30 Days to a Better Man Day 8: Start a Journal

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 7, 2009 · 64 comments

in 30 Days to a Better Man


My grandpa, Bill Hurst, was a journal writer his entire life. His journal was quite simple. He just kept a small notebook in the pocket of his pearl snap shirts and jotted down a short description of the things he did and the people he did it with. This is something he did pretty much every day for his entire life. He also kept extensive diaries of his time as a forest ranger in the Wasatch Range.

About 12 years ago, my grandpa took all these diaries and daily journal entries and began to write his memoir for his children and grandchildren. The finished product was a 500 page behemoth filled with stories from my grandfather’s life. Here’s just a few of the interesting things I learned from reading it:

  • My grandpa met my grandma by hitting on her while she worked as a telephone operator.
  • My grandpa helped pay for college by playing pool.
  • He worked as a sheep herder during the summers in high school and college. He gives a very descriptive account on how castrating sheep is performed. He did it just like this.
  • He has a scar from when he was hit by a car while racing his horse through the streets of his boyhood town. The horse died.
  • As a boy, his family traveled by horse and buggy.

There’s more. Lots more. But while the stories are interesting, what I found more interesting was the commentary my grandpa gave on different events in his life. In these moments, he passed on some insights and lessons on what it means to be a man. My grandpa’s memoir is a treasure trove of knowledge and wisdom from a life well lived. By writing  his memoir, he guaranteed that his legacy will live on indefinitely.

But his life story would have been but a few pages long had he not kept a journal.

There are a myriad of other benefits to keeping a daily journal besides remembering what you ate five years ago. So today’s task is to start the journaling habit.

Great Men Keep Journals

In studying the lives of great men, I’ve noticed a common trait: they were all consistent journal writers. Now, I’m not saying that their greatness is directly attributable to their journaling. I’m sure Captain Cook would still have been a bad ass even if he hadn’t kept a diary. But I figure, if great men like these thought it was important to keep a journal, maybe I should, too. Heck, if it weren’t for their journals, we probably wouldn’t know much about their great lives and deeds.

Here’s a short list of great men from history who kept journals:

  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Charles Darwin
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Captain Cook
  • Winston Churchill
  • Sir Edmund Hilary
  • Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton
  • Doogie Howser M.D

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Why Keep a Journal

Your children and grandchildren will want to read it. I know it’s hard to believe right now. Your life probably seems quite ordinary and of little interest to anyone else. And every generation believes that life will pretty much continue on like it is now. When your great-grandpa was kicking it in the 1920′s, he thought to himself, “Who would want to read about this new fangled radio or how I get my food out of an icebox? Phhht! That’s boring stuff!” But it’s not boring anymore; to this generation, such a peak at the olden days is fascinating. And so it is with you. When your grandkids are talking to people via hologram, they are going to be absolutely fascinated by your impressions of those ancient things like the alta vista and cell phones. And unfortunately, they’re not going to be curious about it until they get into their 20′s, realize you’re going to die, and start asking you questions.

Trust me, while you think that you’ll be able to remember everything just as clearly in the future, you won’t. Remember when you were a kid and you thought your experiences would be easily recalled at age 30? Now what do you remember from those days besides that time a dog bit you in the face?

As each year passes, the pixels of our memories burn out and the haze sets in. By age 80, you’ll only remember the faintest outlines of the big things that happened to you. But the stuff that’s really interesting is often the little, seemingly mundane details of life. What was a man’s daily routine like in 2009? Of course, the whipper snappers will ask you about the big stuff too: “Where were you when you found out about the attacks on the World Trade Center?” and “What did you think about the election of Barack Obama?” Your journals will give them the answers they’ll be looking for and will bring you closer.

And who knows? Maybe the whole world might be interested in your musings someday. You may not think so now, but how many famous men knew that they would be famous before they actually burst onto the scene? And how many men were ignored in their lifetime, only to be celebrated after their death?

