Geetanjali Mukherjee

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Why I Love My Journal

I started writing a journal on my computer in December 2010. Before that I always had a journal of some kind, but it was the old-fashioned kind, and although I loved writing in it, and used multiple ink colors, and enjoyed flipping through the pages, eventually my hand cramped and I wrote down much less than I wanted to. Or I would only write on days I had something that I was bursting to say. Somehow I made writing in my journal “precious” and a “big deal” and although I enjoyed the process immensely, I think I wasn’t really getting enough from it. I would forget to write in it for months, the notebook would get stuck inside some drawer, and when I flipped back and saw that the previous entry was from four months before, I would feel slightly depressed.

Then I started writing on the computer. Just plain old Microsoft Word. Initially I tried journaling software, but I was worried that I would lose the material in case I changed computers or something happened to the software. Besides, the software was so complicated, I would get lost in trying to figure out the features and neglect the actual writing.

So I decided to keep it simple. I started a new document in Word for each month - and wrote it in whenever I wanted, and at the end of the month, just created a new document. I loved this method, it was simple, and since I was already using Word for everything else, it wasn’t hard to remember to write in my journal. And suddenly it became a habit.

Since that first journal document, I haven’t missed a single month. The document 
for each month gets filed away in a folder for the year as soon as the month is over, and then I start over on a new one. I know this is hardly as romantic as using a green or purple pen on a lovely hand-made paper notebook, but this method actually helps me with what I really need from a journal - figuring stuff out.

Sure, sometimes I record things that happen. Like if I went somewhere really nice, or ate a really great meal. But usually I write about decisions I need to make. Either in the book I am writing, or generally in my life. Sometimes I go to people in my life for advice, but sometimes I need to either figure out exactly what I need advice about, or maybe I need to decide what to do on a really trivial matter, and it doesn’t make sense to spend 20 minutes explaining every aspect to someone else. More usually, I just use my journal to complain, so that everyone around me doesn’t think I am the grinch. In fact, I often start my entry by complaining, and by the end of my rant I have a solution to whatever problem I started out with, and my mood has lifted considerably.

Many times while writing in my journal, I get ideas for books and stories I could write, or just directions I could take the current work-in-progress. Other times I hash out my marketing strategy, or try to figure out what my overall plan for writing is for the year or the next six months, or even just for the current month. I also go to the journal to decide whether I should attend a specific event (which as an introvert, usually my answer leans towards no), and sometimes I have to talk myself into doing something. Other times I find it helps me to understand that its ok not to do something. I recently wrote abouta book that advised learning to say no to many things, and this is really something I struggle with, so I need all the help I can get.

I was recently reading Mark Levy’s book Accidental Genius, which I am sure I will write a review about soon. So anyway, in his book he talks about the benefits of freewriting, and although in all the other kinds of writing I do I get stuck and feel stressed out, writing in my journal I follow the principles of freewriting that he sets out, and as he promises, I get lots of solutions to problems, and ideas for other, more formal bits of writing. Now if only I could write elsewhere as freely as I do in my journal, or look forward to it as much…

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