Journaling for Life

open journals

Part Two: How to Write a Life Journal for Present You and Future You (including suggestions on how to use fewer words than this subtitle does)

I argued in Part One that the future benefits of journaling are at least as estimable as the present ones. Here are some suggestions on how to accomplish both:

Set aside a regular time, but only write when you have something to say. Don’t scribble drivel just because “it’s time.” Instead, use the time to pray, meditate, or read devotionally. Future You will benefit from these actions, as well.

Focus. What’s the main thing rolling around inside you? Think about it, pray about it, then put it down. Keep it fresh and to the point. Honestly, some of Former Me’s redundancies bore the packing foam out of me! I prefer the word “journal” to “diary” because diary sounds too much like “diarrhea.” My point? Don’t just have a vowel movement, focus! Future You will thank you!

Context. What’s going on around you? Mention context whenever it seems relevant. And consider bundling your journals with scrapbooky stuff (photos, event tickets, notes from friends). You don’t live in a vacuum, don’t write in one.

Capture the spectrum. Don’t just mourn your darkness, celebrate your light. Life is a comedy-drama—chronicle both. The only time I stopped journaling during the last four decades was between my honeymoon and the early years of my children’s lives (I was too afizz to journalize). But, oh, how Present Me would love to read my thoughts and feelings during those years of angsty joy!

Hatch ideas. If you’re a Creative, you’ll find the ideas that spring from your life experiences far more resonant than those merely trending on the web. Journals are a nutrient-rich compost heap for sprouting blog posts, songs, paintings, presidential acceptance speeches…

Read yourself. I review my previous year’s journal at the start of each new year, my older journals or passages when questions arise about “that time when…” and the whole saga every decade or so. Pinpointing where I am in the dramatic arc of my life has given me a perspective I could never otherwise have had.

Write for others. This may sound contradictory to keeping a personal journal, and if strictly-off-limits is where you need to go, then go there. But at least consider what your (literal or spiritual) progeny might gain from reading your Life Journal. I’d give just about anything to read journals from my father, mother, and grandparents. One day, my adult kids will read mine—with a few pages carefully redacted. You may need to write between the lines (to protect the guilty), or use a liberal Sharpie to retain that PG-13 rating. But your children’s children will develop a unique and invaluable awareness of the roots from which they sprang.

And so will you.

 “Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Journaling for Life

  1. Pingback: Journaling for Life | Mitch Teemley

  2. Great stuff! Thank you!! I use to journal and have been wanting to do so again. This is great motivation!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this post

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “You don’t live in a vacuum, don’t write in one.” I love this! Context is so important and can give you a perspective on why you made the decision you did in that moment. I have had a tendency just to journal my thoughts and feelings, but had I taken the time to write about context or from all of my senses, it would have a greater impact. Thank you!

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  5. Pingback: A Reason To Journal. – Gods Ways are…Different

  6. Gary Fultz says:

    Journal entries are like baseball cards…some become priceless with time…what a good discipline for so many reasons..thanks for the tips as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Mitch,

    Thanks for this helpful post. As always, you provide a wealth of primo info.

    Speaking about redacting… my late mother kept journals for four decades. She made me promise I’d put them all through the shredder after she was gone. Admittedly it took me many years to finally summon up the strength to even begin complying with her wishes… after all, she had asked me to destroy her thoughts.

    While I really didn’t want to… I had to be mindful of how “honor thy mother”… at #4… ranks pretty high up on that Top 10 Commandment List. Additionally… when I give my word, I do keep my word. Longgggg sighhhhh…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. nickreeves says:

    Hey Mitch. Glad to have stumbled across your blog today. I have kept a dream diary* for about a decade & daily (ish) journals for some decades. You have some really neat tips here ^…thank you.

    *your paragraph on FOCUS really made me laugh! I shall never be the same whenever I type the words ‘dream diaries…’ again! Following.

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  9. Thanks so much Mitch. your posts are always spot-on and oh-so-motivational. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ann Coleman says:

    Excellent advice, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. nancyehead says:

    “Set aside a regular time, but only write when you have something to say. Don’t scribble drivel just because ‘it’s time.'” Those are words for every writer to live by, Mitch. Thanks and God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. smzang says:

    You give the best advice!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Roos Ruse says:

    “…bore the packing foam out of me…” ‘ Talk about a sharper image! Love this series stuffed with marvelous Mitch-isms.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jacob Kirts says:

    Hello Mitch! I enjoy this read very much. I feel that I think very much as you do when reading your post. Though I don’t pray I do set aside time for meditation and reading. I very much believe you need to read and think about other’s points of views to become a knowledgeable and well rounded thinker. These things help you write better! I also appreciate your comment on my own blog. If you would like to co-write something I would enjoy the opportunity to work with you. I would have sent you an email but I can’t seem to find your contact info. If you would like to help each other out, mentor me and co-write something together, please reach out to me on my contact page. If not that’s okay I will continue to look forward to your future posts. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Sherry Nostrant says:

    Hello Cuz! I really appreciate your reason/need for journaling. I’ve tried but not been successful at all. I did, however, purchase a “journaling” guide called “For Our Children’s Children” which has tons of questions about everything you can think of and more and thought that would be a great start. When my mom came to live with us I started asking her the questions in that book and she was able to answer quite a few. I used that information and put together a story of her life, which in part was told at her funeral and which I am currently using to create a photo-memory book of her life, including her story. So, yes, I need to work on my story, too! I would love to share her story with you if you would like sometime, since that is part of your story as well!

    Liked by 1 person

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