I thought I would use this post to follow up what I said yesterday about journaling by answering a few important questions that are often asked about this discipline.
What Kind of Journal Should I Use?
One that works best for you. I have friends who use anything from a simple notebook to a nice, leather bound journal. Some use only their computer because they are able to type faster than they write. Still others like to keep a diary to record their day-to-day life, and use separate notebooks for their other writing. I have found that a combination between the first two has been the best way for me to keep a journal; using a complex journal keeping system (like having many different notebooks for different subjects) actually keeps me from journaling. In my judgment, simplicity and ease of access is king. Therefore, I use a Mead Five-Star notebook (I like this notebook because it is contains college ruled paper, 200 pages, a reinforced cover, and it lays flat) for everything that I listed in the first post. Sometimes, however, I find that I am in the mood to fire off some thoughts from the laptop. Whenever I do this, I simply date it and keep it in a “journal” folder on my computer. Every few weeks I print it off and put it in a three-hole binder. This way, all my journals are kept in one place on my shelf and everything is in chronological order.
How Often Should I Journal?
As often as you like. Several times a day; once a day; once every three days. I would recommend that you try to be consistent while at the same time making sure you do not beat yourself up for having missed a few days. We are not declared righteous by keeping a journal. Having said that, I think you will find it helpful to write regularly, even if it means writing very little each time. Sometimes I may write only a few sentences. Other times, I may write several pages. Trying to write a small amount on a regular basis will keep the gears oiled for the days when you really churn out some thoughts. Also, having one simple notebook allows me to carry my journal wherever I go, whether it is school, work, or on vacation; this allows me to scribble out my thoughts wherever I am at. There are times, however, when you will not be able to bring your journal with you; when this is the case, I try to write myself “prompts” on little sheets of paper so that I can remind myself of what I was thinking and make my entry for that particular prompt in my journal when I get home.
What If I Do Not Want Anyone to See My Journal?
This is an important question because it may reveal that you are writing things in your journal that perhaps you should not be writing. A journal is not an outlet for sinful secrecy; a collection angry vents toward those with whom you have a problem. If you would not say something to someone’s face, then I suggest that you probably should not put it in your journal—there is always the possibility that someone could find your journal, and you should be dealing with the issues you have with others in a forthright, face-to-face way; not burying them in a journal so they can smolder and ignite fresh bitterness. Although there are intimate things in my journal, and although I try not to write to impress others (“Wow, isn’t he spiritual”), I am not afraid of someone finding and reading my journals, especially if I were to die without disposing of them. Granted, I may be embarrassed by some of my flawed theological reasoning, or my misinterpretations of Scripture, or the description of some of the inner-workings of my heart, but at the end of the day, I can have a clean conscience that there is nothing in my journal that I would be afraid to have others see.
On the other hand, if you find that you are only able to write with sincerity if you are certain that no one will ever see your journal, then I suggest that you either entrust your journal with a trusted friend who will know how to rightly handle your journal if you were to die, or write your journal on a computer and keep that document password protected. If you are afraid that someone may crack the password, perhaps you have too high an opinion of your thoughts—you’re not that spiritual.
Again, I am sure there are many more questions we could consider. But I hope that answering these three questions has been helpful to you as you think about the discipline of journaling.