It can bring you to your senses. Have you ever struggled with a choice, thought about it long and hard, made a decision, but then some time later started to regret it? Have you ever gotten into a rut from which you can’t seem to find a way out? A journal can aid you in these dilemmas. When you make a decision, you can write down all the reasons you have for coming to that conclusion. Then, after times passes, and you start doubting that choice, you can look back, remind yourself of why you made that decision in the first place, and feel reassured in pressing on. Or, it you’re in a depressed funk and don’t know how to extract yourself from it, you can look back through your journal to find the times when you were happiest.  Old journal entries can help you rediscover the kind of changes you need to make  to get your life back on track. Or you can look back at your journal and how you used to operate 5 years ago and think, “Damn! I never want to be that man again! What was I thinking?” A journal is basically a chance for your past self to lend counsel to your present self.

Finally, simply writing about your feelings and frustrations helps you focus on what’s really going on in your life and in your head, so that you can come up with a solution to your problems.

Journaling grants you immortality. Think of the billions of people who have and will perish from the earth without leaving a trace of themselves behind. They vanish into the ether, completely forgotten in the annals of history. A journal helps make you immortal. It is an tangible piece of evidence to leave behind that you were here! That you lived and loved! That there was such a person as Jared Matthews who lived in Austin, Texas who thought and breathed and died.

Journaling improves your health. Several studies have shown that writing about traumatic or stressful events and your deepest feelings and emotions  boosts your emotional and physical health and sense of well-being. ((http://apt.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/full/11/5/338)) Especially as men, we often tend to keep things bottled up. Journaling provides a excellent outlet to let go of those things that are bothering or worrying us.

How to Journal

Pick a medium. If you’ve never journaled or if you have previously, but fell off the wagon, the first thing you need to decide is what kind of journal you’re going to keep. There are basically two different types of journal mediums: analog and digital.

Analog journals, the paper and pen variety, are what we traditionally think of when we think of journals. You can use something as basic as a spiral bound notebook and a Bic pen or something as fancy as a hand bound leather journal and a fountain pen. Just do what works for you.

With the advent of computers, many people have gone digital with their journaling. The digital world offers a plethora of options to record your daily happenings and thoughts.  Here’s a list of possible desktop digital tools in which to keep your journal:

  • Word Processor. Pretty basic. Just open up MS Word or OpenOffice Writer and start clickity clackin’ away.
  • TextEditor/Notepad. Just open up the text editor for your operating system, call the file “journal.txt,” and start writing. Date each entry. If you’re using Notepad, here’s a nifty little hack to automatically insert the date into your journal entry.
  • JDarkroom. JDarkroom is a free Java-based text editor. What makes it different from other text editors is that it takes up the entire screen for distraction free writing. I’ve used it before, and it’s actually pretty nice. It works on any platform.
  • OneNote. Microsoft OneNote is a robust note taking program that can double as a journal. Just create a notebook within OneNote for your journal and start writing. With this program, you can easily drop photos and videos into your journal entries. OneNote is only available for Windows.
  • Evernote. Evernote is pretty much like Microsoft OneNote except 1) it’s free, 2) it works on any platform, and 3) you can save and access entries on the internet easily, thus giving you access to your journal everyone you go. I don’t use Evernote for my journal, but I’ve use it on a daily basis for notes and would definitely recommend it.

The internet provides several options for you to store your journal in the “cloud” and even share it with other people. A few options:

  • Blogspot. It’s free and it gives you the option of keeping your journal private or sharing it with a few people. In addition to writing text, you can easily include photos in your journal entries.
  • LiveJournal. Pretty much the same as Blogspot. It’s free and you have the option of keeping it private or you can share with others.
  • WordPress.com Out of all the blogging platforms, I prefer WordPress (it’s what we use for Art of Manliness). You can get a free wordpress.com blog and start a journal with it.
  • Use Gmail as a journal. This is an interesting idea.

Schedule a time. Starting a journal is easy enough. Sticking to it on a daily basis is more difficult. If you want to make it a habit, just pick a time in your day for journal writing and make it a non-negotiable in your life. I like doing it at night right before I go to bed. It’s a good way to decompress and review the day’s events. But some people prefer writing in the morning or jotting down thoughts throughout the day. Just do what works for you.

Some days you might not have the energy or desire to write in your journal. On those days, just write something. It can be a sentence long. It can simply be, “I’m not in the mood to write.” Just keep your commitment.

