Journaling for me is such a good way to understand myself. Plus, I love getting to look back at what I’ve written and see how I was thinking or what was going on in my life at a different time. I’ve compiled here some ideas for journaling. I’m experimented with a lot of these (maybe all of them actually) and ended up settling right now on a mixture of a few different ones. I love remembering that journaling doesn’t have to look like a traditional diary, but it can be whatever serves you best. You can use these methods every day, or only when something’s on your mind or you have something you want to remember. Some methods are better for emotions and some are better for memorializing. And in my opinion, they all offer something useful depending on what you need.
I also find that journaling in any form is a really nice way to kind of start off and/or close out your day or just to connect with yourself at any point. I think it’s nice to be able to track your habits, moods, and experiences that come up in your life in a way that’s more private and just for you to look back and reflect on. I also find that nowadays we keep a lot of information, notes, and events on our phones or online calendars, so it’s nice to actually have a physical thing that I can carry with me and keep a more detailed, personal description of what’s going on in my life. -Maeve
Diary style: This would be a description of what happened to you that day, written in paragraph form. It would likely include a mixture of what you did and what you thought or felt. If you love looking back on what happened to you every day and how you were doing, this can be a great method. But it also may feel a little constricting. When I’ve journaled like this (and this may just be my own brain thing) I often feel forced to write about every single thing that happened to me and every single way I felt or thought I had every single day. Plus I feel an expectation to write clearly and well.
Bulleted: I used this journaling method for about a year and it really served me well. What I did was use bullet points to describe everything that had happened to me that day. It was great because I was recording what was going on but I did have to add introductions or worry really at all about my form or word choice or anything. It was a bare minimum kind of just-get-it-all-down strategy. For me this lacked any emotional piece. For sure you could add that in, but when I used this method I wrote nothing of what I thought of an experience, how it made me feel, or simply how I was doing that day. In the end this felt stifling.
In the past and still a bit now, I have felt that making bulleted lists as a form of journaling, to keep organized, and track things happening in my days, has been really useful for me. I really enjoy journaling, but sometimes if I am feeling tired or just don’t have a ton of time, making a list felt like, although they tend to be less personal and less about my specific emotions like Larkin had said, I was still making a conscious effort to write about myself, but in a way that felt less time consuming and sometimes more manageable. -Maeve
Stream of conscious: There are a few different ways you could do this. One is to set a time for a certain amount of time (maybe 5 or 10 minutes) and just write for that entire time. Don’t let your hand stop moving. This can be really good for discovering what you didn’t know you were thinking about and is a practice many writers do every morning to get there creative juices flowing and everything bottled up written down. The other way to do it (one that I particularly love) is to write similarly fast and without stopping, but in a more poetic focused way. Sometime I break it into lines like a poem as I go and sometimes I go back after and do that, but I love this is as a way to get at what I’m really thinking and also end up with at least the skeleton of a poem to rewrite. You could also do a stream of conscious journal session for a certain number of pages, or for some other length of time that makes sense to you. This is probably not the best method if your goal is recording experiences to look back on.
Random everywhere: This is the way I mostly journal now and I really really love it. I tend to get very stuck up in how I’m going to do something (say journal) and then not feel able to change or adapt on a day to day basis. This has been a really good strategy for breaking free from that. Basically what I do, on a semi-regular basis (probably every other day on average but it really fluctuates) is sit down to journal and write absolutely whatever. I write it in little blocks of text all over the page, with arrows connecting things that go together. I often write a few very short poems on the top so that I’m writing as much as possible. Some days the page is covered with detailed explanations of what happened to me written in long form, sometimes it’s a bulleted list of what I’m thinking about, sometimes it’s just an intense feelings description or list. Other days I hardly write anything on the page, but in my opinion that’s part of the truth about how I’m feeling. It can really adapt to what I need at a given time.
This is also mainly the way I use my journaling time at the end of the day. It’s kind of a random combination of all of these methods and it really varies on a day to day basis, depending on how much time I have (or need), and what I feel will best organize or express the day’s events and feelings. I always like to do a bit of writing at the beginning or end of my day though and I’m glad I have gotten a little looser about how I do it because now it’s definitely something I look forward to as opposed to having it just feel like another thing I need to do.
Hopefully this gives you a few ideas for going forward. I’d love to hear about other ways you journal or have heard about. Let me know in the comments!