Ask the Readers: Why Do You Keep A Journal?

Today, I would love to learn about your journaling habits. This site is, at its core about using journaling to create the life you want. It’s about using journaling to help you achieve your ambitions, have the courage to be more audacious, and be at ease with who you are.

What is the purpose of your journaling?

Do you even keep a journal, or wish that you kept one?

Are you a daily writer, or an occasional one?

Do you use particular methods or techniques?

I would love to know anything and everything about your journaling habits. So let’s get the discussion going.

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY

Please tell me in the comments below, Why You Keep A Journal.

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35 Responses to “Ask the Readers: Why Do You Keep A Journal?”

  1. JoniB May 10, 2012 at 01:07 # Reply

    I journal like I would talk to my best friend. It is a diary but sometimes I rant, rave, question, discuss, and plan. I love writing in my journal. If I miss a day or two I feel lost and cloudy.

    I begin every entry with the day of the week and the date. The time and place are next. It not only grounds me but enables me to remember more the few times I’ve gone back to read old ones.

    Mostly I use my fountain pens. I love to write in different ink colors and the fountain pens are so smooth and easy that I can write much longer than I could with a ballpoint pen.

    The most valuable thing of keeping a journal is the freedom to be completely honest with myself. No censoring. Of course this is because I have a very safe environment in which to do so. No one around me could care less about my thoughts – which is another reason I journal.

    • Dolly Garland May 10, 2012 at 20:31 # Reply

      Joni,

      Journaling like talking to your best friend, is the best way :-) I can honestly say that while I do have wonderful best friends, my journal absolutely is the top confidant!

      Freedom to be completely honest and writing uncensored is the key behind effective journaling. So many people unwittingly end up writing for an audience, and miss out on the potent ability that a journal gives for self awareness and self development.

      If you are not surrounded by people who care about your thoughts then time to surround yourself with a new bunch, even if they are online ;)

  2. Amit Amin May 10, 2012 at 01:32 # Reply

    I journal to express my gratitude for the small and big things in life I should better appreciate. I’m pretty lazy about it, so I only open up my journal 2-3 times a week :(

    • Dolly Garland May 10, 2012 at 20:32 # Reply

      Amit,

      2-3 times a week is definitely better than nothing. And it is still fairly regular so well done on that :-)

      I’m at a stage, and have been for several years that journaling is a part of life. I don’t have schedules or fixed quota of journaling, but it’s quite unusual for me to miss a day. I do it without thinking about it for the most part. Some days, I make special effort to journal when I want to do it for a specific reason. But that habit has come with time, practice and application.

  3. Loran Hills May 10, 2012 at 01:35 # Reply

    Great question, Dolly. I journal because I feel like I have to! I’ve been writing in a diary or journal of some sort for over 50 years. It’s a friend, a confidante, a place to figure things out and to express myself emotionally. It’s a place to explore, record thoughts, connect the dots and so much more. Journaling has helped me grow personally and spiritually. I don’t write ever single day but I write as often as I can or need to now.

    • Dolly Garland May 10, 2012 at 20:33 # Reply

      Loran,

      I absolutely agree with because “I have to”. I simply have to. My life would not be complete without journaling. It’s a part of who I am, and I don’t go ANYWHERE without a journal.

  4. Sarah O May 10, 2012 at 05:33 # Reply

    I’ve kept a journal on and off since before I was 10. AT first it was a chronicle of my days and a place to express my angst and love dilemmas. Over the years a journal has served as a place to explore feelings, work on personal growth and development, and to experiment with creative writing. Right now I’m back to journaling by hand each morning after my meditation session. I just let the words flow and I’m fascinated by what I’m led to in my writing

    I also journal intermittently on the computer (sometimes called freewriting, etc.) as a way to warm up for creative writing. I haven’t tried out any of those online journaling sites yet. I just open up a new page for a new journal entry. I find it a little hard to get back to those journal entries though – and still like the handwritten version best. Just wish I could write as fast as I type!

