I wasn’t the type of girl who spilled all my thoughts and secrets into one of those diaries with a padlock and key that were all the rage when I was nine or ten. But I’ve always written about my life and my experiences in some kind of way. This post is about a short experiment I tried in September, to see if writing a journal every day could help my writing, my routine, and what else it might change for me.
I guess in some ways Splodz Blogz is my journal, providing some kind of weird insight into my life, my experiences, and sometimes even my thoughts and feelings. I thought I would attempt to write a journal every day in September to both add some routine and discipline to my life, which has felt a little chaotic for a while, and to see whether making a note of my thoughts each day helps me to find my long lost writing mojo. It was an interesting experiment in both habit creation and personal motivation, and having read a lot about the benefits of being persistent in search of improvement, I thought it was something I should try.
It’s not just about giving myself a month to get into good writing habits, though. Writing regularly is cited as doing wonders for your mental health and wellbeing. It can make you feel good, can help commit events and emotions to memory, and it allows you to re-live the events of the day in a safe environment where you can process them without fear or stress.
I guess I just wanted to see if I could complete a journal every day for 30 days. And to have the opportunity to look back at the end of the month at what I did, thought, felt and experienced. Not only that, but also just to see what I would learn from starting something new and trying to do it consistently; I often comment on me being a jack of all trades and master of none – all down to not actually practising anything routinely.
My journal of choice is my orange Moleskin large squared notebook (you’ll find it here on Amazon). I love this notebook, I’ve had it in various colours before now and will almost certainly repurchase it again when I’m coming to the end of this one. It opens flat, has a hard cover so I don’t need anything else to lean on, has a ribbon so I know where to open it, is just the right size for whatever bag I’m carrying, and writing on those squared pages is just a joy – so much nicer than lines. The paper isn’t great for liquid pens, but the thinness of the Moleskin’s ivory coloured leaves means I have more to write on.
While I didn’t want to get stuck in the “and then I” style of diary writing, I was fortunate that during my 30 day journaling experiment I had quite a lot going on that meant I knew I would have lots to write about even if the thoughts-and-feelings side of things didn’t work out for me. Every weekend was full of exciting adventures, starting with the Overland Event at the beginning of the month, and ending with my GetOutside Activity Challenge at the end. Having Comms Unplugged in there was timely, too, because much discussion was had at that event about feeling empowered to tell your story, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve through this new daily routine.
Most days I easily wrote up to around a page of rambling words about my day. Some days I fell into the “and then I” trap, but most of the time I concentrated on how I felt and what I’d experienced personally. Unexpectedly, the hardest days to write something meaningful were the days filled with cool experiences; I’m not sure if by the time I reach my bed after a busy day of adventure I’m done and just need to sleep, or if the mundane brings out my pensive nature. Either way, when I feel like I should have a lot to say, I hardly have any real words to put on the page. And that in itself meant I soon realised that writing a daily journal is not going to be how to find my writing mojo – because when I’m busy doing things that I should really be writing about here on my blog, the words don’t come.
While I did concentrate on words, I did occasionally take a leaf out of Dana and Lou’s book and add drawings and doodles, quotes, and stickers (thanks to the Comms Unplugged team for those!) when I fancied it. I also found myself writing asides, longer comments on things I’d seen or additional notes from talks I attended or watched (including this TEDx Talk by Patti Dobrowolski, Draw Your Future) that I have already been referring to.
One thing that happened almost by accident was including something or some things for which I was grateful within each journal entry. Practicing gratitude wasn’t the reason I started this experiment, but it was certainly something that ended up being one of the most rewarding elements, and in fact on my busiest days when I had no stream of consciousness to note down, I was still able to do this, and that felt really quite wonderful.
Five Things I Discovered Through Daily Journaling (Why You Should Write a Journal)
To sum up my 30 day experiment and make this post something of a journal entry in itself, here are five things I discovered thanks to my favourite orange notebook.
01. Conscious Consideration
Journaling every day made me consciously consider my emotions at the end of every day. It both forced me to think about what I was thinking about, and make me take a little bit of time to myself before bed. I found this hugely grounding and helpful. If nothing else, this experiment meant I went to sleep every night understanding what I was feeling and maybe also why I felt that way, even if I wasn’t able to do anything about it.
02. A Clearer Head
Some days that conscious consideration went even further and I was able to write my way out of feeling sad, angry or another unhappy emotion before bed. I won’t say that the act of writing a daily journal fixed anything, but it certainly helped tackle worry, anxiety and fear. How powerful! I surmise that the act of writing things down is hugely logical, involves lots of brain power, and even if you are just letting the pen translate a stream of consciousness into words on a page there is some sorting and arranging going on in the mind. The thoughts-into-words process helped me work through issues, problems, and even helped me make decisions, meaning I was able to go to bed with a much clearer head.
03. Not A Phone
I spend way too much time on my phone each day, I’m completely addicted to social media, and am looking at a screen for hours and hours on end. Spending a few minutes writing with an actual pen in an actual notebook gave my evening something of a routine that didn’t end with my phone; I was very good and didn’t pick my phone up after I’d written my piece for the day, I put my notebook and pen down and called it a day. Yes, I’m still on my phone a lot, but my pen was my last communication tool of the day, which is a start.
04. Practising Gratitude
As I mentioned above, the personal benefits of practising gratitude was the happy accident of this experiment. I am fortunate that I don’t find it difficult to find something to be thankful for each and every day, even if it’s one very small thing in amongst a whole load of stress. I very much like having a record of the things I was grateful for during the month of September, it is helping me remember the good things. I might have repeated myself on occasion, I am often grateful for good food and good friends, but even those things are important to remember.
05. Better Words
The last thing I will mention is that I found words again, along with a rekindled desire to be creative. My vocabulary undoubtedly broadened as I thought carefully about how to describe my day and my feelings accurately, and I found my coloured pencils again and didn’t only use them to colour in the dates at the top of each page. I’m not back to blogging regularly, I didn’t end up doing that kind of writing, but I can feel my love of writing coming back, now I just need to make the time to do more of it.
Another 30 Days?
The things I discovered during my 30 day journal experiment certainly make me want to continue every day, but whether I’ll continue to write a journal every single day remains to be seen. The challenge element is gone now and so some of the motivation has, too, but I certainly don’t want to lose the benefits I’ve found that this routine has given me. I will definitely reach for my journal every time I go somewhere or do something I want to remember specifically, such as on a road trip or weekend away – my notebook always comes with me even on the lightest of adventures, but I’m not going to force it. I’ll let you know.
Do you journal? Every day or just when you’re off doing something interesting? I’d love to know if and how it helps you keep grounded and re-live your best and worst moments. Would you consider a 30 day journal experiment to see what happened? Comment below.