A Journaling Failure finds a Recipe for Journaling Success
“Hi, my name is Rick and I’m a serial journaling failure.”
Every year, I resolve to begin the New Year developing the habit of daily journaling. And every year, I fail.
Age cannot wither him, nor custom stale his infinite variety of journaling failures*: work gets in the way of journaling, I don’t feel like journaling, or I journal for a month and wander away following the little animals.
But the truth is, like most wannabe writers, I am a bit panicked by the blank page.
I’m also a bit bored jotting down my own thoughts (at heart, I’m a reader not a writer). So, as soon as I sit down to journalize a bit, all my ideas, insights & observations dry up as fast as a salt lick in the Texas sun.
This drought of worthy ideas is a bit perplexing to me because, when I’m fooling around on social media, I’m prolific…probably, too prolific for my own good. Online I am a bubbling fount of information, an oracle of wisdom and advice, and I have rock solid opinions on nearly every topic.
That’s when I realized the obstacle to journaling was Me.
On social media, I am reacting to or pushing against an idea I’ve seen or read. But when I stare down the blank page of a journal, the blank page wins. I’m frozen with indecision and doubt. What to write? What is worthy of note? Is this any good? Why would I want to keep this? It’s not that I have no ideas, I have too many ideas, good and bad. So, after a week or two of keying banality-squared onto the screen, the blank page wins and I give up…again.
From this insight comes my new —to me— method for starting and staying on my own personal Camino del Santiago path to daily journaling.
I just needed something to react against. To write about. Topics that were varied and far from my furrowed patterns. I needed a new source of stimulation and contemplation that would keep me from falling into a rut of worn notions while journaling.
The Answer? This year I’ve started a daily written meditation in response to a book of published daily readings.
We’ve all seen them, particularly at card shops: 365 Daily Prayers. 365 Daily Business Readings. 365 Days of Appreciation. A year in the Life of Your Dog. You get the picture.
Daily reading books cover an overwhelming number of topics:
Childhood (your’s or your children)
Religious daily readers of all types
Arts (both appreciation and creating)
Prompts for both Writing and Poetry
Even daily readings on journaling itself
the listing takes up 100 pages at Amazon.
My point is this. If you are not making headway with journaling, try enlisting some daily direction about a topic you’re interested in or want to improve on and write about that.
For my 2017 fresh start at Daily journaling, I selected Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman’s:
The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living
because I’m interested in the roots of Western philosophy and self-improvement.
The results? So far, so good.
My new journaling technique is to copy the text from The Daily Stoic (Kindle version) into a fresh entry in the DayOne journaling app. Not only does DayOne allow me scribe notes in my journal, but the program can also be set to also retrieve the current weather and my present location as well as allow me to add pictures and maps. I also find DayOne invaluable as a tool when traveling.
Of course, in DayOne you can designate different folders for different topics and set security for each folder. Available for Mac OS and IOS devices, DayOne is an excellent solution for any Mac household.
If you’re running some other operating system or some mix of Windows, Android, or Mac, any cross-platform note-taking program like Evernote, OneNote, or even just a Word or Pages document will suffice.
But —and this is essential— you have to find a way to get the daily reading onto the pages of your journal.
Because I use the electronic version of The Daily Stoic, copying and pasting into DayOne is easy. If, however, I’d bought the dead tree version of this book, I’d use my iPhone to take a picture of the day’s page and paste that pixture into my journal instead.
You should get the daily reading into your journal because the whole point of journaling is to be able to look back over time and see not only your thoughts, but also to see what you were reacting against at the time. Your journal entry won’t make much sense next year if you can’t see what you were reading at the time. So getting a copy of each day’s reading into your journal is paramount.
In the case of the Daily Stoic, the format is that there is a quotation from a past Stoic philosopher and commentary from the authors. I copy both quotation and commentary onto my journal page (some daily readers will only have a quotation or Bible verse). I frequently find the commentary from The Daily Stoic often evokes more response than the quote itself.
I’ve also found that when I’ve completed “reacting” to the Daily Stoic reading, I’m in more of a mood to “commit” journaling: exploring feelings & experiences, adding some biographical diary information (for when I’m awarded the Nobel in procrastination), capturing fleet-footed ideas on paper, as well as experiences and snippets of overheard conversations that have stayed with me.
So, if you’ve tried journaling —like me—and failed at sustain the journaling habit many times —as I have— try taking your journaling prompts from a daily reader.
It works for me. And, if the process doesn’t work for you, then the daily readings will probably do you good.
(* Apologies, Bill)