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Lessons I learned the hard way: for writers new to the practice of daily journaling.
In a previous post, I mentioned that I've keep handwritten journals since I was eleven years old. And despite the fact that the sanctity of my journals were violated many times over the years, I still maintain that keeping a journal to record your days is an extremely worthwhile practice.

A journal is not a place for lies. A journal is a place for words of brutal honesty and unfiltered angst. This is why I stress the following rule to anyone new to the practice of personal journaling:

1) FIND A GOOD HIDING SPOT: Trust me on this. Nothing will ruin a relationship faster than the unauthorized reading of a choice entry. But if you want my opinion, anyone who reads another person's journal without permission deserves to feel whatever emotions may result acutely. Always remember, a journal is a place of no remorse for the writer.

2) BUY A JOURNAL YOU LOVE: After I filled the pages of my first journal, I went to my local bookstore to purchase another blank book. The sheer magnitude of my various options overwhelmed me. However, I stress the importance of purchasing a journal that "speaks to you". Genuinely liking your journal is probably the most critical factor in the discipline of daily journaling. The writing instrument you choose is just as important. I prefer writing in journals with unlined pages. Most of my journals I choose to purchase are hardcover sketchbooks meant for artists. The pens I choose may write in any color, but the ink must flow easily to encourage detailed entry writing.

3) BREAK ALL THE RULES: A surefire way to grow discouraged with keeping a daily journal is to ignore your authentic voice. When I first started journaling, I often modeled my voice and style after the journal entries of other writers I read in school. This is a common crime many beginner journalists commit. Writing without an authentic voice is a certain way to disillusionment, often resulting in total abandonment of the practice. Keep in mind: the only audience your journal is meant to entertain is yourself. So use your own words, original turns of phrase, personal mottos and sayings with impunity. And fuck the rules of grammar, syntax, and spelling. Your penmanship is allowed to suck. You are allowed to scribble and use up a whole page with one word if you desire. It's your book. Own it.

4) RECORD YOUR DATES: It is important to accurately date your entries for several reasons. First, an accurately dated journal serves as a record of your progress as a writer. Additionally, personal milestones and achievements are noted. A dated record serves as a reminder of how far you've come in life. Another reason to keep accurate entry dates is so that you record your emotions and thought processes on a particular day, during a certain year, under whatever circumstances. Allow me to clarify: the human memory often plays tricks on a person. People tend to remember events inaccurately; this leads to confusion about certain realities and encourages self-doubt. With a written record, these issues are null and void. The proof is in the pudding. I found this habit beyond helpful when my marriage fell apart. After going back to read old journal entries, I proved to myself that I suffered in an unhappy relationship for far too long.

5) DON'T IDENTIFY WITH FULL NAMES: Unless you won't recall the identity of the person you write about on a later date, avoid using identifying names at all costs. This is an important practice for damage-control. Typically, when I write about someone in my journal, I use only one letter, such as a first initial to identify them. Better still, create a nickname for these people based on obscure references only you as the writer will recognize. For example, I identified one friend simply as "NapSack" due to the sense of overwhelming baggage I experienced whenever we interacted.

Keeping a journal is a cathartic exercise. When life gets complicated and overwhelming, it is incredibly cleansing to list and organize your thoughts, concerns, and solutions onto the page. Committing your mental chaos to paper gets the mess out of your head, and on the page everything will almost always appear more manageable. A better night's sleep is practically guaranteed when you practice daily journaling. But be forewarned! Even if you live by yourself....FIND A GOOD HIDING SPOT!

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