    • Dolly Garland May 10, 2012 at 20:44 # Reply

      Sarah,

      I really really wish that I’d started when I was a young child. But at that age, journaling never even occurred to me because no one I knew kept a diary, and I didn’t really think about it at all. I know there is no point in regrets, but I do have that regret because I think if I had kept a journal, my memories of my childhood would have been so much stronger.

      I type faster too, but journaling has to be hand-written for me. If I need to write really really fast, I just let my hand-writing go bad ;)

  5. Lori Lynn Smith May 10, 2012 at 06:26 # Reply

    I use my journal for working through tough emotional situations I use stream of consciousness writing then and for planning for my future typical SMART goals and Affirmations. I don’t write in it every day… sometimes it is months in between. But it is always on my desk or in my back pack and it is always red :-)

    • Dolly Garland May 11, 2012 at 20:42 # Reply

      Lori,

      I like red :-) Do you use specific brand of journals?

  6. R.M. Koske May 10, 2012 at 14:28 # Reply

    I do two kinds of journaling, and I do them a bit differently.

    The “recording memories” journaling I’m not terribly good at, so I’ve started using a web service that reminds me to do it via email and archives the results for me. I don’t put super-personal stuff in it, but at least I’m collecting my history somehow.

    The other kind is more for working things out and I tend to do it on paper, though I sometimes do it on the computer, especially if I’m really upset. (I can type faster than I can write, so I get through the upset faster.) I’ll figure out my plans for the weekend or why I’m procrastinating about a phone call or talk myself down from being angry about an interpersonal issue. Techniques I use include dialogues with my wiser self, answering a checklist of questions or just freewriting. I do that writing almost exclusively in looseleaf or spiral notebooks and discard things pretty frequently. I’d love to journal in a really nice notebook but the pressure of its seeming permanence locks up my brain and I can’t do it, especially not the really useful journaling where I whine and say bratty things to get over them. When I first started freewriting (using Julia Cameron’s morning pages formula) I kept them, and realized that they were often too emotional to be comfortable re-reading. I didn’t want to re-read them and I didn’t want anyone to see them, so now they go out when I feel they’re not useful anymore. I may save excerpts that are relevant to an ongoing problem, but mostly I toss things without thinking about it too hard.

    • Dolly Garland May 11, 2012 at 20:47 # Reply

      I find your story interesting, about both kinds of journaling and about the blocks or perceived blocks you have about journaling.

      I can understand too emotional stuff (especially negative emotional stuff) not making a good re-read. I find that too. That is why one of the things I insist when I am coaching people about journaling is to include positive things, no matter how small. Also, you don’t have to re-read, and you certainly don’t have to re-read immediately. I often don’t read my journals until several years have passed. By then, I have moved on,and re-reading becomes more of a learning experience rather than upsetting.

      I also get the thing about not using good journals because they seem permanent. But again, that fear is more perceived than actual. It depends on how important it is for you to keep your journals. If it is not – and if you are content to use them for therapeutic purposes and throwing away pages when you are done, then that is of course perfectly fine.

      If however, you do find that you want to keep them, but are unable to because it seems too much pressure or too much negativity, then it might be time to start writing in good journals, just don’t pressure yourself to re-read again.

  7. Kaylee May 10, 2012 at 21:48 # Reply

    I don’t really keep up with my journal anymore… I need to update them actually. But for years, I’ve used livejournal.com to keep track of my life so I can look back and see where I was, how I was feeling, etc. It’s interesting!

    For a while, I was also doing Morning Pages every day… That was AWESOME, I got so many unexpected insights and great ideas from it. Why don’t I do it anymore? Laziness. But maybe I’ll pick it back up…

    Thanks for making me think about it – in doing so, you have me that much closer to picking my journals back up.

    • Dolly Garland May 12, 2012 at 12:43 # Reply

      Kaylee,

      Always glad to get people closer to journaling :-)) I tried online or even e-journaling but it is just not for me .There will posts about this eventually!! It’s a big debate topic as always.

      I have not done morning pages EXACTLY as per Cameron’s instructions (simply because I don’t have time first thing in the morning), but I have done them. Usually I do that during my commute, and I enjoy the process. It’s good for clarity. But then that applies at any time for me, especially when I do deliberate journaling.