One of the most memorable journal entries I’ve come across was written by TR on the day both his wife and mother died. Instead of spending several pages outlining his grief, this is all it said:


What to Write About

This is where a lot of people get hung up on with journaling. They feel like they don’t have anything to write about so they end up not writing at all. There are hundreds of books that give you “suggestions” of what to write about in your journal. Usually they’re cheesy and inane things like, “If you were a cloud, what shape would you be.”

Just write about your day. No need to get fancy with those cute little journal prompts. Some days might be pretty routine, but other days you might be feeling philosophical or have a problem that will require you to write more in-depth entries. Just write what comes naturally to you on that day.

And as we mentioned above, while you might think your life is boring, your great grand kids won’t. They’ll be just as fascinated about you driving a car that runs on gasoline as you are about your great grandpa driving a horse and buggy.  If your life really is boring, perhaps keeping a journal will give you an incentive to take on more adventures so you have something to write about.

It’s time to get started. Your task today is to start a journal. Pick your medium and begin. If you already have a journal, but haven’t written in it in awhile, write an entry today. And if you’re one of those few consistent journalers out there, bully for you! Keep up the good work and use today’s journal entry to give yourself a pat on the back.

Tell us about what kind of journal you’ll be using and your journaling tips and stories on the Community page.

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brett June 7, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Excellent piece of writing!
I actually just began a journal a week ago so this article couldn’t have come at a better time for me.
P.S. I really got caught up on that sheep castrating video. Hope I’m not the only one.

2 Mick June 8, 2009 at 12:00 am

I have started and stopped having a journal since… 1997! That makes 12 years next september!

Just the other day I bought a plain white paper notebook to write down exactly how my day went. I find I cannot recall things from recent or far past if I don’t have it written down: many times I get back to these journals and think “Did I really do this stuff? I don’t remember any of it!”.

Why is it that men don’t remember things like women?

3 Leon June 8, 2009 at 3:09 am

This post has spurred me into action to write down my memories so that I can remember and share them. I’ve had some bloody good times, and these stories are going to be a priceless thing to refer to in 50 years. I’ve listed titles of all my stories and as I get time, I’m going to write them down before the memories fade.

If you read a book called “Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman” you’ll see a great example of a life well lived.

4 Speedmaster June 8, 2009 at 4:00 am

Wonderful post, thanks!!!

5 jcard21 June 8, 2009 at 5:13 am

[quote] “Did you write it down? If you did not, you should have. This is because only what you have committed to paper has significance. Man’s experience is only that which he has recorded. The more you consider that, the more significant it may become. The Heinlein Hypothesis declaims that only the historic record establishes the essence of the human experience. If it was not written down, it might as well not have happened. This certainly impresses itself upon me in these closing years. A great deal has happened to me, and I have had a long life, and I am truly thankful that much of it was recorded. Therefore whatever you did is only real upon the printed page.” ~ LTC John Dean “Jeff” Cooper, USMC (retired) (1920-2006), Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries, Previously Gunsite Gossip, Volume Fourteen, 2006, http://dvc.org.uk/jeff/jeff14.pdf

6 Justin T. June 8, 2009 at 5:25 am

Alright, fine. You convinced me. Even though I’ve started journaling about a dozen times before and never get beyond the two week mark, I’ll try it again.

7 Zachariah June 8, 2009 at 5:54 am

Quick question on the on-line notetaking tools. How do you preserve your writings in digital format for future generations? Or, should you print and bind them?

8 Øystein June 8, 2009 at 6:08 am

My grandfather kept a journal during the war. From the invasion of Norway 9th of May 1940 until we capitulated the 9th of June.
Last summer I and my mom wrote the whole journal in a word document.
For me it’s a really interesting read and contains a lot of local history.
I mentions English troops, refugees from Narvik, a crash landed airplane (it is at a museum now, so can go see it), how he drove the Norwegian troops and hid the car from the Nazis.

He died the same year I was born and his journal tells me more about him than anything else has.

9 Arthur P. Othieno June 8, 2009 at 7:05 am

I’ve been keeping a journal myself for over a year now. The idea was inspired mostly by this article: http://thewritersbag.com/writing-strategies/write-yourself-well

I’ll admit, it hasn’t become a daily habit yet, but hopefully this Day 8 task will change that. Thank you.

