Ok it's not a book. But you can make it one.
When I was in the third grade, I was told to write a poem for homework. Most of my class wrote about changing leaves or their favorite time of year. I wrote an imaginary account of selling my older brother on eBay. And so I’m not sure whether it was because my teacher thought I would enjoy writing more, or because she thought I had some serious psychological complexities to work out on paper, but she suggested my mother buy me a journal. Now here I am, thirteen years and thirteen journals later, and I’m still hooked.
Not buying into the hype? Here’s 7 reasons to start a journal today:
- Clarity: Decisions are hard. Truly. This is coming from someone who spends ten minutes choosing a pack of ink pens. But there’s something so helpful about weighing your options out on paper. I’ve found that being able to track through my thoughts and trace my mental process is key to arriving at the best decision.
- Reflection: This is clarity’s old, wise uncle, the kind who draws a breath before answering every question and always looks beyond you instead of looking you in the eyes. But actually, it’s so important to take time to reflect, whether it be on a scale as small as “how effectively did I use my time today?”, or as large as examining the trajectory of your life over the course of several years. It’s especially important to have a place to bury your thoughts where other people don’t see them. It’s not that you don’t want to share them, it’s just that it gives you a sort of communion with yourself. It trains you to be self-dependent, to be your own greatest comforter and confidant. It trains you to be able to assess and apply the advice of others, without adapting it wholeheartedly.
- Storytelling: This may sound like a lost art, but I’m not just talking fables and legends. The ability to craft a good story will not just make you a better party guest; it will help you to be more grateful and thoughtful, always searching for purpose and positivity to be drawn from your everyday activities. Just as journaling improves your ability to craft plots and storylines, it also has been proven to improve the way in which you use language. The brain is just like a muscle; the more you exercise it in a certain manner, the stronger it becomes at that task.
- Aspiration: Journals are not just for looking at the past, but for looking toward the future. They help you to dream bigger. Sometimes that’s as concrete as writing down goals and steps toward reaching them. Other times it’s more ambiguous. Maybe it’s doodling or collecting inspiring quotes.
- Capturing / developing big ideas: Your journal can be a place you collect “aha!” moments. When you have one of those, write it down, no matter how silly. You never know what it could develop into. I find it helpful to always keep a small journal in your purse for the ideas that come to you on-the-go.
- Gratefulness: It’s the age-old idiom. “Count your blessings.” Or better yet, don’t just count them. Examine them. Expand on them. Realize how they’re interlocking and mesmerizing and undeserved, even.
- Anxiety prevention: This is a big one. Worrying is a part of being human. It’s a part of living a wonderfully complex existence. It keeps you paying attention, keeps your feet on the ground. But it can also be crippling when it overcomes you. If you’ve been there, you’re not alone. It gets the best of me sometimes. But I’ve found journaling offers a bit of almost instant relief. It’s a form of meditation, a place you can turn your wandering thoughts concrete and sort them out on paper. And then they look just a little less scary. But like meditation, journaling is a practice. You can’t neglect your journal for several months and then sit down to write when you’re at your wit’s end. Trust me, I’ve tried that. You have to prepare for the anxiety you’re not yet experiencing.
Having trouble starting to write? Here’s a few tips:
- Try the letter format. Write to God. Write to your past or future self. Write to your future spouse. Write to your cat. It’s helpful to have a consistent opening ritual to situate yourself and tell you’re mind, “Hey, we’re doing this.”
- Write quickly. Remember, this is for you! No one is grading this. You don’t have to write well, just get it all out on paper.
- Keep a journal jar. I’ve never done this myself, but I’ve heard of people doing this. Fill it with prompts for yourself. “What scares you most?” “What would you do if you knew you could never fail?” “What would you do even if you knew you would fail?” There are writing prompts all over the internet, too. I’ll share some of my favorites on Instagram over the next few weeks as I come across them (@thecreativejuicer).
So where to get a journal? Here's a few I'm totally in love w/:
(click on the photo to visit the link)
2. This classic leather notebook from Barnes&Noble. It was the first journal I ever had, that one my mom bought me in the 3rd grade, and they still sell it for a reason. It's timeless.
3. StudioOh's Deconstructed Journals
I have probably at least ten of these. They lay completely flat, so they're the BEST for writing. You can usually find them at Barnes&Noble, too.