Starting NaJoWriMo this year has caused me think more deeply about journal writing and how I use it personally. I thought about what I try to accomplish with my journal, and what keeps me motivated to journal write year after to year.

The following are my list of personal principles of journal writing. I’m sure everyone has at least a few principles different from mine. Please feel free to share your own in the commend section below.

Write honestly: Though my Day One journal is secure for prying eyes, it took me a while to learn to write honestly by ignoring the possibility that someone would read my journals years now. To this end, I learned, and am still reminding myself, that my journals are not for other people to read. I’m not writing for public consumption. I’ve learned that I will get more out my writing if I just say what’s on my mind. Journal keeper, Danielle Hanna, wrote an eloquent article about how to be honest with yourself through journaling.

Write frequently: While it’s okay to go several days without writing in my journal, I find that not journal writing frequently means that I’m either not recording important experiences, no matter how small or large, about my life, or that I’m not being attentive to my personal challenges and feelings. Writing frequently helps maintain a journal writing habit, as well keeps me in tune with myself and other people.

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Focus on content: though I write for living, and thus need to focus on grammar and spelling, this should not be the goal in journal writing. I try to focus on the content of my journal writing, and not on grammar and spelling. Fortunately for the latter, my computer corrects much of my spelling errors while I type. But when I often later read back on entries, I see that I was very verbose, left out words, and sometimes did not fully explore my train of thought. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m using journal writing to talk to myself, to process my life, and record my life as I live it. Again, I’m not writing for others. So grammar and coherent writing are not my primary goals.

Dig deeper: Like many things in life, there’s a tendency to rush through things to get them done. But I’m finding that journal writing sometimes requires you to dig deeper and explore a topic or issue over several days or even years. If I’m writing about improving my health, I can’t just write the issue one or two times and expect the writing to reveal much. I have to ask questions, write honestly, and return to the topic as often as possible.

Be positive: For long time I would mostly write about the problems I was experiencing in my life. I would mostly whine and complain. But in the last few years I try to take on a more positive view of life as I write, even when I’m writing about challenges and sad times. Writing about how terrible things are won’t get me very far, and the writing itself won’t always help if I’m constantly being negative.

placeit_MBATag entries: One of like best features about using Day One over traditional pen and paper is that I can tag my entries. Tags enable me to group journal entries together without having to keep separate journal notebooks. But if I were using a paper notebook, I would still find a way to tag entries, because tags are great way to filter and review entries.

Review entries: For me, journal writing is definitely a process of self-evaluation and recording my lived experiences. But it’s important to re-read my journal entries. I have some entries that I have marked on my calendar to review and even update a year later. For me, reviewing my journal entries is important to my personal growth, which overall gives my journal writing purpose other than frequent writing.

Your Journal Writing Principles

Though I have my own journal writing principles, I’m eager to know what principles guide other dedicated journal keepers. What purpose or commitment guides you as a journal writer? Has the purposes for your journal writing changed over the years? I would love to hear back from you.

National Journal Writing Month