10 Jason June 8, 2009 at 7:08 am

Thanks for the article. I keep a small wet shaving journal at the moment, but I have not started a “daily” journal. I have plenty of journals sitting around, maybe I should use one,

11 Clare June 8, 2009 at 7:32 am

My grandfather kept journals from the time he was a medical student at McGill to the early part of this decade, when he printed and bound copies for all his children. They are absolutely priceless. He recounts his student days in Montreal, his adventures up to Newfoundland and Labrador to care for the Indian people, his travels in Europe, and there are several delightful stories about my mother.

He and I were always kindred spirits, but we lived so far apart that times when we could actually sit down together and talk about his life were few and far between. I was going to visit him this past May; but he died the week before and I was there to attend the funeral instead. It breaks my heart to think that we’ll never sit at the table and have a good talk again.

But the journals mean that I still have a close link to him. I can still hear, in his own words, about his youth, his practice, his marriage, his children, his travels, his thoughts, his beliefs, and all the other things that mean so much to the younger generations.

He was the type who loved to archive, so he also collected his parents’ love letters, and the memoirs of a relative of his who was a nurse during the first world war.

Believe me, if you do this kind of archiving, future generations *will* be grateful. Just some encouragement from a future generation who has benefited enormously from her grandfather’s journaling tendencies. :)

12 David June 8, 2009 at 7:40 am

A great way to keep journaling is to write with your left hand if you are right handed or with your right hand if you are left handed. You will be motivated by the idea of becoming ambidextrous.

13 Jason Y June 8, 2009 at 8:29 am

I prefer Google Docs over other Word processors because, like a blog, Google Docs are:
1. saved by data-saving experts who use redundancy, backups, etc. to nearly ensure that your data will not be lost, even in case of fire or flood.
2. everywhere you have Internet access, regardless of the computer you use.

Plus, you can always save your Google Docs or blog entries locally, print them out if you must, so the storage is in your control _as well_.


If you journal on, say, Blogger, then the Blogger people keep the journal data. Depending on the blogging software / services you are using, you can generally:
1. publish the blog for all to see. You probably want to keep a hardcopy record of your login info somewhere for your family to find should something happen to you, so that they can look at your info.
2. export blog data to your computer or to another blog.
3. copy-and-paste from your Web browser to a text editor or word processor on your local machine (if all else fails).

14 russds - path to peace and purpose. June 8, 2009 at 8:51 am

I like it. it’s something i’ve wanted to do, and sometimes done, but i always am curious how other people do it, and how to be consistent. I do find that writing in a journal does help clear my head, and keep me focused.

15 Helen June 8, 2009 at 9:07 am

Dad got me started on writing in a journal,giving me one of his little pocket ones when I was 12 years old. I wrote for 13 years everyday. got married and stopped. Thanks for the post. I have to start again.

16 Bobby Miller June 8, 2009 at 9:15 am

I’ve been journaling digitally since 2004. I don’t write everyday, but often enough. Typically when something is happening in my life that I feel is worth noting down I write.

It’s one of the best lifestyle decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve got notes from events, conferences that changed my career and life, and they were times that I thought I’d remember in detail forever. Today I re-read those entries and realize that I remember little outside of what I wrote down. My writings have become my memories, and if not for them, these key points in my young life would have been lost.

Grab a smartphone, PDA, laptop, whatever you keep with you at most times, and just write about what’s going on in your life. It’ll fascinate you as you grow older they way you lived and the things you did.

17 Thomas Cox June 8, 2009 at 12:51 pm

This year I’ve been asking great business leaders what they do — as habits — to be good and get better. One of the themes that has shown up repeatedly has been to end the day with reflection and learning — to identify the victories, and celebrate them, and to identify the mistakes, and learn from them.

This is one of THE most consistent findings I’ve had so far.

I’m starting to do it as well. The trick is to capture just the key events of the day, and either identify what went right, or what you could do better next time.

Do it for 14 days and see what you notice. I’ll wager you’ll find it invigorating and inspiring.

18 Aaron June 8, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Keeping a journal also motivates you to do more interesting things and inspires you to avoid mediocrity.

19 Andrew June 8, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Awesome article! However, one correction, Evernote doesn’t work on Linux! I’ve wrote and wrote to them and they won’t answer! Hah, I’m still waiting for it! Anyway, the closest I’ve ever come to a journal is a small pocket sized Molskine I write notes in, I probably will look more into writing daily.

