Many articles have been written about how to start a personal journal but how do you start one, love it and make it a long lasting activity? You will do if you regard journal writing as valuable; however we only value something when we feel it's important to us. Over time there is a chance that the benefits of journal writing will create this level of importance, but what can you do to accelerate this process when you're only starting out?
What I have found to work really well is to afford the activity a ritual-like status. Now before you start imagining wild sacred altar scenes at full moon let me clarify what I mean by the word, 'ritual'.
One way of describing 'ritual' is: a ceremonial act in which any practice or pattern of behavior is performed regularly in a set way. Many institutions follow rationals from religious orders to the meetings of parliaments, but a ritual can be very personal too and be as simple as having a glass of milk every night before going to bed. What would make it more of a ritual is if you were to have the milk at exactly the same time every night, in the same glass and sitting on the same pillow while listening to some music. It is whatever regular practice you decide to put in place.
There are no rules when it comes to this but here are some ideas I use to bring the element of ritual into my own journal keeping and which you may find useful too.
- Choosing your journal: Whenever you start a new journal, make the activity of choosing your notebook special. Find one that "speaks to you". It may be leather bound, be made from recycled paper or just be quirky in its own way. A hard covered book is best but not essential. You do not have to spend a lot of money on one either. You could use a simple exercise book, even one lying around at home. If you do, take some time to transform it into a book that will be special for you. A simple way to do this is to cover it with decorative paper or customize the pages in a way that will brand it with your personality.
- Your pen: Use a pen you like and which you only use for journal writing. It could be one that has been given to you as a gift or just a pen you have decided you like a lot. I like writing using green ink which I only do in my journal.
- Choose 'a home' for your journal: Keep your journal in a special place and always put it back there when you have finished your writing for the day. I know some who keep their heads in a personal draw while others wrap a piece of cloth around their heads or keep it in a silk bag.
- When to write: I suggest you write in your journal every day at the same time. This could be when you wake up, before you go to bed or both. Regard it as an appointment with yourself and which you will not compromise for just anything.
- Where to write: Choose a place where you feel comfortable and where you are not likely to be interrupted. It may be at your desk, sitting in a special chair or even on the floor if that's what feels best. Wherever you choose as your special writing place, make it a permanent space and always write there.
- Create an atmosphere: Play your favorite music when you write in your journal, burn some aromatic oils or light a candle.
- Conventions: Decide on how you will write the date and start each of your entries. Some people start with "Dear …." especially if they have given their journal a name. How will you end each entry, with your signature or a sign off line like "Till next time."?
You are all ready to start writing now. It's YOUR journal so write whatever comes to mind. The most important thing is that you enjoy the activity and it's meaningful to you. Marcus A. Baker ©