Habits are usually hard to break but quite easy to simply fall out of. For years I have been an active journal writer—with a fountain pen and purple ink in a paper journal, often also purple. But during a recent move that came about very quickly, I had fallen out of the journaling habit. I was about six weeks into re-establishing my journaling habit by writing every day as soon as I arrived at my office when I discovered the 30-Day Digital Journaling Challenge.
When I’m well into the habit of journaling nearly every day, I usually have no trouble finding something to write about. It’s as if my unconscious knows that this opportunity is about to arrive and seizes the chance to open itself up on the page. But when I’m not in the habit, my journal writing sometimes doesn’t flow so easily. At those times an occasional writing prompt can help. Part of the reason why I signed up for the 30-Day Digital Journaling Challenge was that it promised daily prompts.
As soon as I had signed up for the month-long digital journaling challenge, I knew that I did not want to give up the habit of writing in my journal each morning. I had, after all, been working hard at getting back into that habit. I therefore decided to make the digital journaling something I did when I got home from the office in the late afternoon or early evening. I was interested in looking at two questions:
- Did the time of day make a difference in my journaling?.
- Did the different input method (keyboard vs. writing) make a difference?.
Obviously this wouldn’t be a controlled experiment, since it has two separate variables, but it would serve my own purpose of discovering which approach to journaling works best for me.
And the results are now in:
- I ended up doing hardly any real journaling at all beyond copying and pasting the daily prompts into my MacJournal program. The late-in-the-day timing just wasn’t good for me. By the time I got home, I was tired and pretty much written out from several hours of work. All I wanted to do was kick off my shoes and put on my slippers, get some dinner, and relax with a couple of shows from my DVR.
- I can’t even begin to determine whether typing works better or worse than writing for me, since I did so little of it.
Therefore, I will change things up for the second half of this month-long challenge. I now know that afternoon/evening journal writing doesn’t work for me, but I still don’t want to give up my morning journaling when I get to the office. So I’ll be hitting MacJournal—which is only on my desktop machine at home, not on the laptop at the office—the very first thing in the morning. Then I’ll continue my at-home morning routine of checking email and blogs I follow, and reading news. After that, I’ll leave for the office, then begin my day there with writing in my paper journal.
Here are three possible results of this new schedule:
- Having already typed a journal entry at home will leave me with nothing to write by hand about.
- The time between the typed entry and the written entry will allow for more processing of the prompts so that the written entry will supplement the electronic one.
- My unconscious will still welcome the opportunity to unburden itself, even if what it wants to say has nothing to do with the prompts for the digital entry.
One big bonus of this challenge is something I didn’t foresee: I have immensely enjoyed interacting with other challenge participants on the Facebook page. Journaling is essentially a solitary activity, but sharing experiences has certainly illuminated the journaling process for me.
The most prominent lesson has been reinforcement of something I already knew: There are many, many ways of journaling, and none is either right or wrong. What works for some people won’t work for others, and all journal writers need to discover what works best for them. A benefit of the group discussion is the great array of approaches that people have tried. Even if someone tried an approach that didn’t work for him or her, other people who had never heard of that idea can give it a try for themselves.
And the other important lesson for me comes back to habit. Yes, it’s good to establish and maintain a regular journaling habit. But from the group discussion I realized that too much of a habit can become a bad thing. Too much of an emphasis on habit means that I often journal mechanically, without much thinking. I sometimes go through the motions without much presence of mind, without allowing the challenges that can lead to insights and self-discovery to arise. Reading other participants’ joy at discovering the magical possibilities of the journaling process has reawakened my own desire to seek out and reconnect with that magic and joy.
I want to thank all the challenge participants for being willing to share their experiences with each other. That has certainly been the most important result of my experiment with the 30-Day Digital Journaling Challenge.
© 2014 by Mary Daniels Brown