11 Oct 2018

How to Journal

Submitted by Stephen Winters

I have been journaling for about 25 years now. I first started because of a severe crisis in my life, which I’ve written about here: The Write Frame of Mind. I started writing just to cope with life. When I first started to journal I didn’t have much to say. However, I kept my notebook or a computer close to me and wrote a tiny bit at a time. When I first started all I could think to write was one tiny thought, one sentence.

Here are some of the guidelines that I use whenever I journal:

  1. Write whatever I had to say, even a little as a couple words.
  2. Write hap-hazardly, write badly. Trying to write perfectly makes it hard to write and hard to think. If I’m trying to “write with proper English”, then I’m thinking about how to write, not about what I want to say. I throw all of that away when I’m writing in my journal.
  3. Whenever I journaled, I didn’t worry about grammar, spelling, or writing complete thoughts. If I only had half of a thought, I would write that. Then I would put dots “……” indicating that there was more to be added later. The important thing is just to write whatever comes to mind and however it comes to mind. I called it “free-writing”, just writing freely without restrictions or grammar rules.
  4. Write when the thoughts come. If at all possible, I try to write out my thoughts when my thoughts first come. That is when I have the most to say about them. If I have to wait a few hours or longer, I will have forgotten most of what I wanted to say. That is why I like to keep some writing tools at hand as much as possible.
  5. I always have some journaling tools close at hand so that I could use them whenever thoughts came. Since I have worked at home for many years, I just kept my desktop computer on.
    1. Nowadays I just keep my laptop turned on and close at hand whenever I am at home.
    2. I have writing and journaling apps on my phone, which I have with me all the time. I often use it to write whenever I’m out and about, or if I am in bed and don’t want to get up to write on my computer.
    3. I use speech-to-text a lot, especially on my phone.
  6. Write like a reporter. Whenever I’m writing about something that happened in the past or that is currently happening, I try to see it through the eyes of a reporter. I try to write as clearly and objectively as possible
    1. Whenever I write in my journal I try to step out of myself and pretend like I’m merely an observer who is a reporter.
    2. Trying to be as accurate as possible, I write what I see, both good and bad.
    3. If I’m angry or upset, I write about that and why I’m upset.
    4. I write out in as full of detail as possible.
    5. I also write the details of each situation, including what happened before the current situation and the steps that led up to the current situation.
    6. I put aside my emotions of the moment to examine myself and what is really going on.
    7. Writing objectively like this helps bring clarity to my thinking and brings me peace.
  7. Write the truth. In my journal I only write what I believe to be true. I write as honestly as I can, without any pretense.
  8. I examine myself. I find my journal a great place to examine myself as honestly as I can. I write out both my strengths and weaknesses. I write out what I need to do to improve myself, or to clean up my messes, even if I’m not ready to do anything right now.
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