At our five-day retreat in September, editor and writer Monica Michael Willis will be leading a journaling workshop, where she’ll prompt participants to use honesty and humor to cultivate their distinctive voices and gain insight into the experiences that have shaped and defined them as friends, mothers, partners, and women of the world.
She has spent 25-plus years as a magazine journalist. She was the features director at Country Living, the editor at large for Modern Farmer, and has written for dozens of consumer magazines, including Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, HGTV, Food Network, Parent & Child, People, and Everyday with Rachel Ray.
There is no right or wrong way to go about the practice of journaling!
First of all, let’s expand the concept of “journaling,” shall we? If the idea of keeping a journal sends you into a spiral of “Dear Diary” teenage melodrama, you’re not alone! Monica has taught me to think of journaling as a creative practice, which can be approached using whatever tools you might have in your toolbox. She’s convinced me that there is no right or wrong way to go about the practice of journaling!
Love photography? Come up with a theme and post your photos on Instagram! Into sketching? No need for words, draw instead! Prefer the pen? Commit to writing a little something down at the end of each day: It could be a list or a novella, but writing something is better than nothing. However you do it, the act of journaling is simply a way of keeping a daily log of your thoughts, questions, ideas, expressions, and observations. As with anything that helps you think more creatively, journaling is a habit you need to cultivate. I’ve come to cherish keeping one myself. Journaling has become part of my daily self-care routine, and I now rely on it for processing my inner life in a more creative way. I also love that I’ve created this log of my life that I can read again tomorrow or 10 years down the line. To get started, dedicate some time and space to journaling by using the following approaches below as inspiration:
Values Journaling It has been proven that the act of connecting daily events back to your personal values can be a powerful technique in managing stress and improving confidence. In this approach to journaling, you begin by writing an initial values or “mission statement.” What is important to you? Why? Then write a corresponding statement each day about how the events of your day relate back to these core values or grounding life principles. Then write about how the events of your day connect back to your values. This is an excellent way to stay in touch with what really matters to you and focus on self-development through a daily writing exercise.
Sketchbook Are you more of a visual learner/processor? Try carrying a small sketchbook with your each day and drawing your thoughts or feelings or anything else you want to consider. This can help with memory recall, encourage you to stay present, and inspire you to see the beauty in everyday life. Think of this type of journal keeping as a daily meditation on the world as you see it.
Morning Pages/Freewriting: Inspired by the artist and writer, Julia Cameron, “Morning Pages” have taken the creative world by storm recently. Basically, the idea is to wake up and get down anything (and everything) you may have swirling around in your brain before the world has a chance to interfere. This early morning, stream-of-consciousness writing allows you to start the day with clarity and purpose; it gives you an unstructured opportunity to express your most creative and nuanced thoughts. Getting started is easy: Grab a pen and write for 10 minutes or three pages, whichever comes first. Don’t censor yourself, just let your thoughts flow. What you write down doesn’t have to make sense, and you don’t need to read it afterwards. The point is to declutter your mind and give your brain some much-needed breathing room.
Instagram/Photo Journaling Love it or hate it, Instagram can be a great way to document your visual experiences and impressions. If being behind the camera is your jam—own it. To help structure your photo-journaling process, pick a theme or give yourself a challenge, like posting a snapshot a day of your morning commute for 30 days or chronicling the day-to-day progress of your flower garden as it bursts into bloom. Get creative: It’s about sharing your unique visual perspective of the world, not how many followers or likes you garner.
Monica has taught me through her workshops that you don’t have to be a writer or an artist in order to maintain a journaling practice in your daily life. If your goal is to get more in touch with your inner world, think more clearly, stay present through a big change, align more deeply with your personal goals and values, or keep track of each amazing day, journaling is the exercise to help you!
The amount of information we receive every day—every minute, even—has truly become overwhelming. For me, journaling is a simple way for me to check in with my thoughts, declutter my mind, and process everything going on inside and around me!
So what’s stopping you? Pick up whatever creative tools speak to you and get going. I dare you!