  8. Teresa R May 11, 2012 at 04:56 # Reply

    I have several journals, some I write in, some I do art journaling in. I have one I started when my daughter, 32, passed away this past Oct. I write when I feel like writing, am part of a journaling group who does weekly art in their journals and I participate when the subject appeals to me. I use collage, markers, colored pencils, and various colors of pens in my journals. I have photos of my daughter in her journal.
    When money permits, I would like to try using watercolor in my journals. I am also trying to learn to draw faces for my journals.

    • Dolly Garland May 12, 2012 at 19:35 # Reply

      Teresa,

      Journals make a good mementos, and good way to work through issues. I’m sure there is nothing I could say that would make the loss of a daughter any less tragic, but with a journal, you could celebrate your memories of her.

      Art journals could be fantastic. I personally don’t do it because I’m not a very visual-art person so I don’t do it so well. But when I see amazing art journal pages on the Internet, I do wish I could do them :-)

  9. Yvonne Root May 11, 2012 at 22:48 # Reply

    Dolly,

    Good question. I don’t write every day. And, I know that is a big no no for some. But I do write often and on some days I write several times a day. I put a bit of everything in my journals and only recently began adding to-do lists sometimes. And, I’ve put a grocery list or two in my journals.

    Like you, I believe a journal is an inexpensive way to get to know me. Sometimes I’m excited about the nice me. And sometimes I have to remind the poopy me there is a better way. So, yes, a journal is a self-improvement tool, a kind friend, a worthy counselor, a creativity starter, and at times a place I can look back to and laugh my head off. What was I thinking?

    And like you said, looking back at last weeks mistakes just isn’t any fun. But looking back at my “younger me” is a blast.

    • Dolly Garland May 12, 2012 at 21:22 # Reply

      Yvonne,

      One of the most important things about journaling, in my opinion, is that you follow only YOUR rules. No one else’s. That means, you decide how often you write.

      Looking back several years is usually more entertaining than looking back few weeks or months :-)

  10. Alison May 13, 2012 at 22:24 # Reply

    I have only recently started to keep a journal over the last few months, it is a learning curve for me right now and i’m not sure as yet fully where i’m going with it, I do know that it is something that I love and look forward to and it has to be written down, I tried to keep a journal on my computer but this didn’t work for me. I tend to Journal just before bedtime or during the day if I have the time, any time that I feel I need to get thoughts out of my head. The reason I started is that I struggle with Mental Health problems and I use it to get obsessive, unhelpful and damaging thoughts out of my head. I must remember to journal some positive things too as most of mine is quite negative, I also change my mind a lot during the day, make plans to change then don’t manage this and so beat myself up about it in my journal. I’m in the process of trying to find a perfect brand of notebook to use for my journaling and I want to set up a desk in my bedroom so that I can keep my journal in one place and I have a designated area to sit at while I journal, away from my computer which is set up downstairs and then i’m away from any distractions. I love art journals, I just feel i’m not creative enough for those and don’t really have the time. A also scrapbook (although I don’t get much time for it these days) so this is a way of journaling about more fun things of my children (i have five), things they do and funny things they say. The thing that worries me the most about my Journal is safety of it and how I would feel if anybody read it, like if anything was to happen to me or say in many years time when i’m old and the children are grown up, should anything happen to me or my husband how would the children feel reading it.

    • Dolly Garland May 14, 2012 at 00:56 # Reply

      Alison,

      Congratulations on starting your journaling journey. It may not seem like it now, but believe me, you are creating something amazing.

      Don’t worry about where it’s going. It doesn’t have to go anywhere. It’s about how it works for you, and how it improves your life.

      If you haven’t yet read, I would recommend reading a post on here, “7 Ways to Turn Your Journal from Whiny to Empowering” for some positivity. Also, from the subscribers area, download the Free Guide on Positivity. That will give you something to focus on when you can’t think of anything positive to write about.

      Recording things about your children is a powerful thing. It will create memories which right now, might seem like ordinary, and often difficult days.

