What Can I Say: The Practice of Journaling

In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.
— Susan Sontag

When it comes to saying what I need to say, I can verbally articulate my thoughts very well, but over the years I have come to know about myself that I can best say what I need to say in writing. In elementary school, I had at least a couple of those electronic diaries that you unlock with your voice. In middle school I graduated to foldover journals. By high school and college, I was writing on my laptop, and now as an adult, I’m writing on and in anything I can find, the iPhone notepad being my current, most beloved agent of choice. Whatever the vehicle, it has heard every story, swallowed all of my emotions, and accompanied me through life as a best friend of sorts.

The practice of journaling bears a large part of the crown for my emotional development. Through writing, I’ve learned:

to embrace the full spectrum of emotions.

to be honest with myself about where I am in life and how i’m feelinG.

to navigate the way in which I communicate with others.

Most importantly, journaling has helped me find my voice through many situations and life changes. If you listen to yourself as you write, journaling becomes a very handy tool in discovering and exploring who you are now, where you’ve come from and where you’d like to go. Journaling is not specific to gender, race, age, sexual orientation- anyone can do it and benefit from it. I want to share a few things that have helped me on the journaling path to answering the question

What can I say?

Choosing A Journal

The way my journal looks is important to me, because I feel more compelled to write in one that is very pretty on the outside. The way that it looks, though, is not as important as how it feels to your writing hand. Being a lefty, I personally need one that bends easily at the spine so that my hand can rest flat as I write. I don’t like very small journals, because I just need space. Do you feel where I am going with this? When you’re shopping for one, you’ve got to pick it up and hold it to make sure that it’s comfortable; otherwise, you won’t use it. Afterall, this is your new non-judgemental, always available best friend.

Choosing a writing style

I have gone through seasons when I only write about the relationship I’m in. I’ve had some journals where I only make lists, because i’m more focused on my current goals. I am currently in a hodge podge season where I write whatever comes to mind and I need to get it out immediately, hence the reason my phone is the best place to write right now. If you’re in a down season, you may challenge yourself to a positivity journal where you only write happy thoughts. If you’re in an outstanding place in life, you may choose to have a gratitude journal. Choosing a style very much depends on where you are in life, so it’s important to consider that when you begin journaling. You want to make sure the style is one that will help you organize your thoughts as they pertain to your current life rather than a style that will make you feel worse and more confused about things.

Choosing topics

You may find that sometimes you want to free write, while other times it may be difficult to think of what you’d like to write about, so you may follow a prompt. The black floral journal pictured is actually a guided journal that gives you prompts; this way you can skip around to whichever one inspires you to write at that particular time. Whatever the case, it only matters that you write something. Too many self-imposed rules can discourage you from writing at all, so you need to feel unrestricted as you embark on the journey of writing. When I started long ago, I just began talking about my day. Simple. You could try this formula to start:

What happened? + How did It make me feel? = Journal Entry

Ex. I lost my keys today. I felt frustrated that I have one more issue to solve along with everything else I have going on.

It seems short, and you may feel there should be more to it. Don’t be hard on yourself; it’s a start. You may find that once you write that sentence, others will start to flow. Eventually, you might get into the business of writing potential solutions, ways to respond differently to a situation, goals to change habits or thoughts- the possibilities really are endless. You just have to be open to hearing what you have to say to yourself; afterall, your voice is most important.

A personal journal is an ideal environment in which to become. It is a perfect place for you to think, feel, discover, expand, remember, and dream.
— Brad Wilcox

When it comes to journaling, the answer to the question of “what can I say?” is everything.