Journaling Topics: Where Do I Start?

Where do I start? Surely it can’t be that hard to sit down and journal each day. Can it? I hear so  many people say, “Well, I told myself I would journal today, but I didn’t know what to say.”

Get Messy

  • Who says you have to stay in the lines? Write sideways, write very big or very small, write past the margins, draw maps and pictures – GET MESSY WITH IT!

Dr. Ira Progoff says in At a Journal Workshop, “Insofar as the past is over and the future has not yet transpired, this midpoint is an open moment of possibility. Properly used, it becomes like the eye of a hurricane, a quiet place at the center of life, a free, unconditioned moment of opportunity.”

So, begin with today, with this minute, this second.

Bare Your Soul

  • Your journal is what you make it. It is yours and yours alone. You enter the page with your soul bared and pour forth your darkest fears, your greatest triumphs, your ho-hum drudgery of life. It doesn’t matter what you put forth, it only matters that you do it!

Dr. Progoff explains, “We may use it actively and intensely during times of conflict and difficulty; we may use it softly and slowly when our life is more relaxed…”

Just Doodle

  • Often times I just sit and doodle on the page. No words, no pictures even, just swirls and flowers or whatever my mind commands my hand to do. The content is not what is important; it is that you bring your spirit to the page again and again. I have gone months entering the daily occurrences of my life, boring details that I feel mean nothing. But, as I read back over the years, I find within those boring pages little nuggets of gold.

Morning Pages

“What you do want is to catch yourself unawares, to record things you didn’t really didn’t know you were thinking.” says Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and The Vien of Gold.

  • Julia suggests what she calls Morning Pages. Each morning, preferably upon waking, she suggests writing 3 pages, front and back. Do it without stopping, just let the words flow from your pen. If you find yourself with nothing to say, then write “I have nothing to say” over and over until you do have something to say. An advantage of Morning Pages is that by dumping the trivial, mundane thoughts on paper each morning you will be able to free your mind to ponder further depths. You will feel more alive and less cluttered with tiny details of little importance.

Paper versus Keyboard

  •  Julia, and other writers, suggests doing your journaling by hand. There is something about the direct connection from mind, to hand, to paper that is supposed to be revitalizing. I don’t know. I journal in whatever way feels right to me at the time. Sometimes by hand and often times at my computer keyboard. Sometimes I pull off to the side of the road or into a parking lot because some profound thought flits through my head and I must get it on paper or lose it. If I have my journal with me (and you should try to keep your journal with you!) I will write it there. But there have been many times that I have poured forth my soul on the back of a McDonalds bag with a stick of lipstick. Do what you have to do. Just DO IT!

Topic du Jour (Topic of the Day)

  • My all time favorite! This idea comes from Kathleen Adam’s Journal to the Self. At the back of your journal, or on a piece of paper near your computer, write the numbers 1-31. For each number, write in a topic. Some topics I put were the names of my kids, writing, reading, a memory, the world around me, work, the future, nature, music, books, etc….whatever interests you or you think you might like to write about. Each day when you sit down to journal, use the day of the month to choose your topic for the day. If today is the 3rd of the month, I go to my Topic du Jour list and see that today I will write about ‘work’.

“Allow yourself to be awkward. You are stripping yourself. You are exposing your life, not how your ego would like to see you represented, but how you are as a human being.” Natalie Goldberg

Journal Buddy

Make yourself accountable. Find someone who also journals and set up a time to meet at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts or the work/school cafeteria. Commit to writing for 10 minutes, then talk with each other about what you wrote. Alternately, join a writer’s group (or create one!) on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Whatever you do – JUST WRITE! Journaling is therapeutic and – if you are a writer – a great way to generate ideas for projects.

Published by: Karen Y. Hamilton

Walt Whitman says about his autobiography, Specimen Days “…At any rate I obey my happy hour’s command, which seems curiously imperative. May-be, if don’t do anything else, I shall send out the most wayward, spontaneous, fragmentary book ever printed.” This is what I feel at this juncture of my life, the need to gather together memories of my ancestors as well as my own memories into some semblance of order. Because all of those fragments, all of the fragments that make up any life, become stories. I am the mother of three sons, who affectionately (I hope!) call me 'gypsy mom' because I tend to wander around a bit soaking in the universe's wonders. I am currently working towards an MFA in Creative Writing at Florida Atlantic University. I have published essays with Heritage Press, Florida Living, and the St. Pauls Review. I am currently working on a book of poems about the Florida Everglades pioneers and a memoir about grief and the bonds of friendship. I live in my hometown, Jupiter, Florida and work as a freelance writer and curriculum specialist.

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