The Art of Keeping a Journal

The practice of recording your intimate thoughts in longhand.

There is something about writing down your thoughts on paper with a pen that doing it with a computer doesn’t replicate. Maybe that something will fade into oblivion along with handwriting as the digital age progresses. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a sense of nostalgia for the slower times of the pre-digital analogue age. Maybe young people no longer feel it. I hope I’m wrong about that.

I learnt to write longhand a long time ago, when it was taught in schools everywhere, back in the days when none of us had ever dreamt of, let alone heard of, a computer. Over the years, I even took time to master calligraphy, the ancient art of hand lettering, so maybe I am yearning for the trappings of a lost age that’s long gone. 

You don’t need to go as far as learning calligraphy to keep a journal but, if you do, you’ll acquire an ability to make beautiful marks on paper. You might even turn your journal into a work of art resembling a medieval manuscript. At least you’ll be able to read it twenty years from now.

In my experience, an unrecorded insight is usually lost forever. 

I will continue to record my thoughts and insights by hand in a journal for as long as I can. Writing down my thoughts, and those insights that pop into my awareness after meditating, allows me to capture them, which gives me an opportunity to come back and reflect upon them later.

If you don’t write them down, your thoughts and insights become like those dreams you forget about as soon as you wake up. In my experience, an unrecorded insight is usually lost forever. 

If you use a journal to record what you think about each day, you get the chance to discern the patterns in your thinking. If you simply record what you do each day, you get to identify the patterns of your activity.

A journal is a place where you can try out ideas or spell out your dreams.

I journal in the morning but many practitioners of the art journal at night as a way of reflecting on their day. There are no hard and fast rules about when is the best time to journal, but there is one suggesting daily as best practice.

A journal is a place where you can try out ideas or spell out your dreams. It’s a safe place for designing your life or having an ongoing discussion with your higher self. The contents of your journal don’t have to be made public unless, like me, you use it as a place for developing ideas into articles to be shared as insights from a crime writing mystic or expanded into a book.

Speaking of books, journals can serve as source material for memoirs, if you are inclined to share your life story, and biographies, if someone else thinks your life is interesting enough to write about. Hopefully, you will no longer be on the planet by the time someone else gets around to reading your journals for that purpose, unless you’ve authorised the writing of a biography in lieu of penning your own memoir. Of course, there is always the option of destroying your journals before you die or leaving instructions in your will to that effect.

If on the other hand, your handwriting is anything like mine, worrying about what others might read in your journals will not be a concern, as long as you stay with handwriting and don’t give into the temptation to replace pen and paper with a computer.

You don’t need a special notebook to keep a journal – any exercise book will do. But, if you’re looking for something a little more substantial, there are purpose designed journals available, including a few designed by me.