Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Journals: The Sort-It Detail

We all talk to ourselves, even if we don’t do it out loud. A journal performs the most important follow-up function to inner dialogue, what I call the Sort-It Detail.

It’s much more difficult to sort what we’re learning and how patterns repeat themselves without annotation—like trying to do math in your head. Journals are spreadsheets. They allow you to “go figure.”

Since I am a writer, the habit of writing my thoughts and feelings is natural to me, but my journal has morphed over time to a custom fit. I invite you to try on some journaling styles until you find the one that’s perfect for you. Like a comfy pair of shoes, your journal needs to fit well but boast a style that’s yours alone and makes you feel like a million.

Since I live at my computer, I have developed a Word template for journaling. I print out the pages in color and prong them into a three-inch binder, the kind with a clear front pocket, so I can make a custom cover. At the end of each year, I reread and relive my 12-month journey and contemplate where I’m headed next. My journal has sections in the back for greeting cards and other keepsakes.

My template header, in a fancy font, says Joyce’s Journal. The subtitle is Learning, Growing, Spirits Uplifted, Stuff Sorted. Below that, I type the date. I insert an ever-changing graphic beside the header to fit the content of the day’s summary. For example, on a day I was angry, the clip art was an explosion. These “icons” show me, at a glance, the quality of my days and how my moods are shifting.

The most important part of my journal is a box on the left that runs the longer side of the page, Things I’m Grateful for Today. Each day, I find at least 10 things. It’s not difficult for me. I have a lot of practice.

I believe that the universe gives back to us as much as we appreciate the gifts we are given. When we send out gratitude, more abundance flows our way. But that’s not why I journal thankfulness. It’s just polite to say thank-you for generosity. It’s who I am, how I was raised. Maybe your custom column is Blessings I Count. Observations I’ve Made. Positive Experiences.

Speaking of the universe and sky, once it turns dark, we dream. I have a different template for my
dream journal, and I mix the pages in my binder—waking and dream accounts. I simply sort them by date in chronological order, the most recent on top. For example, on June 3, there was a journal entry. On June 13, I wrote down a dream. This isn’t strange to me, as I revere the information from the subconscious as much as consciousness. I’ve learned to “play the symbols” in various careers, especially as an astrologer and dreamworker.

Perhaps the most important thing I do in either my dream or journal entries? I give them titles. Whatever we choose to name our entry is an intuitive key phrase for the experience, day or night. You can do a quick review of your journal at any time, just by paging through and reading the titles. You’ll be surprised at the sensation of your whole year flashing in front of you!

Best of all, my journaling technique led me to realize I could use similar techniques for telling my life’s story. What a fabulous discovery while writing my memoir with the same name as this blog, Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights.

May all your insights be cool!


Honorable Mention - This article won Honorable Mention in the 2008 annual essay contest on Be the Star You Are! The mission of this wonderful not-for-profit corporation, is to provide, promote and distribute its library of books and other media to empower women, families, and youth-at-risk to improve their daily lives. I love their slogan, "To Be A Leader You Must Be A Reader!"

Thank you, Cynthia Brian and the judges, for allowing my star to shine in your galaxy!



Pat Montgomery said...

That is great. I love writing, but I have a hard time disciplining myself to journal. I love it when I do it, but days slip by.

I do want to start a dream journal. I have great dreams--some are predictions and I need to track them.

Thanks for the reminder.

Joyce Mason said...

Pat, there's one school of thought in dreamwork that all dreams are predictive. I sort of see that, but sometimes the flash forward is deeply buried! More times I think dreams are my inner sage helping me navigate the maze of my own psyche to get the point of what I'm supposed to be learning at the moment. Bringing the subconscious to consciousness is richly rewarding to the creative process. I have both read and experienced that in a big way. Dream on!

Beverly Mahone said...

My book Whatever! was the direct result of a journal my gynecologist advised me to keep when I was going through perimenopause.

I highly recommend them!

Also, congratulations on your writing achievement.

Eileen Williams said...

Your thoughts on journaling are like your other posts, INSPIRING! Taking time to document one's challenges and blessings and then reviewing them at year's end is a wonderful way to move forward using your own internal guidance system.
And, kudos to you for your Honorable Mention! A well deserved special recognition!

PopArtDiva said...

I write for 9 blogs, have 3 websites and several online stores so I knew I would never do a journal unless it was part of my "work" so....

I turned my Life Is Like Art - It's All In How You Look At It. blog into an artist's life and journey through the Universe of Creativity!

I post my newest art, my thoughts and processes on the art and then I have 3 sections for what the week and the art and life have brought me: Visualize, Visualize and It's All In How You Look At It and finally Attitude of Gratitude.

Though I don't always get to it on Sundays I try and it has been a great way for me to improve my thinking and life processes!

Yes, a journal is a good thing!

Virtual Woman's Day said...


Journaling is my middle name.

In fact, my journal has dividers so I can segment my thoughts according to different aspects of my life. For instance if I get an idea about a book I am working on I write it down in the "writing" section. If it's about my websites, I write it there and if it's about life in general I write it in the "living" section.

I keep this on my endtable and refer to it for inspiration and ideas. As I work through the ideas I cross them out in the journal so mind has also morphed into a great big "to do" list.

thanks, Pat for the great post. I will have to try your suggestions too.

Warmest regards,

Heidi Richards Mooney, Author, Entrepreneur, Coach