I was challenged as a writer not too long ago to start keeping a journal. I’ve kept a journal on and off for good bit of my life. Sometimes it would be something that I enjoyed doing. It gave me the feeling that my life was important and significant. But sometimes it seemed like a chore; more of something I had to do. Sometimes I would get so descriptive that I basically listed every single thing I did that day. After a while of that I realized that I spent more time recording my life than I did actually living my life, so I transitioned to only record specific significant events or the like.
I consider myself a minister and as such, at one point, I changed the name of my journal from life journal to ministry record, because to me, these terms are interchangeable. I believe if you are a minister and are ministry-minded, then the entirety of your life is ministry. Ministry is not just what you do, but who you are (Am I not about My Father’s business?). Not only does that make you view your life with much greater significance, but it also challenges you to intentionally lead a life of greater significance to be worthy of that role.
As a side note, I want to make a statement about being a minister. Most people regard ministers as “holier-than-thou” or of greater spiritual significance than the majority of the populous. There are even many religions, sects, and denominations that segregate clergy from laity. I do not. I believe His entire church is called to be a royal priesthood. That doesn’t exclude certain people who are not “qualified’ by human standards. If you are a believer, you have a story, you have a testimony, and you have the Words of Truth that can help or empower someone else, whether to the lost or to a brother or sister in Christ.
As another side note on qualifications; I do not possess a degree in theology. I did not graduate seminary. Some would believe me unqualified to speak on behalf of God or the Bible. But I would imagine there are many people whose lives I have positively impacted that would say otherwise. How many lives would never have been touched had I believed the lie that I am not worthy or qualified to walk out my purpose?
I am minister without a theology degree. I am an engineer without an engineering degree. I am a musician without a music degree. I am writer without a literary degree or an English degree. Yet I walk in my purpose and excel in life. And you can too.
Back to the topic, I’ve kept a journal off and on for a large part of my life. As advice from a mentor who is a writer, I was challenged once again to keep a journal. In fact, he stated that I should keep a daily journal. I did that at one time, but quickly stopped because I was too busy. I find that humorous considering how much busier I am now than I was when I made that decision back when I was a teenager.
This mentor stated that keeping a daily journal helped in many ways. First of all, it helps you as a writer. It is difficult to keep the same level of strength in your body if you don’t constantly maintain your body’s strength. As a writer, my strength is writing, so that is the muscle I need to work out. Now, I could see marginal increase in my body’s strength if I were to work out at the gym once or twice a week, but how much greater effect do you think I will have if I were to work out at the gym five or six times a week? Writing is the same way.
I believe that as a people, we afford what we must. Meaning, if we have to find a way to pay the water bill, we will. We are resourceful and determined; if we want something bad enough, we will pursue it. So, if we feel that we have to achieve a certain level of strength then we will prioritize our lives to reach that level of strength. But as a result, the things that we do not have to afford often get shelved.
This, I believe, is the tendency for writers; writing only when they have to. This discipline of writing a daily journal causes the writer to mandate building the strength of the writer by exercising daily.
In addition to the benefit of the discipline of regular exercise, a daily journal is also rather therapeutic. Sometimes you just need to vent, and instead of choosing not to vent, or venting to the wrong person, you can vent to the paper with your pen, or the screen with your keyboard.
That brings up another issue: paper journal verses digital journal. There are a lot of writers that only accept paper and pencil or pen as writing. To them, it is as much a part of the literary art as what is penned itself. For a long time I felt that way too. But then I realized how much more quickly I type than I write, how often I misspell words, and how much easier editing is when writing virtually. Not to mention a lot of things that are written need to be transcribed to a digital form eventually anyways.
Now, I do not bring this up to try to convince people to change how they do things, just to let you know you are likely not alone in this struggle. I don’t have time to transcribe what I’ve written on paper and I am too cheap to pay someone else to do it. But that’s just me.
Keeping a daily journal is therapeutic because you can brain dump and go back and review it later if you have to. Sometimes we carry the burden of the world on our shoulders because we feel like if we set it down we will forget about it and it will never be resolved. Brain dumping everyday can help that if we put in a mechanism in place to review what we’ve dumped everyone so often. Now, I don’t personally do this, but I could see some benefit in it.
Another benefit from keeping a daily journal is mental health and organization. What I mean by that is when we are forced to write something, or give a verbal account, we have to organize it to make sense enough to present. It doesn’t matter our audience, the subject, or our level of knowledge on the topic, due to our early literary education and the expectancy of our society, when we have to present any information, whether written, spoken, or otherwise, our minds are forced to organize the information in a logical format for presentation. Often times, our thoughts remain jumbled because we never force ourselves to present the information, so our minds never organize it. The simply discipline of writing in a daily journal causes our everyday lives to be structured in our minds in a logical format for presentation.
Of course, constantly presenting information in a daily journal naturally makes you a better writer because you are exercising the literary practices of coherency and cohesiveness. It becomes such a standard practice that your literary exercise doesn’t even seem like exercise anymore.
Now that we have covered the reasons for keeping a daily journal, let’s look at the practical application. Writers are often taught to write with an understanding of your audience. This will affect how you write in your journal. Is this something no one will ever read? Is it something you would only share with your significant other? Is it to be a source for an autobiography or biography? If you make that decision ahead of time, it will help you be consist in your daily writing.
In considering your audience, do they care about everything you did today? No matter who the audience is, the answer is; not likely. You could be very specific, saying that you woke up, used the restroom, and ate breakfast, describing what you ate and why and how it tasted. Then how you went to the gym and what workout you did and how that’s improved over the last week or month. Then how you went to work and how bad traffic was on the way. How when you got to work you had a pile of projects waiting for you and an angry boss and so on. You could list all that, but likely the only person who might be interested in the specifics of your day is going to be you and maybe your significant other.
Don’t get me wrong—if that is your purpose, then go on with your bad self. You will still enjoy many, if not all, of the benefits I‘ve already listed. But if your audience may include more than just yourself and/or your spouse, or simply in the interest of controlling the time you invest in a daily journal, you may want to limit what you record.
But how do you limit the content in a daily journal? That is something you must decide. I’ve listed several benefits of keeping a daily journal, but you will have to determine your ultimate purpose. For a long time, mine was a ministry record, so it’s focus and purpose was recording ministry related activities and the like. This time around, I’ve decided that I would pick the highlights of the day and record them, explaining why they were significant enough to record and my thoughts and feelings about those events. I personally believe not everything is worth recording and the significance has to be pretty high for me to bother recording it. You may have a different purpose and that’s perfectly fine.
Something I was just challenged with today is to list three wins for the day. They don’t have to be epics wins, like becoming a New York Times Best Seller, but just a win for the day. It could be that you went biking with your spouse and you had a good time. It was a win for your day. This causes you to search your daily activities for success, which makes you more success-minded, but it will eventually cause you to purpose your daily life to be more win-oriented.
Additionally, the same person challenged me to also list three things each day that you are grateful for. This will help foster an attitude of gratitude. I have not yet implemented these two new challenges yet, but I intent to starting today.