      As for journal’s privacy – my advice, don’t worry about it. We all go through it, and what I tell myself is this: “When I’m dead, I’m not going to know about it.”
      When you are dead, you will be dead, and there will be nothing you can do about anything, so why worry?

      Another thing is that journals become valuable eventually. Think about all the published journals that we can now read – people like Virginia Woolf who led such a disturbed life, and wrote plenty unpleasant stuff about people. But now her journals for us are a discovery.

      We are living through tomorrow’s history, and each of us, with our journals are keeping our unique records. That is an amazing thing to do.

  11. Bakari May 14, 2012 at 04:26 # Reply

    I still wonder why I have an urge to keep a journal. I maintained them for like 8 years during and after college, but then stopped for like 15 or so years. I’ve been trying to get back to journaling but I keep questioning why I’m doing it. Sometimes I think it’s just a place to dump my frustrations and to process challenges I’m facing. I think those purposes are useful, but I always feel I could be getting more out the process. That’s how I came upon your site and others, to get ideas for journaling.

    I would also like to add that i do like using the Day One journaling app for the Mac and iPad. With the app I can type an entry in the text box in my menu bar, and then just go back to what I was doing. I’ve tried other software journals, but that ones works best for me. I write in it about 3 times a week.

    • Dolly Garland May 15, 2012 at 22:13 # Reply

      Bakari,

      If you are not sure about why you are doing it, but have the urge to do it, then important thing is to just start writing, and keep writing. As you immerse more in your journals, your reasons will become clear. Even if they are not obvious to you, what you write in your entries will reflect that.

  12. Jan May 18, 2012 at 00:37 # Reply

    Hmmmm.
    Yes, I definitely keep a journal, but daily writing just doesn’t happen for me. I admit to being a perfectionist and I just don’t like writing in a rush or not being able to write all I want to. There are many times I’m writing a pretend journal entry in my head, but sadly I can’t find the time to write it all down.

    After a long period of non-journaling, I usually take a day or two just to write about that day. Then I go ahead and do a series of journal entries illustrating my off days from journal writing. I don’t like the whole”explain the last two weeks in two sentences” which probably explains my infrequent journaling due to being a perfectionist. That is definitely a fault, but I just can’t journal like that.

    I do use my journal as a tool to get over obstacles in life, but not so much as others. I like the whole what-did-I-do-today? thing. It’s easier because I’m sure. I also like putting my feelings out there- things that I would never say out loud but I can in my journal.

    Sometimes, i’m a little paranoid about my journal. I worry that someone will come across it lying on my bedside table and glimpse into my abyss of secrets. There are some things you just don’t want out there so I try to hide my journal away, but it doesn’t always work( I have had a couple of encounters where people have read my journal, if you were wondering.)

    Also, I like to do lists in my journal. Actually, I love it. Sometimes , when I feel like my life is a little too boring to write about at the moment, I just make lists of random things. I’m not very arty or anything, but I do like decorating my journal, putting stickers on random pages, doodling on ’em as well, all that good stuff.

    So that’s basically it…

    • Dolly Garland May 19, 2012 at 19:57 # Reply

      Jan,

      I would never tell anyone HOW they should write in their journals, because journaling is a very personal thing, and it is about what you want to do.

      However, what I can offer is my opinion and my experience. And in my experience, a lot of times, perfection keeps people from writing they all want to write. When writers start writing a story, usually it begins with a rough draft, which they then polish into a publishable version. Usually it takes drafts after drafts. So with journals, like with anything, hoping for perfection in first draft often paralyses people.

      The idea behind super-fast writing is to let your subconscious take over so that you literally don’t have time to judge what you are writing.

      However, your journal is extension of you, and should reflect your personality so it’s not “wrong” that your journal might reflect that.

      You seem to be trying various things in your journal, and that’s the fun part :-)

  13. Kevin May 21, 2012 at 21:59 # Reply

    Hi Dolly,

    Congratulations on your new website, it is really nice!!

    I keep journals for many reasons. I also keep many journals.

