I know this is going to sound biased coming from a writer, but I highly recommend everyone have some sort of writing practice as a personal development tool. If nothing else, it’s fun to be an adult and find your diary from when you were 6 years old and pouring your heart out. I sometimes picture myself at 80 years old reading the things that I’m writing now.
One of my favorite things to do is carry a little moleskin notebook around with me ‘a la Hemingway’. Here’s an exhausting, but not exhaustive list of the types of things I write down in there: the occasional ‘To Do’ list, book recommendations, my intentions for the year (at the front, so they are regularly in my face), little pieces of wisdom I learn from someone or discover myself as I’m out experiencing this highly stimulating world, inspiring quotes, dreams to be worked with later, more bits of wisdom, agreements I make with myself, doodles, and ideas as they pop into my head that I want to journal about or act on later. Last year I put my vision board in this little book so I could carry around the images with me. I also made a list of things I want to do regularly at the back of the notebook, where I give myself a “point” when I do them. I don’t know why a drawn line helps keep me motivated, but it does.
When I’m working towards a goal or making a change in my life, my sense of awareness is heightened. I am curious and ask questions and notice the little things around me. I think I’ll remember something later, but often just don’t. This little gem of a notebook becomes a treasure trove of these thoughts and discoveries. It lets you capture things “real time”, gives you a flavor of where you’re at with things when you look at it as a whole and also gives you a souvenir from that time in your life. And of course I realize this can be done electronically, but not for this chick. You’ll forever find me with my moleskins covered in random stickers. Flipping through the pages and seeing my own handwriting or scribbles is more intimate and holds more substance.
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” ~ Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
And then there’s journaling…not just for traveling! Time never seems to tire, always just trucking along, tick tock, tick tock. We have experiences, we change, we grow…we let go of things, we gain new things, we let go of people, we meet new people. We make big changes and little ones, we live, we dream and hopefully we live our dreams. I can’t express how much I have learned about life and myself from regular journaling. Sometimes I’ll sit with a specific question or something I am trying to work through and write it all out, one of my principal methods of processing. Other times I just give myself a page limit, say 3 pages, and I free associate anything and everything that comes to my mind. (Julia Cameron calls this ‘morning pages’ in her book The Artists Way)
For journaling I actually type instead of going the handwritten route, which seems so contradictory to what I just said above. I’m living out of a backpack right now and so it simply makes more sense. If I could afford it, I’d have a sherpa just for my journals. Instead, go ahead and tease me, but I use the “handwriting” font on my MAC and type away. I like to do this in the morning as sort of a meditation…thoughts come up and they go on the paper. It honors the chaos by giving it a destination somewhere besides my brain…and then I can read it later and experience myself from the outside. I also like to journal at night with a glass of wine, by a fire and/or some cozy writing space. It doesn’t have to be a class or work, get comfortable and have the glass of wine.
New Years is coming up and my birthday is in June…for me, these are two natural milestones for reading back through my journals. Any cadence or milestone is great, whatever works, but definitely do it. I notice themes, ideas that unfolded into action and reality, relationships that have evolved, places where I got stuck, the things that helped me get unstuck, the new things I’ve tried, the feelings I’ve felt and what triggered it all, and little nuances that seemed like nothing at the time, but become the keys into my soul.
A few more little things I do that have been cool to do and to have later:
I keep a gratitude journal separately and I do join the modern ages for that one and use an app. There are apps that let you take pictures to go along with a daily entry. The one I’m using right now has a list of by date and title I’ve given to each entry, and then I can click on it to read what I wrote. Some days it is harder than others, but those are maybe the most important days to find something to be grateful for, the simplest thing. This is my first year doing it and I’m excited to look back through the year.
I also keep a running list of new things I’ve done in the year or “big” things I’ve done…no rule here, what makes the list is just according to me. I think it’s both important and fascinating to see what you’ve done, how you’re spending your time, what your priorities are, what goals you accomplished. It can point you to your passions, dreams, challenges, and new goals.
“We write to taste life twice.” ~ Anais Nin
If you like this post, you might like the big project I’m working on now. Please check it out: Let’s Go on an Adventure!