“Above is a photo of all the journals I’ve been writing in since about 1981. I have more from high school and earlier, in a box, in my dad’s attic. Why keep a journal? To catch your ideas, process your feelings, and know yourself.
“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” —Jack London.
Austin Kloen, author of “Steal Like an Artist” has a helpful video on journaling to capture your creative ideas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pktz3rPM2QI. I’ll share my personal favorite tips in a minute.
Its important to journal, because you’re talking to yourself, you’re focusing on your thoughts, and your inner life. Lots of daily life is passively watching stuff outside ourselves. Journaling is a chance to stay connected to your inner self. If you’re in transition, physically or emotionally, keeping a journal handy–keeps you processing with yourself.
When I was 14, I would journal about 14-yo issues such as my wonky emotions regarding boys, and all about my best friends and our insane gossip and worry about everyone. When I was 18, I started trying to write poems, wanting to sound like Jeff Jewell and the Beat poets–not many original thoughts or images, but lotsa heart. When I went to college, I used journaling to process heady, philosophical thoughts, and liked to pretend I was an intellectual. In my mid-20’s, I used journals for annotating every book I read. There were a couple of travel journals in there (England/Scotland), full of memorable little drawings. A journal can be a friend who goes everywhere with you, a little buddy to pour your heart out to.
By my 30’s I was back to annotating books, capturing favorite quotes, and writing lists of creative ideas. Ah lists. This is now my drug of choice. Lately, I have been making these lists inside my own handmade books. Making inspirational lists is so hopeful, and tickles my A.D.D. bone so hard, that’s its unlikely I’ll ever stop.
Here are my favorite journaling ideas/prompts by Mr. Kloen, along with a few of my own. I would argue that these enhance your inner dialogue with yourself and help optimize you and your relationship with YOU:
-write down 9-10 things you’d like to learn to do
-write something to cross out. That’s right, get used to generating ideas, not necessarily ones you’ll fulfill, but that keep you generating ideas. Take the top idea, and formulate 2-3 steps towards it.
-doodle until you get an idea (I like to think a word is a doodle). Or, doodle a feeling, until you want to write about it.
-write what was the best moment, day or month of this past year and why. Notice how this exercise focuses you on what you care about.
-sit in your studio or office, look around, write about the most interesting thing you see
-write about the sublime and the mundane…what are you taking care of? Diet? Pets? Plants? What needs to be let go of?
-hang onto mementos, cards. Use a little envelope glued to the inside of the back flap to keep these…what are the feelings they generate? Do those feelings tell you about whats important in your life?
Become a journalista, for processing and reflecting on the most important relationship you have: the one with inner self.