    I have a journal for lists and misc jottings. One for my pocket “to go” journal. One for working on my short stories. One nice leather bound one for my daily life entries. (I don’t know why I can’t combine them all into one. Yes, I am defective! LOL)

    I have my basic pocket one (a Field Notes) for simply jotting down things like grocery lists, to do’s, or things that aren’t journal worthy but that I don’t want to forget.

    My pocket “to go” journal (a Moleskine – currently the Peanuts anniversary one) is for entries in my life journal when I don’t have access to my full sized regular life journal – which sits on my art table at home. It goes with me when I travel or go to work but when I am out and about it stays home. But there are many times when I really feel the need to write in my journal NOW. Yes, I am obsessed with journals. A clear defect as mentioned before. But a very satisfying defect!

    My short story journal (a Moleskine cahir) is for working on my short stories when I am away from my computer. I always have ideas and don’t want them jumbled up with other idle meanderings. My short stories are based on a world I am always in the process of creating so it needs to be a bit organized.

    My full blown journal has had many changes over the years. A hardbound sketchbook, a leather, heavy bond, lined blank book, a simple composition book, etc. Currently I have a really nice leather composition book cover. I was at Target a few months ago and they were having a sale on composition books – .25 cents each! I bought a LOT. LOL combined with my leather cover it is an ideal combination.

    One of my favorite things about journals is going back and reading them later. I can look at one of my journals from 20 years ago and instantly relive some of those moments. It can make me laugh, glow with happiness and, sometimes, bring tears to my eyes. Either way it is a wonderful experience.

    I also like them as a future gift to my children. I hope they get as much enjoyment from reading my journals as I did writing them. I always think how cool it would be if I had been able to read about my parents lives in this fashion. I am glad I am able to do that for my kids.

    Journal is a compulsion for me, a need. It is something I just can’t live without. I absolutely love journals and have so many. Each one is a little treasure.

    I also like to read books about journals and read published journals. And cool journal websites like this one!!

    Thanks again Dolly!

    Kevin

    • Dolly Garland May 30, 2012 at 00:07 # Reply

      Kevin,

      Ah the eternal problem of how many journals…. I know that only too well :-)) I have considered trying Field Notes many times, but never actually gotten around to getting one. How do you find it?

      Re-reading journals, especially after a considerable interval could be so incredibly powerful for so many reasons. Often, it makes me shake my head at what I used to think.

      It’s a fantastic gift you are creating for your children. I totally agree. I would have loved to have journals from my parents, grandparents. That sort of inheritance is invaluable.

      I love reading published journals too :-) One of my favourites is Virginia Woolf’s writer’s diary.

  14. Mona June 7, 2012 at 03:27 # Reply

    I write a little in my journal as soon as I wake up and have fixed the bed. I wake up very early, so I have time to do this. I write throughout the day as ideas and opinions occur to me. I don’t have a theme for the day, I find that it limits my journalling. My daily journal entries look like running commentaries. I write about what I’ve dreamed about in the night, about events to come, events that have happened, about my observations in general, etc. If there’s a particular topic I want to expound on in a more detailed fashion, I just put a big space between that and the last paragraph. I try not to be very formal, and try not to be too hard on myself when I examine what I write. It doesn’t sound very organized, but it’s pretty freewheeling and quite enjoyable. I reread what I’ve written in the past, it helps me to understand myself more.

    I sewed and bound my own journals, and write in them with fountain pens. I use a different color of ink every day. I also carry around a little notebook in my handbag to dash off quick thoughts and observations in, sometimes as an outline for things I want to write about later in the day.

    • Dolly Garland June 7, 2012 at 22:58 # Reply

      Mona,

      Your journaling habit seems to be a fixed part of your life, which is great! Your style sounds quite similar to mine too. It’s all about enjoying the process. There is no formality, since it’s our personal journals.

      It’s interesting that you sew and bound your journals. I’m not that artistic :-)

  15. Mari Adkins January 21, 2013 at 00:12 # Reply

    I journal for the same reason I’m a writer – there’s more room out than there is in. Writing helps soothe the ADHD.

    • Dolly Garland January 27, 2013 at 05:56 # Reply

      Mari,

      I agree. I journal simply because I must.

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