Personally, I've kept a journal/diary/notebook/whatever-you-want-to-call-it for a long time now, ever since I was in elementary school. Back then, I carried my cheap glue-bound pocket book everywhere with me, and as a result my classmates were made well-aware of the existence of my journal. It felt nice to know that my friends were intrigued enough to start toting their own journals around the playground -- though admittedly, I was a little annoyed to find that my hobby was no longer unique to me.
After 11-ish years, I'm pleased to say that I am no longer journal-hobby-stingy! I also don't carry my journal on me at all times, so the people around me nowadays usually aren't super keyed into the fact that I write in a notebook from time to time.
That isn't to say nobody in my adult life knows I keep a journal. My friends are generally aware of my journal's existence, and in the entire mess that is #QuarantineLyfe, one of my friends told me I inspired him to pick up journaling himself. Which is fantastic! I love having a journal buddy!
But here's what led us here, to my first post on this blog in two years: he struggled to keep writing.
Not because he forgot, or because he didn't want to, or because he couldn't for the life of him find a pen that worked. No, his main reason for neglecting his journal was that he often felt like writing when he was sad, but he didn't want his journal to be full of sad entries.
It's not a sentiment that's new to me -- the impulse to control everything about/inside your journal. It's an impulse that nearly ended journaling for me, one that put me in a writing hiatus for months a time... until I broke out of the burnout bubble. Now I allow myself a lot more freedom when journaling; I think it's only apt that I share how I got my relationship with my journal to where it is today!
Tips for Avoiding Journal Burnout
- DON'T commit yourself to a strict writing schedule. If you're just journaling recreationally, then don't worry about needing to make daily entries! Forcing yourself to write when you don't want to will only make you bored and miserable. If you want to make sure you don't completely abandon your journal, you can set a goal of one entry a week -- but even then, don't worry if seven days pass by and you never found the spark to write. Just try again next week!
- DON'T limit the ways you express yourself. You're sad about something you worry is insignificant? Write about it! You're proud of a small achievement? Write about it! No emotion is bad, and you should have the freedom to express whatever you feel, in whatever way you want. Even "unhealthy thoughts" are okay to jot down, because not only will it be a good release of negative energy, but it will also be a great indicator of how much you've grown down the line when you're looking back at your writing.
- DON'T over-edit your own words. I feel like it's quite easy to get in your head when writing in your journal. What if I say something wrong? What if I'm thinking too hard about what I'm writing? What if my great-great-granddaughter gets ahold of this and thinks I'm a freak?! These thoughts are what prevent you from writing freely and openly, and letting these thoughts consume you will only cheapen the quality of your journaling experience.
- DO try writing in your journal if you feel like it, even if you don't know what exactly what you want to write. I've found that bouts of emotional constipation are easily broken once I put pen to paper. Truly, sometimes you won't know what you want to say until you've started writing. Don't let your lack of a plan prevent you from expressing yourself!
- DO experiment with different types of entries. Everyone views journals (or diaries, or notebooks, or whatever) as this thing you talk to about your day. But not every entry has to start with a "Dear Diary: Today was good"! In fact, none of your writing has to sound like a "normal" entry. The pages of my journals have seen a wide variety of my ramblings, including:
Allowing yourself these options will make journaling more fun and enriching!