Man Week 2013: Keeping a Journal

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I have kept a journal on and off since I was 15. There have definitely been gaps along the way, but overall I have an ongoing account of the past several decades. There is some really great stuff there, and some really sad stuff. Nonetheless, it is all there.

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Why keep one? 

Journalling has many benefits. If nothing else, it is a great way to get some of the clutter out of your head to free up space for new ideas and adventures.  It can also serve as storage for the small momentos you don't want to lose, such as a ticket stub or the program from your 4th grader's piano recital. 

While the goal of your journalling may not be to share with others, you will be creating your own personal memoir to be shared with generations to come. You may not think that your life is interesting enough for that, but I assure you that your grandchildren will be thankful for the personal look into your life. 

Your memory will fade. What you think you will remember to share with your loved ones will someday become a hazy version of what you recall right now. Think of how vague some of your childhood memories are today. 

Who keeps one? 

Many great minds (and some not so great, I imagine) have kept journals. Below is a list of some notable men: 

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Ben Franklin
  • Charles Darwin
  • Michael Palin
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Captain Cook
  • Henry David Thoreau

How do you keep one?

Whichever medium you choose, it is important to be consistent. Schedule a time each day to make an entry, be it big or small. Remember Mr. Belvedere? Every night, without fail, he made an account of the day's events in his journal. Form the habit. 

Pen and paper

Your options are a little better than they used to be. My journals have always been in a book format. I prefer lined pages and a hard black cover, although I do have one covered in a crazy African print that was given to me as a gift. Choose what suits you. 

The cool thing about a paper based journal is that you can glue things inside or sketch a quick doodle as a reminder. There is also something rewarding about flipping through pages of memories you've saved.  Moleskine makes great books that even come with pockets in the back for storing things.

Digital

These days we have the added benefit of digital journalling. Through many platforms you can archive daily events and internet links to memories you wish to keep.

Keeping a blog may be the easiest for some. There are many free or almost free platforms available for limited usage. If you don't intend to share it publicly this may be a good place to start.

To keep your journal more private, consider using note taking software such as OneNote, Evernote, or Notebook. These applications allow you to set up binder-style digital notebooks and store loads of information in an organized way. In most cases, you can even upload photos to your pages and insert links to web pages. 

What do you write? 

Everything. Anything. What ever suits you.  

My journal is full of ramblings, poems, and stories. Your entry may be a quick account of the terrible traffic you encountered that day, a sonnet for the girl at the Starbucks counter, or a letter to your toddler that won't be read for years (if ever). The choice is yours, but make it personal. Write it like nobody will ever read it, but know that somebody probably will.

You don't have to start with 'Dear Diary', but you can. Don't box yourself into what you think is an expected journal entry. Just be yourself and write what happened for the day. Some days it might be as simple as 'I don't have anything to say today.' If you think your life is too boring, this may be just the kick in the pants you need to start having more fun and adventures.