Let me preface this article by saying that there are no rules when journaling. There just can't be. Journaling is a free space for your thoughts, dreams, ideas, stress, fears, and more. Rules are just big boundaries to creative freedom and that in turn will stop you from getting onto paper what really needs to be there. I do, however, recommend that you date your journal entries. Although your journal pages will be full of your words you won't remember writing them. Odd, I know. But it's true! I will go back through and read something I wrote just a week ago and have no recollection of it. Dating your journal entries at least gives you some context for time.
This all being said, there are 7 things you don't want to do when journaling. They're not rules and your journal practice will still be a satisfying one if you do any of these. However, their absence allows you to get to the root of your writing. The heart of the matter. The first few sentences of any journal entry are pretty surface-y. But keep going and let go of the 7 things listed below and watch your world and imagination crack open!
The 7 Things to Avoid when Journal Writing
Thing #1 - Editing
It's hard not to edit. I have students who will not write at all because they're afraid of their grammar or their spelling. They want to go back through and erase, edit, cross out, and rearrange whole sentences. Let me remind you - you're not turning this in! Stop writing for your inner-editor. She is not the one who counts. In fact she will keep you from really getting to the goods in your writing. Which brings me to thing #2...
Thing #2 - Stopping
Once you put pen to paper don't stop writing. Timed journaling can help with this. Just knowing that you're only going to write for 7 or 10 minutes can make it feel easier to keep the pen moving. If you get stumped or your flow of thoughts suddenly stop write the last word you wrote over and over. Seriously. Until you can tap back into your flow, and you will.
Thing #3 - Asking, "Why?"
Your writing will surprise you. Your threads of ideas will not always make sense. In fact they may make zero sense! This is ok. Don't ask, "Why?" Accept that your journal can reveal big truths and help move you through your life if you allow it to. Your journal can help you ask scary questions. Even answer those big scary questions. But your answers won't always be logical. They will be very emotional. Listen to them. Which brings me to thing #4...
Thing #4 - Critiquing
So you wrote some things that scare you, it's ok! Try not to critique what comes through your journal. Whether you write it down or not these thoughts are somewhere in your mind. I think it's better to put them on paper where you can see them and then decide what to do with them. When I experienced my personal wake up call this summer my head was swimming in self-doubt. It was my journal that gave me space to indulge in living a different dream. Before I took a leap of faith with my career I took one in my journal because it was less risky. And it felt so good I knew I had to take action. So don't critique. Accept all of you.
Thing #5 - Holding back
Often times I find myself journaling and a thought or story comes up that I want to explore but I'm afraid to actually put it on paper. This is what holding back looks like. But when you hold back your journal becomes another glossy thing in your life like your Facebook or Pinterest boards. Although fun, this isn't real life! It's an edited version. Do you have any place in your life where you can be your un-edited self? Your journal is the perfect companion for this. So don't hold back. Which brings me to thing #6...
Thing #6 - Judging
Similar to critiquing, judging is anytime you look at what you've written and let the self-doubt gremlins in. Or worse, you feel ashamed. Journals aren't always heavy. But you even judge your dreams! Thinking how silly or out there they are. This is also judgment. How are you supposed to thrive in your life if you can't even face what you want out of life? Our journey's don't always make sense and often times they are not at all what we planned. Go with the flow - in life and in your journal.
Thing #7 - Comparing
Journals are private. Even when I share bits and pieces from my journal on my Instagram feed I'm not letting you into the depths of my journal because they are private. This is one of their best traits. So it's silly to compare your journal to another. You may not compare the content to yours but you might compare how often someone else journals. That they journal and you don't. That they love it and you don't. If journal writing works for you and you enjoy it then great! Keep journaling and find what works for you. If not it's ok too. Don't compare your process to someone else's.
There you have 7 things to avoid when journaling. Journal writing is a practice so naturally not doing these 7 things is also a practice. What matters most is that you have fun with your journal. These 7 things will take the fun out of it. -Andrea