Saturday, January 25, 2014


Anyone who follows me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram may have seen my recent photo and post about my journaling. I have been keeping a journal since I was 8 years old, but only since I was 19 have I really kept it on a consistent basis. Recently, I saw a blog post from someone who had been journaling for about a year that offered some great tips for those who maybe aren't sure where to start, including a template to follow. I think the suggestions are great and if you do a web search, you can find all sorts of tips and suggestions for those interested. I thought, though, that I'd share some of my own experience, habits, and what works for me and why. It's not to show off, but hopefully to help anyone who is interested!

My Derby grandparents (big into family history) got me my first journal for Christmas in 1990 when I was 8. It was the 6.5x8" size and had a royal blue cover with my name embossed on the bottom right. At that age I had no idea what to write in it, and I remember my mom telling me I should write what I felt about things. My entries in that first journal were quite sporadic. "What I felt" often was as simple as "I feel great", but I did mention what was doing. It carried me up until I was 19. The first entries of my mission were in that book too. I would occasionally put little mementos in it too. Some things I remember were a $2 bill and the ticket to General Conference the first year the Conference Center was open in 2000, and for awhile I had a 4-leaf clover I found in our yard.

Thinking about that first journal always makes me sad, though, because I lost it. Well, more I had it stolen. The very first night I was in Tucson at the beginning of my mission, most of my luggage was stolen, including the suitcase that had that journal in it. I shudder when I think of what happened to it since whoever stole my stuff (and all the other new missionaries' stuff) probably threw it away. I only had a few pages left in it too and had just started getting more consistent in my journal writing as my mission had started. That journal and the Christmas stocking that my Grandma Ridinger made for me when I was born were both lost and were the hardest things to lose for me since I'm a sentimental person. Every Christmas I'm reminded of that because my Grandma made me a new stocking after I got home in 2003.

Anyway, I got new journals and started writing every few days. Soon, though, I was watching a video about early Church History (Mountain of the Lord) that features Wilford Woodruff, 4th president of the Church. He was a prolific journal writer. In the video, a dramatic recreation of the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893, Woodruff makes a statement to a reporter who is writing about the temple dedication that he made sure not to retire each night until he made a record of the day. For whatever reason, that stuck with me and made an impression. I wanted to have a record of each day and what was going on in my life and what I was thinking, not only for me, but for any posterity. From then on, I almost always wrote every day. In the instances I couldn't write, I usually wrote the next night and wrote about both days.

That continued almost unabated until 2007, when I started getting sporadic, which corresponded with the beginning of a less than spectacular part of my life, but also the beginning of my blogging. I have dated pages but nothing else written, but have blog posts that fill in the gap somewhat. Eventually, journaling came to a grinding halt. Where most volumes of my journal cover a little less than a year each (200 or so pages), Volume 13 covers a period of 5 years and 2008 is completely absent. I wrote in December 2007 and the next entry is March 2009. I only made 2 entries in 2009 (one more in May) and then not again until May 2010. I tried to restart it in 2010 with very limited success. 2011 was similar. I went through a period of about 2 months where I was writing regularly again, but then it stopped again with a gap between March and December 2011. 2012 was when I finally restarted every day as a New Year's Resolution, starting right off with January 1. It's gone on pretty much non-stop since then.

When I had stopped writing in my journal and started doing more blogging I did consider just doing all my journal writing on the computer. In the end, I decided not to because I liked being able to be away from the computer for a little bit and having something that was written with my actual handwriting as opposed to just typed. The downside is that it's hard to index since it's all handwritten.  At some point I would like to transcribe the entire thing onto the computer so it can be indexed and I can add pictures and footnotes as needed, not to mention have a another copy of it somewhere (I use a cloud service, so I wouldn't worry about losing it with the computer). Even so, I continue to write it by hand. It's also worth noting that my blogging decreased noticeably once I started writing in my journal more.

