We’ve all seen those journals in the movies or in museums, or maybe even on Pinterest that look like leatherbound pieces of art. They’re written in perfect script, illustrated with sketches and watercolors and poetically account for the daily lives of the authors in such a way it makes a trip to the grocery store sound like a quest worthy of the Fellowship of the Ring.
They’re pretty inspiring, in fact. And if you’re like me, you see it and you think, wow. I should be documenting my life like that. Am I going to come to the end of my days having left not a single record of how they were spent? Certainly not! And then you run out and buy your own beautiful journal, and a pen that lays perfectly on the page, and maybe even some colored pencils in case you find yourself inspired to sketch a little something along the way even though you’ve never in your life been inspired to sketch a little something along any sort of way, and perhaps you pick up some interesting looking washi tapes and brush tip pens, and of course a ruler. A book on how to sketch, too because that couldn’t hurt and oh! One of those new polaroid cameras, so you can take pictures of the places about which you will write and record and there you have it. Now you need to pull along a little suitcase on wheels in order to bring along all the supplies you’ll need to journal. And of course then comes the best bit. The part you couldn’t have possibly seen coming from the art supplies department. What in the world do you have to say?
Turns out, mostly what you have to say is nothing nice. Or important. Or inspired. So how do you write that in a your beautiful journal with your nice pen and then take a cute picture and tape it onto the page with pretty tape while you sketch something amazing around it? And then you don’t. Or you force yourself to. Once. And lo and behold, that is the guaranteed way you will come to the end of your days without a record of any of it.
Journaling is not about any of that. Those little adornments are great for the people who can pull it off, but journaling is for everyone! It can be deeply cathartic, it can lead you out of confusing times and help shed light on answers, it can reveal patterns of behavior to you, you might otherwise overlook. It can help you problem solve, brainstorm, create and illuminate! So stop putting off the doing of it because you’re afraid it’s going to be ugly. Of course it’s going to be ugly! Who cares? A lot of what you write inside may be ugly too! Who cares? This is for you. If you somehow end up of famous and you think they may want to display your genius of a journal in a museum someday, then quickly take the best bits of your ugly journal and transcribe it nicely into something else if it’s that important to you. Who would know?
But for now, while you’re a nice and average unknown human being try this.
1. Grab the cheapest, ugliest spiral bound notebook you can find. This can already be laying around the house or it can be on sale for 42 cents at Walmart. But if it costs more than $2.00, you have already ruined it.
2. Get a pen you like to write with. (This part is where you can splurge. Writing with a good pen makes you want to keep writing with a good pen. It’s one of those uttlery satisfying for no good reason practices of which there are far too few, in the world.)
3. Scribble the date on the top. Or forget to. It’s really not that important.
4. Make zero attempts with your handwriting. And if you can’t help it because you like how your handwriting looks with your nice pen, then just be sure it’s something you can keep up with while writing fast. This is not the time for calligraphy. (Save that for when you’re transcribing this into your famous person journal for the museum.)
5. Just GO WITH IT. First thing you’re feeling right now. Boom. Try to explain. Try to figure out why. Try to figure out how to keep it going if it’s great and drop it like it’s hot if it ain’t great at all. But sort and sift through your feelings and the whys of your feelings and the ifs and thens of your feelings. It’s all about feelings here. And it’s ok because there isn’t some poor schmuck sitting next to you with his eyes rolling back in his head because he’s having to listen to your feelings. Nobody is listening. Even the journal isn’t listening. It can’t listen to anything. It’s a journal. And it only cost 42 cents. Let’s not expect too much here.
6. Do it in the morning. There is something totally course adjusting about getting out your thoughts … good or bad … first thing in the morning.
7. Do it while you really enjoy your tea or coffee. This applies a little something called “association.” You’re basically psyching yourself out into loving this because you’re doing it while loving your coffee.
8. Cuddle with your dog while you do it. This is more association and it is totally working now.
9. Have no expectations of yourself other than honor the time and do it. And then tell yourself you are basically those most disciplined person in the world and how is it that the museums haven’t called yet wanting your journal!
10. Close it. You’re done now.
That’s it. If it sounds too simple it’s because it is too simple. Which makes it even more of a shame that so many of us waste so much time making it so hard and ultimately miss out on all of its many benefits!
So go for it! Once you find yourself in the habit of it, enjoying the practice and reaping the benefits of it, you’ll be hooked. And maybe thats when you’ll want to graduate to the pretty tooled leather bound book, pulling about your suitcase full of art supplies. But until then, just grab a cheap notebook and attack it daily with all of those sharp and explosive thoughts and ideas that clang around in your mind from one day to the next. Even if it’s scribbled on a Buy One, Get Three Free Walmart Special, the world might need it one day.
So go Journal. And do it on purpose.