Keeping A Journal

Regular journal writing is an excellent exercise in developing your freethinking.

Your journal has the potential to be a dear friend who listens without judging or interrupting and is open 24 hours a day. You can tell your journal things you wouldn’t dare verbalise to someone else.

Writing it down takes the edge off more toxic feelings and emotions and helps you better understand what you’re feeling, freeing up thinking space to gain clarity on what to do next.

Creative Portals

Journals are creative portals. Because you’re in dialogue with your inner life when you write in a journal, you solve problems and get creative. Keeping a journal can be both a clearing-house and – in the next word, sentence or page – become an incubator where you tap into your imagination and unleash your creativity and ideas.

You give yourself permission to write yourself into your own history. Journals give voice to your dreams and aspirations but are also safe spaces to release negative feelings, hurts and disappointments that could get in the way of those dreams and aspirations being realised.

By getting into the habit of consciously and attentively looking back over your journal, you’re able to track your personal patterns of behaviour that help you achieve goals and respond effectively to challenges.

You’re also able to see the patterns that get in the way of personal and professional growth, and healthy relationships with self and others. By becoming mindful with what you are discovering, you can move yourself from knowing into a doing state.

Journaling is inexpensive, accessible and is easily self-managed. It carries very few side effects and can be applied almost anywhere.

Freethinker, here are eight tips to get your journal going:

1. Time yourself

A good technique to avoid giving up or getting bored is to give yourself 10 minutes maximum per day to make your mark.

Ideally, you’ll go to your journal every day, and that can feel repetitive, so tricks like this are great for making it feel more achievable.

2. Do not fear the blank page

Start by thinking small, so it’s not too overwhelming. You don’t need to create a masterpiece – you just need to write or draw something in the journal every day to get into the swing of it.

When you first sit down to try, you may think your life is pretty boring and you have nothing to put in your journal, but as you start to think harder, you’ll realise how much you see each day.

Challenge yourself in little ways to just make marks on the page, such as setting easy tasks like writing a list of everything you’ve consumed in one day, or a list of five things you saw, heard, smelled, tasted or touched.

Another worthwhile exercise is dripping a blob of ink onto a page and blowing it with a straw. It’s so simple but incredibly satisfying to make spidery, tree-like shapes.

As you begin to see the pages fill up with images and ideas, you have this sense of ‘yes, I’m creating something.’

3. Avoid screens

The experience of keeping a journal can be much more creative on paper than on a computer. When you write on paper, you can find yourself more physically immersed in the world and thus more able to reflect on what you’ve written.

It is always more satisfying crossing something out on paper, rather than pressing the delete key.

A nice exercise is to write, or draw, as slowly as you can – it’s so different from the usual way we get stuff out there – via tweets, texts or emails that are often written in quick chunks.

Try pausing more often, and take your time to complete a sentence or draw a line, and you’ll find it’s a very different way of working.

4. Be Destructive

Give yourself permission to experiment, play around with material and make a mess. What does it feel like to rub dirt on the page? See what happens when you do. Above all, stop caring about the outcome. It doesn’t have to be great, but exists as something you did that day.

The whole point is getting stuff on the page. Once it’s out there, it can become the inspiration for other work.

5. Make Your Journal Precious

A precious journal isn’t necessarily one that has monetary value, such as a hard-bound leather volume. What makes a journal precious is both the way you connect with it and the way you fill up the pages.

The preciousness of a journal is judged when you look back on it after a period time and the previous pages you’ve written give you new insights into what you might write tomorrow.

You can’t change the past, but the future is yet to be shaped.

6. Collect Cuttings

One of the great advantages of a paper journal is that you stick things to the pages. Collecting cuttings and pasting them into your journal creates a tactile experience that lets your fingers feel the words.

Cuttings can look even better when you present them in a grid, or pair them together to see how they play off each other.

7. Make it random

Use chance in your work and try not to intervene too much – just drop stuff onto the page and see what happens.

One great collage exercise is getting a magazine or newspaper, something with lots of nice colour, then cutting out circles from several pages of it, so you have around 50 of them you can randomly play with; combine the colours, see how they mix and match or drop them randomly and glue where they fall.

8. Just try it

Often, we don’t try things, because we think we know what’s going to happen: we make assumptions about outcomes. When you keep a journal, you realise that the really interesting thing is not knowing what will happen, and discovering an unexpected result.

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