Featured Image - Journal and pencils

Why I don’t journal anymore and what I do instead

Since today’s question on my Twitter Game #TheMerryWriter asked “Do you keep a diary or journal?” I thought I’d discuss that in my blog. 

By the way, if you’re on Twitter and looking to meet other writers, and haven’t already, do check out my game.

Myself and my co-host, Rachel Poli post daily questions and the participants are wonderfully supportive and encouraging of each other and the game can help you build your network 🙂

The current “Game Board” is pinned to the top of my feed if you’d like to check it out.

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Childish Scribbles & Teenage Angst

Child writing in a notepad

I think most girls have a diary or journal at some point in their life.  I was given a “secret book” when I was about 13 years old.

It was a small, hard-backed notepad with two metal loops and a padlock keeping it closed.

You know the kind, the tiny ones they put on luggage that can basically be snapped off (or easily picked).

I used it throughout my teens, mostly to bitch about my siblings when they annoyed me or rant about my parents when they upset me.  I also doodled in it.

I didn’t write consistently, nor did I fill it with deep secrets, insightful wisdom and life-long goals.  So by the time I was 16 I had stopped bothering with it all together.

By 18 I was online and took to using Open Diary, which is less a diary and more a place I used to connect with people and share weird poetry, dark thoughts and random ravings.

Again, I barely posted regularly and used it more to keep updated with friends I made on there.  Same with Live Journal.

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Trying again

Woman writing in a diary on her knee.  Image from Pixabay

In my early to mid-20s, I made another attempt at keeping a journal.  I actually kept it up for a while, though again it was mostly for venting.  I was a pretty angry child-teenager-20-something.

By my late 20s, I’d moved to digital copies again, this time no apps or websites, just a Word document that I opened… to bitch about my job.

Don’t get me wrong, I was going through some rough times and I needed a way to release the pressure without venting to family and friends, so it did help.

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But if anything, it had me focusing on all the negative stuff I was going through.  Never a good thing for one’s mental and emotional health.

By the end of my 20s, I had thoroughly given up with journaling.  Maybe I would have had great wisdom to write if I poured out my writing thoughts, my ideas, my inspirations or advice… but I didn’t.

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Something different

Calendar and a pen. Image from Pixabay

Throughout my 30s I didn’t bother with journaling at all and well, it saved a lot of time.  However, I did have a diary (the calendar/planner type) and use it to jot down my tasks and appointments.

At the start of each year, I’d take the old one and flip through allowing me to transfer birthdays, anniversaries, annual appointments (eg MOT) into my new diary.

It was then I would see my landmark moments and events I’d had throughout the yer.  I would be reminded of hthese fun times and great memories.

Now I love capturing moments.  I often carry my camera with me and am always the one snapping pictures.

So I decided to do something a bit different.

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The Archival Journal

Journals and pencils. Image from Pixabay

Instead of writing long-handed notes about my day or anything else equally boring, I would capture just the key moments throughout the month.  The good, the bad and the funny.

I would snap a photo or two as a visual reference for the journal, then note the date and one or two lines about what happened.

For example, in January this year I rode in an ambulance and tried Morphine… never did that before, so I jotted it down.  :p

I wanted a brief history of my random life with snapshot moments.  So that is what I’m creating, a timeline of simple events, achievements and situations.

So far I’ve managed to keep it going with more gusto than any journal previously.

Are you an avid journal writer or diarist?

Share your Thoughts image.

Happy writing

Signature & logo of Ari Meghlen

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Why I don't journal anymore and what I do instead. Image of journals with pencils. Image from Pixabay

33 comments

  1. Way back in the summer of 1989 I bought a state of the art word processor made by Brother. It was pretty awesome at the time. I started writing a few things that summer and soon those few things turned into a monthly journal. Fast forward almost 30 years later and I’m still at it.

    I have surprised myself to say the least. Like you, some of it is venting, some of it is boring but it tells a story. My story of the last (almost 30 years). I’m sure I’ll pass it down to my kids after I’m long gone. Nobody else has read it but me.

    I am a bit worried though. Do I really want them to see those dark days that I wrote?

    1. Oh my gosh, I had a word processor made by Brother. I used it for ages and then passed it to my mother who carried on using it until like 2 years ago 😀

  2. Journaling was never something I got into.
    I do like your idea of taking photos and then writing a line, or two about it. Quite interesting.
    I’ve been thinking about something similar for a while now. Thank you for reminding me. I just feel that if I was to do it on a daily basis, it would become yet another chore that I would soon dread.

    1. Thanks for reading. Yes I found that doing it on a daily basis does take the fun out of it. By only making the snapshot moments on events that had more meaning, it keeps it easier and more enjoyable. Even if that just means I make only two or three a month. It’s more quality rather than quantity.

  3. My past inconsistency with diaries/journals is directly related to my more recent (15 years or so) inconsistency with blogging/newsletters. With all of the above, I run out of interesting things to “talk” about and so lose interest in the process. 🙁

    1. Thanks for reading, Pearl. Sorry for the delay. It can be so hard to keep coming up with new topics and ideas. I have spates where I cant think of anything to write for my blog and it was definitely like that with the journal. I would end up falling back to just complaining about my day and it made me live within negativity all the time.

