I’ve kept a journal for most of my life. At some points I have been more successful than others, but overall I kept quite a good streak going. I notice that whenever I hit a low point in my writing, it’s usually because I have unknowingly started following one of the following three rules. Fortunately, as soon as I realize this I can ditch it again and fire up the old pen & paper (or, to be completely honest, more likely the closest pen and the shiny new notebook I bought for the occasion).
1. A journal entry should be a complete account of the day and/or everything you’re feeling.
My biggest pitfall is starting with a lot of context before writing what I actually sat down for. This is unnecessary: the journal is only for me and I know what I am taking about. Get straight to it!
Similarly, don’t feel like you have to give a complete overview of your emotions. If you want to write down some happy thoughts to motivate yourself, this doesn’t mean that you’re only or always happy. The same goes for writing down sad things. We humans are way too complex to be captured in a single journal anyway, so don’t worry about what yours says about you.
2. You are not allowed to write ‘backwards’.
Sometimes I think of something I want to write down for a previous day, but I feel like I have to write down a ‘disclaimer’ or put today’s date above it. Not having written it on that day makes it feel “unauthentic”. Nonsense. I’m still me. (And who cares anyway.)
3. It is important to write elegant sentences that impress your great-grand children.
For starters, I don’t think I will allow my great-grand children to read my diaries. Some of the stories in there are plain embarrassing, and I want to feel like I can write those down without anyone reading them. And remember what I said about humans being too complex for a diary to give a good impression of them?
Moreover, sometimes I just want to jot down a few things to remember without having to write an essay about it. A few bullet points or a picture can work wonders in triggering my memory later on and they save so much time.
In short, I urge you to remember that your journal is serving you, so if there is anything that is making it feel like a chore, change it! Have a think about what your goal is and how you could reach it faster. Or don’t keep a journal at all, if it’s not your thing. Just keep yourself happy :).