Journal size
All of my journals...currently in Volume 17. Volume 1 is missing. The blank 
one in front of 2 is a journal I got as a kid (after my first journal) that I never
used as I found it in my things only recently. There is no significance to the 
colors.  My Missionary Journal on the left has things written by others on 
my mission.
Earlier this year I switched from the 6.5x8" sized journals to the 8.5x11" size, purely by accident. LDS Church Distribution stopped producing the journals that I had been using for years, so I had to look elsewhere to find new ones. I found some at Deseret Book that I liked and ordered them, but nowhere did it say what size they were. Well, they were the 8.5x11" size and I got two. In the smaller journals, I always filled at least a page per day. I figured with these larger pages that wouldn't be the case, but it largely has been. Very few pages aren't full. Anyone who knows me isn't surprised ONE BIT!

So what do I write about? I really don't have a template or pattern as far as content goes. Some days are very much logs of what happened, while others are much more focused on my thoughts and feelings at the time. That's why I write every day, so I have a snapshot of my life right then. Every day there is at least some mention of what I did, though. I've noticed when I have periods where the days are very similar (which happens in the summer when I'm usually not working), I do focus more on what I'm thinking, which makes sense since I have more time to think (or overthink...).  My Grandma Derby (who got me my first journal) also keeps a daily journal, though hers tends to be much more of a log and is far less detailed than mine. She does hers on the computer, but just to print it out and keep in a notebook.

The important things are first, to make it YOU. What do YOU want to remember? What do you want your eventual posterity to remember or read about you? I think about that whenever I write, almost like I'm writing it for someone else as much as I'm writing it for me. On that note, though, it's also very therapeutic and helps me process the events of the day to write about them, especially if I'm frustrated. Sometimes I need to vent frustrations that cannot be done here on this public blog or even on my private blog.

Next is to make it a habit. I write every day because I know that I probably won't be consistent otherwise, plus I'm a details person. Others may find it easier to write every few days depending on what they want to include in their entries. I keep my current journal right on my desk so I see it and I have the pens I use for it (see below about my pens...). Because I like to write before midnight (again, see below), it's also a habit that I automatically need to get the journal before midnight. That took some mental stamina at the beginning and making it a priority, similar to scripture study for many of us. Really, though, once you get through about 2 weeks of that, it will become a habit. Having everything right there as a reminder, though, is a huge help too.

Here are some of my preferences:
  1. I use Pilot G2 gel pens to write. I prefer the blue and black "extra fine" (0.5mm) point, but also use the fine (0.7mm) point. I use that brand because I like how they look and are good for archival purposes. In other words, they won't fade. I use the size just because it looks cleaner when I write as opposed to the medium or bold points. If you choose to journal using a computer, this is obviously a moot point. 
  2. I alternate blue or black ink by day, regardless of how many pages an entry may take. So, for instance, my entry for November 27 is in black ink and my entry for November 28 is blue. I do this just for the visual aspect: it's easier to tell the days apart. If I were using a computer, I might do something similar, either use a different color or a different font. 
  3. When I was taking a Family History class in 2004 at BYU-Idaho, the professor suggested we put the day of the week along with the date for journal entries and I've done that ever since. It makes it easier to find things if I know what day of the week something was on. I usually put the day of the week in small letters after the date and I use the three-letter abbreviation for the day. Example: January 15th, 2014 WED 
  4. I always include what time I start the entry. Not sure when I started doing that, but I used to include the time I finished the entry too, but ended up stopping since there were times I wouldn't finish before being too tired, so I'd have this end time several hours later... I include the start time because it's part of that snapshot of my life right then.
  5. I typically write at night right before I go to bed or near that time, all part of that daily record. I usually try to write before midnight so the entry matches the date. In 2012 when I was getting back in the habit, there would be times I was too tired to write, so I'd take my journal to work and write during breaks or slow times. Some have suggested doing it in the morning, and really, it all depends on your schedule and when it can fit the best. It's more important to find A time as opposed to THE time. 
  6. I've done a few different things when I'm writing after midnight in regards to the entry date and start time, but now I just date it for the date I'm writing about, but in the start time I put the time and that it's the next day (so, for instance, it will have "12:54 AM Jan 4" as the start time, but the date at the top will say "January 3rd, 2014 FRI").
You don't need to write a book, but I do recommend writing at least something every day or every other day. There is so much insight we can get from going back and reading past entries, not to mention remembering events and thoughts. Like I said, it is not uncommon for me to go back and read my journal entries to find out when something happened. Bottom line, though, is make it YOU. Make it something that is valuable to you now and will be of value to your own or someone else's posterity. 

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