All the cool kids are doing it. Michael Hyatt journals as part of his morning ritual. Seth Godin built his platform with often short, sometimes longer, always profound thoughts posted every day. Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin straight up tells us to keep a journal. I see over and over this unstructured writing time as the common thread between the big names in everything. If journaling is something all of these highly effective people do, isn’t it time I learned how to journal?
Sure, I’ve written online for a long time, namely as a brain exercise – it helps me notice things I’d otherwise pass by. But journaling is different – it’s not for public consumption. I’m talking about writing for nobody, writing for me. I could write about anything and nothing – no purpose, no goal, no judgment. No spell check! Though I wouldn’t dare err.
I’ve tried journaling experiments before. Blank page, I write a few paragraphs about how my day went. Day 1, then day 2, then day 3…by day 4 I usually decide my life isn’t interesting enough to write about and I quit.
I liked Gretchen Rubin’s idea of a one-sentence journal, but I wanted a little more of a nudge than that. I was looking for direction – any direction. I could easily find a list of prompts, but we all know what happens if we make this too complicated.
So, I came up with a few things that I want to think about every day. Yeah, I’m adding a little structure to something that is supposed to be free, at least in the beginning. But if it gets me going, then direction works here. The writing can still go anywhere.
I even gave it a name! Enter [sound the royalty trumpets]…
I had to come up with a dumb nonsense name so I’m not flipping back to reference my four prompts every day. Remember, complicated, quitting, throwing the paper all around? Don’t want that.
So the made up word – it’s a mnemonic device that helps me remember what to write. It might look something like this…
Something that went well
We can call this the gratitude element, or noting the wins of the day. Go ahead, write out more than one.
My sweet girl was so brave during her ear piercing! She had a small panic moment as I was filling out the papers, but once she saw the sparkly blue flower studs she decided she was going for it. She was brave and she’s spreading her wings a little, but still wants mom for comfort. Can she stay this age forever?
Something that could be made better
Here, we decide that we want to improve something.
Went to bed after midnight. For what? It was SO not worth it. Did we really need to learn that fish have swim bladders to control their buoyancy? Your need for factoids is not filling your brain, it’s frying it, Court. GO TO BED. On time, please and thank you.
While we’re at it, let’s note second area to improve…stop disparaging yourself using the second person in your journal. That’s not what it’s for.
Something I noticed
This is the part where we stop and bounce something around that we might have otherwise passed by without internalizing at all.
I noticed that I notice so much more when I free-write even a few little meaningless bullets. It’s important to me to notice things. Now I’m noticing what helps me notice things. I’m glad I learned how to journal in a way that’s accessible to me.
Something I’m loving
Now, we bring it all home with something that just plain makes us happy.
I’m loving our “first snow of the season” traditions that have developed. We hold the door open and laugh at Bella dog as she goes outside and acts like she’s never seen snow even though she’s been through 11 winters. She leaps around like a little puppy, bulldozing a path with her nose and doing rolls in the fluff. We always have chili and cornbread on first snow day, and we wish each other a “bon iver” (bohn ee-VAIR, “good winter”) because that’s what they did in an episode of Northern Exposure and we liked it. How do people live in a place that doesn’t get snow?
That wasn’t so bad, was it? Of course you’re intimidated by a blank page expecting paragraphs of prose. Those things have teeth. But a few scribbles – we can all do that. Go buy a simple, pretty notebook (I use a sunshiny yellow Moleskine) and try it for a few days. After a while, you can write in the “no” section what you noticed it’s done to your brain.