“This is the year I’m going to write my journal every day,” they think. Then, around January 6th – and, co-incidentally, Epiphany – they find their journaling has ground to a halt.
There’s too much to do. They have too little to say. Or so they think.
Here are some tips for this New Year – starting this very day. These techniques are drawn from life-long journaling (by me and other people including everyone from Virginia Woolf to Bridget Jones). Although not an exhaustive list, they will get you started and keep you going:
1) The 1-sentence journal
Journal entries don’t have to be literary and can be as detailed or as brief as you like.
If you hit a low period, when you might give up, try just a single sentence each day for a week. Longer if necessary. Then see if you can resist the urge to write more.
This is a writing form that anyone can manage. Listing cuts to the heart of the matter, changing your thoughts from muddle to order in a matter of moments.
At first, your thinking may resemble a flock of sheep on a mountainside – obscured by mist or highlighted by sunshine but with one or other of its members constantly on the move.
But, listing is a way of being able to herd thoughts. It’s the starting point of organisation corralling related information under sub-headings. And the nature of lists can range from the practical – such as food journals for dieters – to the metaphysical.
On January 1st , for example, in a training needs identification exercise, you may list together those qualities and attributes you have away from a little herd of those qualities and attributes you would like to have.
This will flag up the cause of your difficulties. When you first wake, tap into your sub-conscious and identify the patterns that underlie your thinking by writing non-stop for five minutes.
Writing down your dreams has the same function although you may be diverted by a narrative form while you attempt this.
4) A poem a day
In times of emotional crisis, writing a poem – in free verse -will take the edge off disabling emotion and help you make sense of it.
5) The first word in your head
Write down the first word in your head and then ask, where next?
Use your journal to have imaginary chats with people, work, events, society, dreams, emotions, feelings, body parts, or blockages. This classic journaling technique gives you the opportunity for a conversation good to have but rarely held.
7) Tell stories
Find inspiration for your journalling – from the people in your life, your experiences and overheard conversations. You can write these as a straightforward account or fictionalise them into a story without end as daily or weekly installments.
As a writer, through journaling, you are practicing your craft and will inevitably improve your skills. But, as you see, your journal could also be the counsellor in your pocket – as journalling helps you become someone who knows what’s valuable in your life.
At the same time, you’ll be able to cull the valueless. And think much more clearly.