20 Kevin Heredia June 8, 2009 at 5:56 pm

I have been keeping a journal for about a year and I noted that I feel emotionally better when I write in it. It’s a blank page leather journal I bought in Barnes and Nobles for about $16. It has a little leather strap I like using to keep it closed. It looks very proper, something a writer would carry. That makes me feel cool when I write in it and I force myself to write as neatly in cursive as possible……

21 ScottK June 8, 2009 at 7:20 pm

I’ve been keeping a journal for just over two years on the theme of being self-employed. I find it motivates me and keeps me from giving up when things get bad. It’s incredible to read something you wrote months or a year ago and relive the experience.

I love the little composition books; there only about 89 cents each. I’ve tried fancy, expensive journals but find I can’t write in them. They’re too nice and I don’t want to mess them up by writing in them.

22 Kate June 9, 2009 at 9:19 am

This is such a realistic and inspiring guide to getting started with journaling. My only concern is that, while our grandparents worried about losing their journals or notebooks, as we journal on our computers we should be careful to back up all our data! One great tool for this, especially for those who prefer to write on a basic word processor, is Office Live Workspace from Microsoft. A plug in can allow you to automatically back up any Microsoft Office documents on your virtual Workspace, so you don’t have to worry about losing your journal. Also, you’d be able to access your files from any computer with internet access–a great help if you’re writing about your travels!

MSFT Office Live Outreach Team

23 Ken June 10, 2009 at 3:37 pm

does anyone know a good online resource to read journals of other men through history?

24 Alejandro June 10, 2009 at 6:20 pm

I’ve kept a journal almost daily since November 1983. I write my various thoughts in spiral-bound notebooks and have kept every one of them. It’s very therapeutic! You can write whatever you want without the chains of political correctness or concerns about others’ feelings. A journal is perhaps the only avenue left open for men to express themselves fully and completely in a society that seems to value our thoughts and our lives less and less.

25 TexasEx94 June 15, 2009 at 7:51 pm

I stumbled across this website today and this journal writing idea really appealed to me. I have an 8-month-old daughter and have had some recent deaths in my family. I think that I would really like to leave something behind for her for when she’s older. I might give a journal a try.

26 Mari L. McCarthy June 29, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Great article…you covered all bases. Please add Barack Obama to the list of great men in history who journal!

27 Lauren July 6, 2009 at 6:02 pm

I think it is great for men (and women) to blog/journal about anything they want. It is something that can be shown after yearsand an easy way to remember certain situations in life. This was a great article that covered a lot of information!

28 Kevin M July 9, 2009 at 5:03 pm

I read of a woman who sends her newborn son an email everyday as kind of a journal of his life. She set up a gmail account for him and presumably will turn over the ID and password when he’s old enough to understand. Kind of a round-about way of doing it, but I thought it was clever.

29 John D. Sherrill August 20, 2009 at 11:12 am

I picked up my journal again last night after it had sat idle for over 4 years. Most of my older entries were about a page long. My entry last night filled 4 pages. A lot has happened in those 4 years. We had two kids, I got my AA, I started what looks like will be my career. It was awesome to write down these things and see really how much has changed since then.

I’m also trying to use this journal as a sort of prayer journal where I can write down what I’m praying in order to keep my thoughts more focused.

Thanks for the encouraging article.

30 Brett August 20, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Thanks for sharing this with us John. I wish you luck on your journaling habit.

31 Joe Proctor October 10, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Check my journal out here. Day 1

Shameless plug, but I want people to monitor my progress. Keeps me motivated.

32 Stephen Clay McGehee December 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm

I read this blog entry back when it was first written and thought, “that’s a great idea – I ought to do it.” Then I promptly forgot about it as I let life get in the way.

On Saturday (day before yesterday), I was cleaning out some of my Dad’s old boxes of “stuff” (he died on July 9 at the age of 95). Among a stack of old insurance papers and tax returns, I found his journal that he kept while serving as a Navy officer on a ship in the Pacific during World War II. There were notes about the planned invasion of Japan, then the news that Japan had surrendered. Descriptions of going into Tokyo harbor for the surrender signing, touring the facilities of the Japanese Navy and being invited to the home of a Japanese official for tea, and thoughts about his fellow servicemen who died before that day. Lots of “everyday life” entries also. It is a real treasure. I’ll be scanning some pages from it and posting it on the web. I’ll try to write something about it here on AOM as soon as I get it scanned.

