working on living a more healthy life. If you choose a blank journal, you’re looking for a place to clarify your thoughts and record your ideas.
Asking questions like these will no doubt lead to more questions, and more new ideas. You may find that you started out with a specific goal in mind, but through your journaling you end up on a completely different path. Keep your mind open to new questions, and new experiences and don’t forget to write them down as they show up!