Though I keep a journal now, it has not always been a part of my life. I always thought of journal writing as something that is done for my children, or grandchildren. Planning on writing for these future generations, I systematically rationalized myself out of writing in my journal thinking that the events in my life were too trivial to write to about.
My journal consisted of an entry once every few months, but sometimes going years between writing. One day on my mission I read an old Ensign article about the anniversary of Wilford Woodruff’s birth. President Woodruff is known in part for his journal writing, so there were several quotes in the article about journals. One impacted me deeply, encouraging children to start keeping journals early in their lives. He said:
“If my young friends will begin to do this and continue it, it will be of far more worth than gold to them in a future day.” (Journals: “Of Far More Worth than Gold”, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 132)
Knowing gold to be of great value, I knew that to truly be rich in my life I must keep a journal.
Even though I felt then that I must keep a daily journal, it took almost a year to be able to get into the habit. Earlier attempts to write in my journal daily always failed — usually ending up with me becoming discouraged. The rule that enabled me to keep a journal is this: Keep it Simple. Every time I didn’t want to write in my journal it was usually because I would write too much, or I thought too deeply, or I thought nothing of importance had happened that day.
These four ideas will enable you to keep a daily journal:
- Keep it short and simple.
Two or three sentences is a good journal entry. Write more when you feel the need. Also, don’t feel daunted by playing catch up on your entire life between entires — just fill in the details when the background is needed.
- Write what you did each day.
Things that are common I usually mention in a single sentence: “School, work, watched a movie with my family.”
- Write what you feel.
I often also offer any feelings I might have about my life, the events that transpired that day, and especially gratitude for blessings received.
- Make the choice.
About I year ago I decided I would always write something — even if I got home late or thought I didn’t have anything to say. I often found I had more to say once I started writing.
Even with short entries, I have already noticed the value of my journal. Often at nights after writing I will flip back through the entries investigating how I came to feel as I did. I can easily recognize what I did before to resolve it. Especially, I have seen the strength I have received from following other gospel principles such as when I made an extra effort to go to the temple, or a day that I was especially grateful for other people in my life. Reading my journal revives the feelings felt that day, and offers me great wisdom in how to handle the events currently transcribing in my life.
Keeping a short journal makes it easy to start a daily habit of writing. Even with simple entries, insights into past events allows you to see progress and receive strength. In a year of writing, my journals are already “worth more than gold.”
Great post Jake. It reminds me of the talk by Henry B. Eyring, “Oh Remember, Remember” when he heard these words in his mind: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.” He goes on to say, “I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family.” I have found that when I look for experiences throughout the day that I would like to record in my journal, there are many. Thanks
I remember that talk. The value of a good journal to posterity is indisputable – the Book of Mormon proves that. Regardless, I still find it difficult to write in a journal only if I was recording my life for future generations. Perhaps I would be similar to the prophets in Omni who had little to add to the smaller plates.
Well said. I’ve found extra motivation to write in my journal by mixing things up. I try to avoid the monotony.
I figure that detail is often very valuable and I am more willing to sacrifice writing about secondary things, to focus on one main event, thought, or feeling.
I like having my journal entry dictated to me by someone with whom I spent the entire day (worked well on family vacation).
I also bring my journal to school and write during the day sometimes.
This is AMAZING…I was telling my son to start keeping a journal or a diary, other people mentioned it too because they’d love to read what he writes, so I Google’d it and your webpage on journal writing is the first one that came up!
Even more wonderful is that my son lives in Utah and he is LDS, so your words are doubly great as guidance for him!