Now, THAT is a real motivation to write a journal. I just wish I had known about it so I could have asked Dad more about it. Note to my fellow AOM fans – ask your father NOW if he kept a journal. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you haven’t told him how much you appreciate him, now is a good time to do that. Tell him again if you have already – he deserves it.

33 Mark S January 20, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Just started my Journal, thanks. Using Evernote, great product!

34 Alan May 21, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Just to confirm what I’ve read here, I’m a 21 year old guy and I will reassure anyone that what is stated in this article is true. Some of best evening when I was a runt were spent outside around the fire listening to my grandfather and my older uncle talk about their life stories. Absolutley fascinating stuff.

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36 João Garcia July 8, 2010 at 1:50 am

I`ve inspired myself on writing a journal for many times and, today, is day 1 again. I started writing on it by one in the morning because I was really excited about the idea of having, again, a freeway for my thoughts and emotions. I feel a bit relieved now. Thank you, Brett, for this post and superb website.

Keep up the good work!

King regards,

João – from Brazil

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38 Mr Val October 18, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Thanks a lot for this post, i just started writing mine today after reading this article and i hope to continue. Actually, this act isn’t popular in our country/culture and i’ve never heard of anyone who kept a journal (funny), but here i am doing it….I always make a difference!! Thanks once more.

39 Madioson December 2, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Fantastic Article, I highy enjoyed it!

40 Kristina December 20, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Is your grandfather’s memoir published and purchasable by the public? If so I’d love to read it.

41 Fabio Bracht December 30, 2012 at 8:08 pm

That’s it, I’m starting a journal the first day of 2013.

And it will be analog. I’ll go to the store later today and I’m gonna buy a fine, actual, journal to write in it. I tried digital a couple of times recently, but never commited, so I want that sucker every night under my pillow, screaming to my ear: ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE OR NOT, YOU DICKHEAD?!


Also, for those who wish to start a digital journal, there’s a tool that, in my opinion, is better than any one listed here. http://www.ohlife.com

It’s a journal, it’s private, and it’s practical — you get an email every day (or every week, if you so choose) asking about how was your life. You reply to it and that’s your journal entry. It’s pretty neat.

42 Chris January 11, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Hey, this is a great article. I just included a link to it over at DailyTekk.com as part of my review of Day One for iOS.

Thanks for the info–especially the list of famous guys who had kept journals!


43 Russell January 27, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Do you spell check proof your journal. I keep mine in reg comp notebook. I have a tendency to be a grammar Nazi, but it takes away, for me, my journaling experience because I’m always double checking spelling and punctuation.

44 Alex January 27, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I love Evernote but don’t journal in it (I use Day One), but a great analogue digital mashup is to journal on paper and then photograph and import the entry to Evernote. Gives you a searchable (depending on your handwriting!) back up of you journals. There are a few notebooks and apps coming out that are designed for this very purpose.

45 George January 29, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Great article! I mostly liked the legacy effect of writing a daily journal.

46 Rich February 21, 2013 at 2:39 am

I been using Penzu.com for my journal. My brother started me when I was younger and I fell out of the habit, cant even tell you where they went. Since then I spent 10 years in inner city EMS and the as a dispatch supervisor and got back into the habit to help melt away all the crap we hide and bottle up inside us.

47 Mike February 21, 2013 at 8:39 am

I kept a journal from 1998 to 2012. I wrote everything in those books, from trips, to who my teachers were, even to conflicts in relationships. Well, a few months back, my wife found the journals, read them, and took exception to some doubts and concerns I’ve had over the years. My journals are now destroyed. 14 years of my life has been wiped away. Not sure I can ever do it again.

48 Ravi Patel February 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Day One is the journal/Diary app I use on my mac and iPhone. It’s pretty great

49 David March 8, 2013 at 8:19 am

I’m 20 and I’ve started writing a journal since late December of 2011 when I went to Israel. I wrote in it everyday there. I had to deal with my cat who I had for 11 years die so I wrote straight for a few weeks. I stopped and now I only write when something I feel every important happens. However I plan to stop that and make it a daily one. I have a small pocket size moleskin one which I plan to upgrade to a large notebook sized one.

