I started journalling a week or so ago, a new habit inspired by a collision of factors. I had been reading The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (the woman on whom Gentleman Jack is based), and her dedication to the journalling of her own life was definitely impressive. I also thought it might be a good way to get back into the habit of flexing the writing muscles every day, even though the skills are not entirely the same as with writing fiction. And then there was a day when I got an email that raked up a whole pile of anxiety right before bed, so I went digging for a journalling app that looked interesting and barfed all that anxiety onto the page just to get it out of my head.
Last night, while I was procrastinating about my fiction writing, I went looking for some journalling tips on the internet. And apparently I’m doing it all wrong. Everyone says notebook and pen, not digital. They say do it first thing in the morning. They say stream-of-consciousness. They say don’t be afraid to doodle or collage things in.
Now, I am not a morning person. I am never going to do anything aspirational in the morning. Not exercise, not meditation, not journalling. Mornings are for stumbling through the bare minimum of chores and getting out the door in time for work.
Also, I’ve been enjoying taking a page from Miss Anne Lister’s book and basing my entries around the chronology of what I’ve done each day. I experimented with a different form last night, and this morning I’m all discombobulated because I keep remembering things I forgot to include. I’m going to have to go back and write a supplemental entry to collect it all. My memory is getting noticeably worse these days, so I also like taking the time to revisit the day and seat it more firmly in my memory, to be more conscious of my life as I’m living it. And I write a lot of creative nonfiction, so generating a record of my life to refer back to later could be useful.
So that rules out mornings and stream-of-consciousness for me, as far as tips are concerned. I can’t draw worth a damn – I express myself in words – but I love the *idea* of collaging meaningful items into a journal. The pictured examples were stunning, and I’ve tried this on my occasional feeble attempts at travel-journalling. But let me tell you, writing on the pages following the one where you’ve glued something in is a pain in the ass because of all the lumps and bumps. Unless you got a heavy-duty sketch book to write in, I guess, but that would be even heavier to drag around.
The tip that I’m most stuck on is the idea of a notebook. I love the idea of a beautiful notebook. I’m a writer, I always love the idea of a beautiful notebook. I know the exact kind I would get. I’m even willing to copy the entries I’ve already made into it and keep going from there.
But on the other hand, the thing that’s keeping me journalling at the moment, while the habit is new, is that it’s quick and it’s easy to do on my phone. I do it once I’ve gotten into bed every night, right before I turn out the light. I feel like if I get precious about a beautiful notebook, it’ll become a whole production, and then I’ll put off doing it, and then stop altogether.
Also, because the chronology of the day is important in the way I structure things, I love that I can scroll back and insert things I missed. I don’t have to worry about my handwriting, or keeping it beautiful, or making mistakes. One option would be to type first and then copy it over – although there might even be more room for errors that way, I’m not sure. It is what Anne Lister used to do, though. She’d have rough drafts on scraps of paper or on a slate, and then copy them over into her book. But then it’s also even more time consuming that way. For Anne Lister, who was an aristocrat, it was basically a part-time job.
But I do believe there is also a more visceral connection between the pen and the mind when you’re handwriting. I think it’s more useful, when you’re trying to get those anxieties out, to have the notebook.
So I’m still going back and forth on that one.
The app is teaching me, though, the kinds of things I find it interesting to document. It grabs my location, the weather, and my step count for the day every time I write an entry, which I think are all cool things to note. To that, I’ve started adding what I’m reading, what I’m watching, and any updates from my garden. I may think about adding a crafting update, if I manage to keep that up, too.