Journaling: the 4 Do’s and the 4 Don’ts

Thu, June 4, 2020 by Jessica

Journaling is just keeping a very informal diary. It’s a notebook in which you write or note down things you see or think about. It’s meant to be private – just for you, so you can be more relaxed and honest with yourself than you would be if you were writing for other people to read.

If you’ve never done it, well, this is your chance to try it out! 

If you already keep a journal, see if you agree with my thoughts on what you should, and what you shouldn’t do with your journal!

DO let yourself write or not write. Do what you feel. It’s for you. Some days there may be pages of notes, other days nothing. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. There’s only your way to do it. It’s your journal!

DON’T turn it into an ordeal. There’s a useful, disciplined approach that helps you get over a small amount of resistance or a bit of whiney ‘I’m too tired’ complaining. And then there’s a full-on ‘I must write my two pages at 4pm every day.’ For most people that’s not useful. 

DO let yourself jot notes, or draw little diagrams, or write lists, or use long arrows to connect different bits… Part of the fun can be to try out new ways of expressing yourself on the page. 

DON’T think you have to write perfect prose, or purple prose, or any kind of prose. When we need to communicate with other people then prose (sentences and paragraphs like I’m writing in this article) is really valuable. But when you are writing just for yourself, then you choose your style!

DO notice when you are reluctant to write something down. This may be something that you need to express – but not quite yet. Reassure yourself that nobody else is going to read it. Can you jot down some kind of cryptic note instead? And then come back to the main point later…

My own handwriting can be tricky for other people to read. When I was younger and writing something very private, I would deliberately make my writing as cramped, fast, and hard to read as possible. When I came back to it years later, even I couldn’t read it!


petes journal

DON’T be too safe. Just writing things you already know will mean you risk getting bored with your journal, and then you will probably give up on it. 

What’s different in you, or the world, or your family and friends? What’s caught your interest today? Small or large, important or ‘trivial’ – if you are intrigued or puzzled, irritated or fascinated, then that is what to write about.

DO occasionally look back over what you’ve written and reflect upon it. What do you notice? Has there been any changes or development? Do you like some of what you have written but dislike other parts? Why might that be? Are there some bits you could expand upon, polish up, and try out on some members of your family? Now there’s a thought!

DON’T give up! There are always new ways to describe who you are and what your life is like!

Good luck. And get that notebook out!

Blog by  Pete Armstrong

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