50 Joshua Nelson April 9, 2013 at 6:08 pm

One other site you should mention for the digital medium is 750words.com – it is great. It is geared towards writing “morning pages” (roughly 750 words) every day, but it is entirely private, exportable (backups in .txt form) and free! (Note it is only free until May 1, 2013, then all new accounts will pay a small fee).

I’ve been writing off and on with that site, as well as occasionally in other notebooks. Works great. I’m inspired by this post to be more diligent in ym journalling, though

51 Bryce July 28, 2013 at 6:52 pm

I have kept a journal/diary for over two years now and it recently hit 1600 pages. It is something I do at least three days a week and the benefits of it are far reaching and hard to discuss outside of personal context. I absolutely recommend it to anyone who likes introspection.

I like to use LaTex for mine because I like that it outputs to PDF and when I first started the fact that it looked nice kept me from being too discouraged by the lack of quality content. I find that two things work against starting a journal. The doubt that anything you have to say is of any value, and the difficulty of starting any habit that requires time and effort.

My advice is to just focus on a small goal, like writing 30 pages, then 50, then 100 without ever reading what you wrote. Once you’ve written 50-100 you may find that you can’t stop because you’ve already invested the time and if the quality is lacking, you’ll have built the habit up enough that you continue out of momentum.

1600 pages and two years in and I still look back and think that it probably isn’t very good and maybe only ten pages of it in total are worth the effort. Then I think, those ten pages are sacred and if I can get an eleventh page I’ll give my arm for it. The important thing isn’t that the tile you lay be perfect or colorful or the best tile available. The important thing is that no matter what you lay another tile and then another. Eventually you stand back and peek and you see the mosaic structure that isn’t visible from where you were. Good luck to all!

52 Lyn July 31, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Loved the article. I do a newsletter called Legacy Writers’ Newsletter. I would love to include an excerpt from this article in it. I would, of course, credit you and provide a link for readers to join your blog. Please email me with any questions. Thanks!

53 Ben G August 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm

I kept a journal on my laptop for almost 3 years. It covered my senior year of high school and my first two of college. Despite working multiple jobs and going to school full time, the longest I ever went without an entry was 36 hours, and that rarely. If I was away from my laptop for a few days, I’d email myself that day’s entry so I could copy and paste it to the file. Some days were short and kind of dry, other days I would write a few pages. The file became pretty large, over 180 pages. Then……it happened. Who the h#ll is “general failure,” and why is he reading my hard drive??? Yep, the blue screen of death, and I lost everything on the laptop. Pics, all files, everything. Now I’m gonna use a notebook. The paper kind.

54 oka August 19, 2013 at 8:52 am

Ben G —-

You might be able to recover that file off that PC. Talk to a pro. Many files can be recovered…

55 Eric Kettler October 2, 2013 at 11:52 pm

I took the plunge, started keeping a journal, just yesterday, got a nice leather one, and wrote about my deployment to Afghanistan. It does help to get it on paper, get it all out there. Eight and a half pages later, I found my tour pretty well chronicled, for the most part, and I can tell you, I feel a hell of a lot better for it.

56 Bakari Chavanu October 11, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Great article. I would like to suggest Day One app for Mac, iPhone and iPad users. It very clean, easy to use, and has won a couple of Apple awards.

57 David Myers January 1, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Thank You! Great inspiration and guidance!

58 Ryan February 9, 2014 at 11:19 pm

I prefer a handwritten journal. It is cool to think that this paper of my grandpas that I am reading sat before him 65 years ago when he wrote it rather than some typed words from a word document.

59 Ryan February 9, 2014 at 11:23 pm

But on the other hand a physical journal could burn into oblivion if your house caught on fire. A whole life’s work gone in an instant.

60 Randy February 21, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I started keeping a journal on 11/21/79. It’s now over 2 million words long. There are times I wish I had never written a word….

61 Christian March 18, 2014 at 11:40 am

This is one of those posts I re-visit regularly when I’m reflecting on the habit of journaling. The example of the grandfather’s journal is a big motivation for me to continue the process.

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