Take the Plunge
If you don't want people to read your journal, put it in a secure place, or write a note on the first page for people who might open your journal, accidentally or on purpose. For example: “This is my personal journal. Please respect my privacy and return the journal to me without reading it.”
If you decide to use your journal to express your ideas as well as practice your writing, I recommend The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryant (Tacher Putnam, 1992), and Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, by James W. Pennebaker (The Guilford Press, 1997). There's also How to Keep a Spiritual Journal: A Guide to Journal Keeping for Inner Growth and Personal Recovery, by Ronald Klug (Augsburg Fortress Publications, 1993). I also liked Writing to Grow: Keeping a Personal-Professional Journal, by Mary Louise Holly (Heinemann, 1989). For the younger set, we have A Book of Your Own: Keeping a Diary or Journal, by Carla Stevens (Clarion Books, 1993). Get those pens poised, ladies and gentlemen, because journaling is sizzling!
So, you've decided that keeping a journal is for you. Here's how to get started and get the maximum benefit as a writer:
- Day tripper. Try to write every day. If that's not possible, try to write at least three days out of every week. Keeping a journal is like any beneficial pastime; the more often you do it, the easier it is and the more you'll get from it.
- The write stuff. Use the type of writing material that makes you feel most comfortable, no matter what anyone says. If you're comfortable with pen and paper, go for it. Consider spiral notebooks, loose-leaf notebooks, or even plain pads of paper. Some people like fancy leather- or cloth-bound books. If you're a keyboarder like me, jot down your ideas on a computer. The important thing is to get into a routine with writing materials that feel comfortable to you.
- Time to write. If possible, try to write at the same time every day. This makes writing a priority in your life and shows your commitment to improving. For many people, writing in their journals is a good way to start the day, while others use it at night to decompress.
- Free to be me. Write freely. Remember that a journal is for you and you alone. Don't worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar.
- Experiment with topics. Here are some ideas to get you started: You can write your reactions to local and national events, responses to books you've read and movies you've seen, memories of past events, plans for the future, ideas for poems and stories.
- Burn, baby, burn. Don't censor your ideas, either. If you're using your journal to blow off steam or express ideas that you really don't want anyone else to ever see, you can always destroy those pages right after you write them.
Remember: A journal can become an extension of your thinking. By writing in a journal, you're taking the ideas out of your head and putting them down on paper.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Well © 2000 by Laurie Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.