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What Do Your Journal Entries Look Like?

A new reader contacted me with a question about format: Did I write entries like a letter to someone?

I don't have a specific format that I use, although I don't start entries with "Dear…" I suppose I do have a few different ways of doing it though.

  • If I just make an entry, not for anything specific, it's generally in a prose, story-telling kind of style. "Today was ok, work was fairly boring, Susan picked the girls up from camp. They didn't want to leave the place, so much for worry about their homesickness…"
  • If I'm recording an idea then it might just start with a brief heading, and then the idea. "Idea for website: Dorkwagons.com – let people post pictures of silly-looking or badly parked cars."
  • I might do a drawing or a bunch of doodles. Not related to anything, except that I just decide to do them. 
  • When I write a long entry and I'm changing subjects, I'll write a squiggly line between the paragraphs – not all the way across – to denote that I'm changing subjects. Otherwise it reads very strangely later!
  • When starting a new day I draw a heavy line across the page under the last entry, then write out the date. If there's a holiday or some other event, I write it next to the date – Happy 4th of July!

The only bad format is one that makes you unhappy but that you feel obligated to use. It's your book that you're writing, so write it how you want to. 

If you have some old entries to read, go back and read them and see what you think of them. Writing in a journal provides half the value, reading old entries is where the other half comes from. As you read them, you'll quickly develop a sense of what works and what doesn't. The trick is that it takes some time to create enough distance between now and an old entry to read it on it's own merits. I'd say weeks rather than days. 

There is a bit of a knack to keeping a journal. Sometimes you'll do very well, sometimes not. It's ok. The book won't judge, and you'll learn and adapt and make it better. 

2 comments… add one
  • Susana August 18, 2015, 5:39 pm

    I can’t remember when exactly I started a journal. Must have been 9 or 10 years old, and I was very angry my parents read it.
    Since then I’ve been journalling on and off for the past 40 years. But I rarely keep them. Back reading is often painful, and there are some things better left forgotten. So I keep them for a while and throw them away.
    Journaling is therapeutic. Instead of telling your story to a shrink, you tell it to a blank page. It gives you different perspectives you hadn’t considered, specially when you’re telling a twisted story or a painful event. I don’t do happy journals although I try to see the other end of things. And one of those therapies is that every day is a new blank page that has to be filled. So each time I write is in a new page. We should start again every day from scratch.

    • Steve Duncan October 11, 2015, 7:26 am

      HI Susana – thanks for writing!

      I like the part about starting each day from scratch on a new page. Is it always a left page?

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