Why and How to Keep a Journal

March 27, 2015

JournalYour life may or may not be the grand adventure you expected as a kid but, either way, it’s important for you to keep track of life’s happenings for yourself and for your posterity.

It’s not a hard task—jotting down a few thoughts each day—but it does take some self-discipline to make it a consistent part of your life, especially during grand adventures. Here’s how to start and develop the practice into a hobby, a habit, and an eventual legacy.

Getting Started
Buy (or make) a book. I use the unlined, hardback Moleskine notebook—partly for their simplicity and partly for their durability. Whatever book you choose, make sure it will hold-up to your daily life and get a pen that will do the same.

Once you’ve acquired the materials, it’s time to sit down and put pen to paper but where to start? Should you give an overview of your life thus far or start with an introduction?

I’ve kept a journal off and on for the better part of three decades. Those “off” periods require restarting so my experience with that first entry runs fairly deep. My preference is to start in the moment—write about your day as if it were the 400th entry. As you build the habit, there will be plenty of time to reflect on past experiences; use those times to catch-up readers on your life to the beginning of the book.

Your Reasons
I can’t tell you why your journal matters, but you can. Perhaps your grandchildren are in need of a reminder of how to live an uncluttered life or you’ve just welcomed a child into the world. Maybe you’re hoping that grand adventure is on the horizon or your just back and want to retain it all. Whatever drives you to hold onto thoughts or feelings, to share them with someone—anyone—in the future, that’s your reason. Write it down in the front of the book and return to it during periods of writer’s block.

It’s easy to wander into platitudinal entries in the name of writing daily. Having your reason for writing written down and easily accessible will help you stay focused—giving meaning rather than leaving it a simple task to be accomplished as efficiently as possible.

One of life’s great trials is that all tasks required to build self-discipline require the same. Like any exercise, you must use that which you have in order to build a greater amount for future challenges. Daily journal writing is one of those tasks that requires only a small amount of that manliest of attributes but will add to it ad infinitum.

Write about your latest hunt or a moment with your kids, preferably both. Write about your career aspirations, a recent life lesson, or some problem you’re trying to reason through. Just keep writing—week after week and year after year.

I’ve set two rules for my own efforts that I believe will serve others well—Never Less Than a Page because that forces me to write something meaningful; and, though I’ve yet to perfect it, Never Miss a Night.

If you can firmly apply those two rules, your journal will, someday, prove to be of great value and will help develop self-discipline which will serve you well more immediately.



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