Effectively Keeping a Journal
This article tells you the “how,” but Why Write a Journal tells you the “why.”
“The subject of keeping a journal, log, or diary goes in many different directions. There are so many psychological and therapeutic reasons and uses. But, the family history minded person has unique feelings about their personal journals and the writings of their ancestors. They are priceless links between generations.” (Regan, Robert. “Treasure Maps,” monthly e-mail genealogy newsletter)
President Kimball has given us some important instructions on the matter of keeping journals: “Let us then continue on in this important work of recording the things we do, the things we say, the things we think, to be in accordance with the instructions of the Lord. . . We hope that you will do this, our brothers and sisters, for this is what the Lord has commanded. Those who keep a journal are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives. . . Journals are a way of counting our blessings and of leaving an inventory of these blessings for our posterity. . . Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. I promise you that if you will keep your journals and records, they will indeed be a source of great inspiration to you, each other, your children, your grand-children, and others throughout the generations.” Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 349-351.
Eventually, your posterity will want to know who you where. A journal is the best way for them to learn about you. While doing family history research, it is a gold mine when I come across a journal because it tells there story, how they met their spouse, their feelings, experiences, and it creates a way for me to connect with my ancestors.
Why Write a Journal Now?
President Kimball has stated, “Your story should be written now while it is fresh and while the true details are available. Your private journal should record the way you face up to challenges that beset you. Do not suppose life changes so much that your experiences will not be interesting to your posterity. Experiences of work, relations with people, and an awareness of the rightness and wrongness of actions will always be relevant. Your journal, like most others, will tell of problems as old as the world and how you dealt with them.” (“President Kimball Speaks Out on Personal Journals,” New Era, Dec. 1980, 26)
Benefits and Value of Keeping a Journal
Writing a journal can help facilitate in reducing stress, setting goals, and improving your well-being. President Kimball said, “People often use the excuse that their lives are uneventful and nobody would be interested in what they have done. But I promise you that if you will keep your journals and records, they will indeed be a source of great inspiration to your families, to your children, your grandchildren, and others, on through the generations. Each of us is important to those who are near and dear to us — and as our posterity read of our life’s experiences, they, too, will come to know and love us. And in that glorious day when our families are together in the eternities, we will already be acquainted.” (Speaks Out)
Where to Write Your Journal
There are many choices of where to record your thoughts, feelings, desires, ideas, and dreams. Many people use the standard book method, while others record their journal onto the computer, in video format, or even audio format. A combination of many different methods would make an excellent family history resource for future generations. Some other methods include scrap booking, consistent letters and e-mails to family and friends, and calendars/planners.
What to Write About
The beauty of keeping a journal is that it is your book. You get to choose not only when to write, but what to write. Do not treat your journal as some kind of holy thing that you can only put deep thoughts in. This about your REAL life. Let it show who you really are. Don’t ever think, “I’ll never forget this day, this person, et cetera.” 40 years is a long time and you might not be able to remember your phone number, let alone the special person you liked in the third grade. I personally write about things that happen in my life each day, whether secular or spiritual, along with my personal thoughts and ponderings. I mark those entries that have great spiritual significance to me such as answers to prayers, testimony, and other spiritual experiences from the temple or scripture study. Elder Richard G. Scott said, “Knowledge carefully recorded is knowledge available in time of need. Spiritually sensitive information should be kept in a sacred place that communicates to the Lord how you treasure it. This practice enhances the likelihood of your receiving further light.” (“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86.)
If you feel that your life is so mundane that you can’t bear to write about it, try journaling your history by answering questions. Here are some questions that may help you start writing: How many places have you lived? What time frames were you in each location? How did you meet your spouse? How did you/he propose? What is your fondest memory with each of your siblings? What is one of your most spiritual experiences? What are/were your parents like? If you had 8 hours of free time and unlimited resources, how would you spend that time? What are you most afraid of and why?
“We sometimes forget that the everyday world around us now quickly becomes altered by time. People and experiences now very common to us become unfamiliar in just a short time. People whom we think will be our close friends forever move away, and we lose contact. Relatives, now important in our lives, die. Old buildings are replaced by new structures. Kids’ games, teenage social customs, family daily activities, Church activities, and styles in dress and music change. So do our personal concerns, interests, tastes, abilities, and goals. WE CHANGE. Scene by scene, therefore, our lives should be reflected in our journal as fully and as accurately as possible.” (William G. Hartley, “Diary and Journal Ideas,” New Era, Mar. 1977, 39)
Tips for Writing
* Entry Dates – Always date each entry with Day of the week, Month, Day, and Year, and sometimes even the time of day.
* Descriptions – Tell the who, what, where, when, and why of the things you do. Relate the decisions you made and how you reached those decisions.
* Names – Give the full name of a person when mentioning him/her for the first time. People who we think will always be our close friends may move away, and we may lose contact and forget names and situations.
* Paper – Use acid-free paper; it will last longer without getting brittle or yellow
* Ink – Use a good quality black ball-point pen and paper. Never use messy felt-tip pen, colored pens, or pencil, because over a period of time these will become blurred, smudged, or faded.
* Pages – Number your journal pages. Paper clips, staples, and pins rust, so they might stain journal pages. Over time, most tapes and glues become brittle and no longer hold. Newspaper clippings cause journal pages to turn yellow.
* Table of Contents – Reserve a couple pages in the front of the journal to record the page number of important happenings.
* Frequency – Write something every day or at least once a week, and write for at least 15 minutes. It takes that much time to develop an idea.
* Time of Day – Set a specific time of day to write, such as evening before you go to bed, or early in the morning when you wake up.
* Place to Write – Consider a certain place to write, one that when you sit there, you think of writing in your journal, or carry your journal around, and write down thoughts and ideas as they come. (or take loose papers with you on trips — they can be added later).
* Place to Keep Your Journal – Your journal should be placed where you will see it every day. (I do not mind taking vitamins, but if I do not see them I do forget to take them.)
* Reading your Journal – Spend Time with Your Journal. Read your past entries to check on your writing style and content. Rereading revives memories and may suggest something else to record.
* Reminiscing – Writing about an event that you witnessed today may remind you of something that happened in the past. Write it down while it is on your mind.
Things to Write About
* It is all right to mention problems, doubts, and dislikes, but emphasize normal days and happy times.
* Talk about how you feel and what is going on in your life
* Tell about the funny or embarrassing things that happen in your life.
* Note family events, vacations, weddings, deaths, special activities
* Note medical history, both personal and family. When did you go to the dentist? When did your sister have her baby?
* Make a record of music you listen to, movies you watch, books you read, and what you think of them
* Note the prices of things, how much is a CD, a gallon of milk, stamps, a candy bar, ticket to the movies, etc.
* Record typical outings with your family and friends
* Write about a special lesson, talk, or activity to help you remember it.
* Write thoughts, quotes, maxims, aphorisms, sayings, proverbs, poems, etc. that you find thoughtful and inspirational.
* Write about deaths, births, marriages, baptisms, and endowments
* Write about personal triumphs, failures and struggles and how they were met
* Write about personal counsel, promises, and blessings received and the circumstances surrounding them
* Write about current events (local, national, and world) that impress you or influence your life
* Write about good AND bad days. It can be a source of inspiration and comfort for your descendants to see that “Grandpa” was human too.