What Else Do I Write in My Journal?

You’ve gotten a prompt a day email for the last two years. You write about that every day. You are getting a little bored. You’ve written morning pages. You’ve written lists. Now what?

We fall in love with journals because they are filled with hope and potential. With how they look, with heavy leather bindings and wraps.  We bring them home, write on the first page, and then store them on the shelf. We become scared of our journals because they are empty, and to fill them means writing every day.

You do not have to write in your journal every day. You may want to, and then you may not. If you want to make a habit of writing, you should push yourself (gently) to write every day. Writing every day makes you better at writing every day. When you have written every day for a month, you can decide how often you want to write. It takes a month to break in a new habit.

But what should you write about? Journal pages are a way of thinking out loud–and often not in words. Journals help you create your outlook on life, they are the GPS system of your soul. Write what is important today. The price of a gallon of milk. About your car and what it feels like to drive it. Tomorrow it may be something different–which do you prefer, cotton shirts or those “high performance” ones?

When I was in graduate school, I read the journals of hundreds of women who had come to this country. These women came with very little in the way of possessions but carried a lot of traditions and new ideas. Many of the women were poor and overworked. But they wrote. Writing was their way out of their physical reality into a better world. And once they wrote about that better world, they created it.

Journal page by Patty Van Dorine

In those journals lived the culture and the history of their day. They were not famous writers, they were women who worked or stayed at home with children. They took in washing. They wrote at night. In those journals I found the cost of a pair of children’s shoes in 1895, and a dozen eggs in 1897,  and a pencil.

In those journals I found out what women thought about politics, and religion, and their bodies and the clothes they wore. I read as they changed their minds and the way they celebrated events that were important to them.

I read the journals of the women pioneers who walked behind covered wagons in the 1850s and 60s. They did not think of themselves as brave or changers of history. They were scared and tired. They wrote about the sounds they heard at night, and about the joy they would feel when they slept in a real bed.

What each of these journals had in common was a reality described in great detail. The pages contained the smells and tastes of a dinner, the sight of a field of waving grass, the sound of a tired sigh, the touch of hair and skin. The pages were full of history and culture.

The only thing you need to write in a journal is curiosity. What is happening? What do you feel about it? Discover yourself in your journal. Date the pages, so you will know how you and your world changed as you wrote it down.

Quinn McDonald is a journaler and a certified creativity coach.