Last week I posted the above photo on my instagram. It’s a photo of all the journals I filled in the last two and half months. I was stoked to have filled as many journals in that time and posted it in excitement. What I didn’t think through properly was how it would make someone feel bad about how few journals they have filled in comparison. Then my dear friend Jen of jouralwild.com pointed something out to me. I did not make it clear to everyone that writing in my notebooks is my full-time job.
I consider writing in my journals as a major part of my job. I am a writer, and I write about journaling. So it’s natural for me to spend almost every working moment of my day with my nose in my journals. I am also in the process of writing a book about journaling. I like to write all my first drafts by hand, so a lot of what I fill my journals are notes for my book. In addition, I do a lot of my art work in my notebooks.
What I failed to explain when I posted this photo was that I spend almost all day, every day filling these notebooks. That’s why I fill so many. There is no magic that I know that you don’t. It’s simply my job, just as your job is something you spend a large part of your time doing. I absolutely don’t want you to look at my pile, and feel bad that you’ve only filled in one journal so far. I think it’s absolutely amazing that you have filled one journal already!
To consider this point, I had a look at what type of things I fill my notebook pages with, and it looks as follows:
10% – journaling
50% – book related stuff
20% – Art input (dictionary of me, etc.)
20% – Art output
As you can see, actual journaling only consists 10% of all my writing. There are 13 journals in the photo, which means at most, my journaling has filled a notebook and a bit. I think this is quite normal.
Writing practice vs. Journaling practice
This confusion relates to a point that I feel strongly about. That writing practice and journaling practice are not the same thing. Yes a lot of writers use journaling as part of their writing practice. I am one of those people. I find journaling helps with getting used to writing down my thoughts better. I use journaling as a warm up every morning so my writing process can happen more smoothly.
There’s a lot stress and anxiety in journaling right now because many people try to apply writing principals to their journaling practice. Morning Pages is a classic example of this. Morning pages is not a journaling practice, it’s a writing practice. The Artist’s Way, the book the Morning Pages come from, is not a book about journaling. It’s a book about writing, about becoming professional creatives. To consider this to be a good journaling practice, and to force yourself to write three pages a day as a journaling practice, is not going to make you better at journaling. I have spoke to too many people who consider themselves to be ‘bad at journaling’ because they tried the Morning Pages and couldn’t keep it up. Well, you are not bad at journaling.
Journaling everyday not equal to good journaling
Another dangerous notion is that you must journal every day in order to be good at journaling. It makes good sense that if you are a writer, you should write everyday. On the other hand, journaling isn’t a job. It’s a tool. It’s a tool that helps you make time for yourself, time for introspection, time for objectivity and time for self care. That sort of time is absolutely valuable and I think everyone should do it often. However, this doesn’t necessarily need to be made up 100% from journaling. There are many other things you can do too, such as meditation, yoga, a long hot bath, or a long walk.
What is important in a journaling practice is to learning to listen to how much and how often you need to journal. Not how much or how often someone else is doing it. I need to spend a lot more time in my journals because it’s my job. If journaling every day helps you too, then you should journal every day. If three times a week works better for you, then you should do that. If one journaling session a month works for you, then that is what you should do.
We all use our notebooks for different reasons and different uses. It makes absolutely no sense to compare your stack to someone else’s stack. What I would like us to do is focus more on what we get out of the experience of using our notebooks. We should all be getting exactly what we need from our journaling practices, not what someone else needs from their journaling practice.