journal therapy.

(i.e. Journals for Therapy + Therapy For Those Who Love Journals)

Can I see some hands in the air from anyone who’s got way too many journals? Because I sure do, and I need to know that I’m not alone. But also, I want to tell you how to actually use them.

I have always loved buying lined journals – heck, sometimes I even go a little wild and get a blank one. Every time I see a new prospect, waiting there fresh and ready, I am filled with hope. This is it, I think to myself. This will be the one that I write in EVERY DAY. Ha. Yeah right. Journal Addicts know this feeling all too well.

You see, like many writers, my love for journals goes way, way back. When I was still in school and required to buy spiral college-ruled Mead notebooks for class, I grew accustomed to writing poems or other various musings in the back of them. Class notes never reached that far, so this was my space. This was where I could do my best work.

Eventually I started buying my own notebooks and collaging the covers with images of pop stars, typed-up song lyrics from my favorite artists, and magazine clippings of sunglasses and far-off vistas. When one filled up, I would graduate to a new design that matched my fresh, grown-up aesthetic. These were all mine. They were a physical, artistic representation of who I was in the space and time that I was using them. They meant a lot to me, because I’d created them. And I was in complete control of what went inside them.

It was in those notebooks that I wrote my first songs, breaking occasionally to write an impassioned journal entry about the conversation I’d had with my high school crush the period before and whether or not we were destined to be together. I was quite dramatic, and remained a pretty consistent emotionally-driven writer for years into college. I’d wake up at 2 AM and write until my hand cramped and the writing got so tiny and misshapen that I could barely read it in the morning. But it was good for me. And important. Until somewhere along the way, it stopped.

Regardless, I still kept buying journals. Plain, minimal ones. Bright, shiny ones. Ones with quotes. Ones made of leather. Ones that weren’t my fault; they were gifts because everyone knew I loved journals and of course I needed more.

I’d end up “saving” these little treasures for whenever I felt I was ready to fill them with something really good – really intentional, you know? I felt like my random ruminations weren’t worthy of their fancy pages. But that meant the journals got stuck in another wire basket, waiting. Until I’d find another one that I decided I liked better and forget about the first one. Sometimes I’d start to use one as a journal again, but quickly change my mind in favor of something else. Most often I’d just forget to physically write anything down because I was already on a computer…and typing was a lot easier.

I mean, I could just journal this right here. But instead, I’m sharing it with you. On a screen. A screen that requires digital transcription.

Still, I love journals. I love their paper. And like any writer, I love a good pen. But I struggle where the two meet.

Being January, journals and planners and notebooks are all the rage. It’s hard for me to turn a blind eye to their beauty. So I want to get intentional about journaling. Actual journaling. But where do I start? You might actually be wondering this, too, so I figured I’d gather a list of some ways to use all those precious journals. That way, I can justify the purchase of one more I’ve got my mind on. I’m gonna do this, y’all. Not for you. For me. Just me. You can do it yourself if you’d like.

  1. Prayer/Gratitude Journal – I’m not big on bible studies, and even though I’ve discovered some really classy looking prayer journals, I find it hard to justify their format. What I am attracted to, however, is having a place to keep all the things that I should be grateful for. Five Things. One time a day. The hope here is that it provides a more soulful recognition of my self and my many blessings, especially when I’m struggling to see them. It would be nice to have a better spiritual thing going on, too, so I’m not ruling the prayer part out in the future.
  2. Bullet Journal – Really, a planner. My bullet journal, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, is not my best work. I just don’t have the time, energy, or genuine desire to doodle succulents in tracking my mood every day of the month. But I have been pretty religious about putting my Moleskine dotted notebook to good use this first month of the year, mostly because I’m finding I have more and more to keep track of as I get older and find more responsibilities to neglect. There are some really cool ways to do this; just search #bujo on Instagram on a boring Sunday afternoon. For now, this is something I’m managing to keep up with, so it counts.
  3. Research/Writing Challenge Journal – I’m trying to sign up for more daily prompt exercises and challenges (though my follow-through rate is seriously delayed). But it’s hard when you’re doing 5 days of this and 30 days of that – where do you keep it? Wouldn’t it be more meaningful to actually write it all down, rather than just create another Word document that will eventually go missing on your laptop? So I’m going to have one journal devoted solely to these challenges. One after the other. Maybe even intertwined. No one will know but me….there’s no use in stressing over the incontinuity of the format. I figured I could use this for helpful tips, tricks, and writing craft knowledge I pick up along the way, too.
  4. Blog Prep Journal – This one needs to be small, so I can tuck it away in any purse and always have a place to write down what I’m planning for the blog. I’m so over keeping notes in my phone – they just morph into easy-to-delete grocery lists. And all I do on the blog is type, so what better way to make it more tactile than to add a written element to the planning process? Also, Webb is supposed to be nagging me whenever I say something that he thinks I should blog about, and the only way I’ll keep that in check is by keeping a tally
  5. Classic Journal – Y’all don’t need to know everything I’m thinking. Plus, I’ve found that writing out my frustrations usually helps me come back around to the bright side a whole lot faster than keeping it stowed up inside. Writing stuff down – even if it’s the most ridiculous of thoughts – is important for us to get through the murk and find what really matters. When I don’t have some great thing to write about, I aspire to write a line-a-day about whatever happened. Just for nostalgia’s sake. Or to hold me accountable to thinking about writing at all times.
  6. Everything Journal – I make LOTS of lists. It’s kind of embarrassing. Sometimes I just write things down to get them out of my head. Like, what do I need at Target? Oh yeah, coffee creamer and leggings. Perfect. What am I lusting over? That $500 bag I can’t afford? Well, let me just put that on my dream shopping list so I can stop obsessing about remembering it for a while. The Everything Journal is a catchall. Some folks call it a Brain Dump. (I love that.) It’s the journal you will never see me without. It’s something special to write about work in. It’s something standard to have at all times. It’s something to catalogue random ideas and thoughts until they find their place somewhere else. And if, God forbid, it fills up? Well then, I get a new one! Whoopee! It’s the perfect storm.
  7. Therapy Journal – It’s easy for me to get stuck in my head, but I’ve also found it’s easiest to work my way out of there by putting it out on a page. Therapy Journaling, to me, is a stream-of-consciousness form of writing that allows you to say whatever you want/need to say – especially the things that you probably should censor before you put it out in the world – and process your way through it. I always find that the answer comes to me as I write. I can work myself back into a sensible state of mind. I can understand myself better. And I can reveal truths that I’ve been hiding from myself, not wanting to admit. The Therapy Journal should be an interview with yourself – try starting with some “easy” questions, like “Who Am I?” or “What Makes Me Sad?”. Then keep writing. Dig deeper. Don’t censor. Don’t edit. This is the best kind of journaling to keep completely to yourself – but it’s also the best kind of journaling to help you discover what it is you need to say out loud, too.

Now, get to it, y’all. Start writing!