Here’s a question I’ve been asking my stressed-out students: “Do you keep a writing journal?”
Over the years, I’ve found that journaling:
- Reduces stress;
- Enhances productivity, so that you get more done in less time;
- Helps with overall creativity.
Why journal NOW?
In a word, stress. While we’re isolating ourselves, stress is a big challenge. We’re not in control; this perceived helplessness leads to more stress. And inevitably, if you don’t manage your stress, it leads to depression.
A writing journal: how often should you write in it?
A writing journal helps you to:
- Dump your feelings of helplessness and isolation into it (journaling is therapeutic);
- Feel in control: once you rid yourself of negativity and despair, you’ll become inspired;
- Become a force of positivity to everyone around you. Misery is toxic.
The question I get most often about journaling: “how often should I journal?”
That depends on you.
If you’re stressed, journal your thoughts and feelings. You’ll be surprised that when you dump your junk into your journal, you’ll be calmer. Moreover, you’ll begin to see the benefits of your situation.
From a NYT article on journaling:
In his landmark 1988 study, outlined in his book “Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotion,” students were randomly assigned to write about either traumatic experiences or superficial topics for four days in a row. Six weeks after the writing sessions, those that had delved into traumatic experiences reported more positive moods and fewer illnesses than those writing about everyday experiences.
If you’re stressed, journal about it. Start writing. Stop when you’ve had enough. Journal again when your stress rises.
I’ve journaled twice a day for years.
Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius famously journaled for self-improvement. A couple of quotes from the great philosopher:
The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts…
When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love…
Here are some tips to help you to develop a useful writing journal.
1. Blurt your misery and fear onto the page: first thoughts are best
Avoid fancy journals until you get into the journaling habit. Your writing journal is a tool. If you buy a hard-cover leather-bound journal, chances are that you’ll keep it for “later” and will never start journaling.
Grab whatever you have. Use printer paper if you like. What your journal looks like doesn’t matter.
Similarly, avoid censoring yourself.
First thoughts are best. Blurt out fear, misery and depression—release toxicity onto the page. You never need to read this junk again. If you wish, you can write your misery onto scraps of paper and burn them. Write, and keep writing: don’t think about the words.
Paradoxically, when you blurt this stuff out and glance over over it, you’ll ask yourself: is this what I truly think?
The answer will be: NO. 🙂
2. Doodle: your creativity communicates via symbols
Your creative self communicates wordlessly.
Your creative self will “speak” to you in images… this morning I woke up with an image of concentric circles in my mind.
I drew the circles on an index card before I could forget. Dream and daydream images tend to dissipate like smoke if you don’t anchor them in some way.
When an image appears in your mind, doodle it into your journal. Feel that you “can’t draw”? Stick figures are 100% fine.
3. Try a rough and ready bullet journal
I’ve been bullet journaling for at least six years. I fell in love with Ryder Carroll’s amazing system immediately.
Important: we’re writers. While many artists use bullet journaling, devoting hours on end to creating amazing works of art, if you’re not a nascent artist, stick to words and lists… 🙂
Rapid Logging is the language in which the Bullet Journal is written. In short, it’s a way of capturing information as bulleted lists.
You’ll pick up the bullet journal method in a few minutes. It can be as rough and ready as you please. My bullet journals always bristle with flags, stickies and pasted-in notes.
No one else could ever make sense of of my bullet journals and they’re not meant to. Your bullet journal is a tool. Use it like a tool.
Over the years, I’ve tried using digital bullet journals. It’s never worked. Handwriting is part of your bullet journal—you remember what you write. What you type tends to pass into the mists, without leaving a trace.
Have fun with your writing journal
Relax, write, and have fun.
If you spend your time in isolation developing a journaling habit, you’ve mastered a creativity tool which will help you in everything you do.
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Update: May 30, 2021
Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.