Diaries…journals…and Write Your Life

Keeping a diary is very different to journaling or writing but I think it is an equally important activity. It is useful and productive as part of a wider recorded progress plan. BUT keeping a diary and scheduling in appointments and meetings is based far more on an organizational management and scheduling process than a chance to write for inspirational or creative flow.

While it is important to be able to plan our weeks and months in advance to make best possible use of our time, diarising is not about exploring our goals in detail or clearing the inevitable clutter that we have accumulated. It is useful and essential but very different to journaling and writing.

Journaling has had and continues to have a massive renaissance. Journaling today is far more than writing in a ‘dear diary’ style and now there are crossovers with scrapbooking involving the addition of physical materials, objects, drawings and photographs. We use bullet points, lists, poetry and prose to capture a moment in time that we want to cherish or ideas for things that we would like to do. An entire industry has grown up around creative journaling that now extends far beyond the written word. It is popular, fashionable and helpful, giving enormous pleasure to those who document their lives in this way.

Daily writing the WRITE YOUR LIFE way is an entirely different but complementary activity. The programme was created because I saw the effect that daily, focused and intentional writing had on groups of people I was working with at the time. Daily writing exercises and the WYL process are about moving forward-yes we all need moments of reflection but daily writing is about focus, setting clear intentions and finding ways to make things happen-one sentence at a time.

Keeping a diary, creative journaling and daily focused writing all have their place and should be celebrated for their individual values and contributions to personal development as well as for their huge collective impact.

In a digital age we need to pause. Any kind of writing or creativity allows us to do that and it’s something we should all do more of-more of the time. Daily writing works because it sets us up for the day ahead, clearing our minds by letting the pen dance across the pages. It brings ideas to the forefront of our minds, is intentional, precise and personal. It feels less like ‘work’ because we are not bashing away at a keyboard but also tells us that we mean business. If you write it-you will do it. If you just think it then you probably won’t.

I love paper diaries and always use one alongside a planner. I write down all I need to do and divide up my time accordingly. I am not and never have been a process driven person BUT I fully acknowledge how important it is to have systems in place  and I have had no choice but to embrace this! I now know that I need apps and digital interference (!) to help me stay organized and on track. My business IS the business of writing and I need organizational tools just like everyone else. I need to be able to share and collaborate with my team and I need a kick in the pants to get things done. 

Paper diaries and planners are restrictive writing resources but entirely necessary, and yes I also need apps and systems to keep me organized because that way I know that I always have space to write.

Diaries and planners are designed to be restrictive and controlling that is their primary function and it is good that they work in this way because we all need to be organized-even us creative entrepreneurs!

Writing in a notebook is a very different activity and performs a very different function that leads to a very different outcome. Our notebooks are where the magic happens! It’s where our ideas are born and take shape as they flow from our hearts and minds onto the page. This very blog started life as an idea that became a series of post it notes and postcards and quickly filled several notebooks before it went anywhere near a screen or a keyboard!

So to summarise, here as Isee it are the significant differences between diaries, journals and intentional daily writing:

DIARY: A book with spaces for each day of the year in which one notes appointments or information.

An official and organized object designed to keep us on track.

JOURNAL: A daily record of news and events of a personal nature.

A reflective and passive object.

WRITING: The activity or skill or occupation of composing text. The act or process of one who writes.

An active process that can be used intentionally and specifically.

Why write?

In a super fast digital world where we rely so much on technology for business and leisure surely writing by hand is out dated, out moded, old fashioned, clunky, slow and irrelevant?

But it is because we are occupying such a super fast digitally connected age that we really NEED handwriting.

It is a different process that creates different outcomes. When we write for work or business, we will inevitably use a screen and a keyboard. It can become a chore but it’s quick, and that’s its major appeal-the speed at which we can get things done. It‘s also very easy, looks nice and neat and ordered with perfect spacing, precisely formed letters and nice, neat uniform straight lines. It is business like and its fast-super fast if you are a particularly speedy typist!

I am NOT suggesting we don’t use keyboards and screens-I need them as much as anyone else-but where’s the harm in using writing in a more mindful, absorbing and intentional way? There is an argument for every one of us to utilize writng by hand more-whether we are engaged in a planning process for our business, making plans for the rest of our life, simply planning a specific project or just seeking clarity and focus. Life is about progress and moving forward and intentional writing can play a major part in that process. When we write by hand we have to consciously think about what we are doing and how we form the letters, and as our brains and cognitive function continue to accelerate rapidly towards overload we need to press pause and embrace the process of handwriting more!

Having unlimited access to so much incredible (although not always strictly ‘credible’!) information is amazing and often useful but we need to upgrade and install a filter. We don’t need to be on 24/7/365 to feel like we are part of something, we don’t need to be permanently updated to feel like we are living in the moment. What we DO need to do is switch off the white noise, quieten the internal chatter and focus on ourselves, our projects, our businesses and our lives.  It is time to remember what we are really here for, what’s important and the contribution we can make and we can do all that by using a daily writing habit.