written April, 2002 by Ruth Folit
Depending on what purposes their journals serve, journal keepers tend to write more often either when life is complicated and difficult or when life is flowing smoothly. The times when journal writing doesn’t satisfy an immediate need are times when people write less. Does this matter? Do you have to write consistently, even during periods when you are not drawn to journal writing? Of course not! It’s your journal and you can write when you want. Some people who journal only when they are in a particular frame of mind, however, may want a little more balance in the content of their journals, giving themselves more accurate, complete pictures of who they are. Below are some practices to encourage more continuity with journal writing.
Reflect on what time of day you are drawn to writing as well as what associations you have with journal writing. You may most enjoy writing as soon as you wake up, or during a break in the day when the kids are napping, or after coming home from work, or before going to sleep. Or you might have created a little ritual around journal writing-sitting down with a cup of coffee or tea or listening to mellow jazz. Use these external cues to help you get started.
Another way to support consistent journal writing is use cues on your computer. If you like to write in LifeJournal as soon as you start your computer, include LifeJournal in the Startup menu. (To learn to do that on your computer, click Start>Help. Enter “Startup menu” in the Search text box, click Enter, and follow the directions that will appear.) If you like to write in your journal right before you turn off the monitor, affix sticky notes (either electronic or real) on your monitor reminding you to open LifeJournal before shutting down.
A big barrier to consistent journal writing is lack of time. LifeJournal offers a solution: Go directly to enter the Daily Pulse values, and write a brief Pulse Note. That whole process takes just two or three minutes. Write just enough information in the Pulse Note so you can go back and write a full entry later if you want. You’ll spend less than five minutes daily, simply to keep up the continuity and rhythm of journal writing when you can’t spare more time.
Another common hindrance to regular journal writing is the feeling that you have nothing to say. The prompts and quotes features are always available to inspire your thinking. Sometimes just getting started, moving your fingers on the keyboard while responding to a prompt or quote will lead you in a meaningful direction. If you are in a dry phase when you don’t feel like you have anything to write, set up LifeJournal so that a quote appears when you open the program. You can do this by going to theTools menu>Preferences. Under Startup Entry and Feature, select Quote.
A close cousin to the feeling that you have nothing to say is the belief that you have nothing IMPORTANT to say. The subtle difference between these two is that your internal censor has already loudly intruded before you have even touched the keyboard. To combat this feeling that you have nothing important to say spend a few minutes listening to your inner voice (as above). Or you can use the Dialog Tool to engage in a dialog with your inner censor. And, remember, who said everything you write has to be important?
Yet another impediment to balanced journal writing is that you may feel overwhelmed when you have so much to say, that you don’t know where to begin. You can start with writing a list of things or phrases as quickly as you can simply to unload. Once the ice is broken, your writing will flow more easily.
Sometimes, if I haven’t written in my journal for several days, I may jot down Daily Pulse values in my daily appointment book, or handheld computer. I can always go back and easily enter the Daily Pulse values into my LifeJournal program. I find that keeping the Daily Pulse is a good way for me to easily re-enter in the journal writing routine if I have taken a break.
A perspective that may help spur you into writing when you’re not even sure why you are writing is this: Days filled with tasks, obligations, errands, meetings, conversations, and life maintenance can sometimes feel fragmented and meaningless. Looking back over the days, weeks, and months of your journal entries gives you a sense of continuity, purpose, and meaning and reveals a fuller picture of the terrain of your life.