  4. I’ve journalled for years and since 2015 I’ve been doing Morning Pages every day (from The Artists Way, Julia Cameron). It’s not like a diary though obviously it does record stuff that is going on but for me it’s more a way to clear my head first thing, to allow me to write. It’s been one of the most useful habits I’ve created and I often work out problems and issues that are worrying me, both writing and personal wise! I also love to take photos as a record of what’s going on and am trying to find a way that I can have them to hand without them being lost in my onedrive… 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading, Jo. Sorry for the delay. I have The Artists Way but haven’t yet read it as we moved before I could start. I’ve heard great things about that book and look forward to starting it.

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Ivia. Sorry for the delay. I know what you mean, mine always felt very unproductive and negative, this new system allows me to focus on the interesting and good, sometimes the bad but not dwell on just the bad like I used to.

  5. an interesting post on journaling. i write in a Gratitude journal each morning now, reflecting back on the last 24 hours. my aim is to be a more positive grateful person, rather than finding things to complain about. like you, i like to capture images. great way to remember important/happy times. i post my images on Instagram each day. also a nice way to stay focussed outside myself, rather than navel gazing. thanks for the post. good food for thought.

    1. Thanks for reading, sorry for the delay. I love the idea of a gratitude journal, what a lovely way to start the day and I can imagine it would be something that would definitely make you feel more positive 🙂

  6. I have kept a journal since I was ten. Reading back, it fills me with memories of things I only remember vaguely all these years later. I love updating it by the day or week or whenever the mood strikes me.

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Jaya. Sorry for the delay. I think that’s great. I think a journal should be something you can read back over with fond memories, that’s one of the reasons I stopped, I wasn’t finding it enjoyable to reread.

  7. At times in my life I kept keeping journals/diaries, though it was never successful. Presently I keep a notebook for jotting down story ideas and writing out story problems I’m dealing with.

    1. Thanks for reading Andrew. Sorry for the delay. I think we all have a desire to keep a journal at one time or another but for writers, our fantasy worlds are so big, it can be more fun just leaving the “real life” stuff to one side and doing as you do, focusing on scenes and ideas for writing 🙂

  8. Reblogged this on Ann Writes Inspiration and commented:
    I tried to journal a couple of times but it didn’t work, because I thought I had to put a date at the top of every entry. That was more stressful than productive. However, after my seperation with my second husband, I started journaling again. This time, I made sections and started using it not only to write down my thoghts, but also as a dumping ground for scenes that I planned to take out of my works in progress. Less stress and I can write in it whenever I want and not feel like I have to write in it when there’s nothing to add.

    1. Thanks so much for reading and reblogging, sorry for the delay. That’s a good way of journalling, I like that you changed style when what you tried didn’t work. I think adding in writing scenes and planned works in progress is a wonderful way to keep a journal fun and creative.

  9. I started an acting class back in October. I took a few notes in the first couple of classes, but i decided to not be stingy. I now try my best to get many pages of notes out of each class. It helps me to wrench every little drop of experience that I can draw from it. I often have deep insights about the class several days later. If I was not attempting to be diligent in learning from the class and maintaining a detailed journal, I would not be getting as much out of it.

    1. Thanks for reading, Icky. Sorry for the delay. That is a great use of a journal and I can see how it would be a wonderful asset to accompany what you learn in class. How is the acting classes going? Have you been in any performances?

  10. I think what is most important about journaling is finding your style. What works for you do want necessarily work for someone else and that is key to reap the benefits that journaling provides. I have journaled all of my life, I am now 40, and my style has changed over the years. Certain phases were dark, some exploratory and others were about specific events. Being an avid photographer I have found that my favorite style consists of combining the two as you have just discussed. Especially now that I have discovered an app that allows me to have 85 free photos pictured a month. Some call it memory keeping when you include photography or scrapbooking. Regardless of what you call it, you are the beneficiary and finding your sweet spot should be the goal. Great post.

    1. Thanks for reading, sorry for the delay. You are so right, journalling works best when you fall into your own style and find what really works for you. I’ve had people tell me that journalling is only journalling if it’s done every day! I could never do that, my life just isn’t that interesting lol

      Ooh what’s that app you have with the free photos pictured?

  11. Ari – the snapshot journal with a picture of two sounds perfect.
    And for me – journaling is always about what I need that season or what more I am in. For example, had two months off one summer and was home a lot (not a time to travel for many reasons – and family being one of them) and my morning routine or waking to journal and coffee outdoors became routine –
    — usually I buy 100 page journals and sometimes fill one in a month- other times it takes four months and I add the months on the cover – like last year I had one of the 100 page journal and wrote OCTOBER 2018- and then when it was barely filled in – I added November and then December to the cover – there was still about 20 pages when January came – but started a new one – and that is half full and it is mid Feb-
    But I have had months where I write s lot on one day and then other times I do half a page.
    Oh and I am going to check out the game on Twitter – thanks for the invite

    1. Thanks for reading, sorry for the delay. Sounds like your journal system works well, I like the idea of having it as part of a morning routine. 🙂

      I hope you do join the game and that you enjoy it. Seems like most players have found it easier to chat to other people via the game, which is lovely to see. 🙂

  12. I’ve also tried journaling, but like you, I found that I was only writing negative things and didn’t focus enough on my writing that I really wanted to do. I still have a journal but use it only to write significant things and stuff that inspires me. My plan is to continue using it this way.

    1. Thanks for reading. Yes it seems many of us fell into the trap of using it as a place to vent. It sounds like your current use is much better

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