Readers Write In #567: The Value Journaling Brought into my life

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Readers Write In #567: The Value Journaling Brought into my life

By Rahini David

Let’s start with the clumsy diaries

I started my first diary back in January 1998 and that is a whole 25 years ago. I wrote mundane stuff sporadically and promptly disposed it off as unimportant. I remember this as I had written about this in the year 2000 diary. Somehow taking journaling more seriously had appealed to me at the start of the millennium and the diary confirms that I went to church on 01.01.2000 and that I watched plenty of song countdowns on Sun TV and Channel [V]. But this was a mundane diary too. I often wrote that I went to computer classes and failed to write anything of importance. Who did I meet?  What were they like?What did I plan to achieve. Nothing. I just thought that recording a line here and there added a certain value and that I would like reading my diary in the future. That was far away from the truth.I tried journaling in 2006-07 the years of my only pregnancy to remember the milestones and just didn’t keep up with it.

By 2010 the habit had just died out. I remember reading this blog postby Shamminodding along.

“The entries were by turn embarrassing, pathetic, maudlin, overenthusiastic, usually happy, sometimes angsty, sometimes angry… but mostly they were mystifying. There were lots of references to people by their initials or by private nicknames that I’d coined. Who were JT and MS, among others, and who were the unfortunately named Fish Face and Aruvai Rani (Queen Bore)? Or Anju Paisa (Five Paise) or the 5H Guy? You’d think I would at least remember Fish Face and Aruvai Rani given that their names were so evocative… but no.”

That is exactly what had happened. My journal was unfathomable. The very dynamic blogosphere of early 2010s reminded me that there was so much more to personal experiences and anecdotes than “I took an auto as the bus was crowded” or “I got wet on my way home I may catch a cold later. So many bloggers (including BR) wrote about the movies and books and friends and chance encounters, and I started my first ever Journal. I wanted my own thoughts to become a photo album, but with words. I thought of journaling this time and to make it very different from what I was used to.

Is a Journal different from a Diary?

To me a diary contains pre-written dates, and a journal doesn’t. It may not be the real difference but that is how I started to see it. A diary is about what is happening on specific dates and a Journal (to me) is about what is happening in my life. I need not write regularly. But I when I write, I resolved to make sense. I also resolved to make it relatively neat and tidy but with no decorations. I used page numbers and indexed the most important pages. I could see that I wrote a Journal entry a lot different from how I wrote a diary entry. But a single B5 size notebook can easily accommodate three years’ worth of thoughts. I did not write much or regularly.

Why did it become my keystone habit?

I had already heard about keystone habits and was attempting to get into meditation with no discernible difference in anything at all.I could see that Journaling was a lot more calming and creative. I was beginning to watch YouTube videos and wanted to incorporate tips and tricks from others. I liked what people were doing but my journals remained very different from what I was seeing online.

Most journal videos showed someone making coffee and serenely jotting down what we can only assume are important thoughts after 30 minutes of Meditation and Yoga. The very thought of approaching my journal in this super self-help-y was weird. My relationship with my journals is a lot more chill.  They remain very flawed with the handwriting and sentence making inevitably showing my headspace. Each new journal eventually becomes a lot different from the one that came before it and reflects so much about me during that time and space.

The “How I Journal” automatically explains the “Why”

Journaling every week is a lot sustainable for me than doing it every day. I am not a morning person and journaling every morning is out of the question and whenever I try to journal every night before bed, it will often be about the same topics over and over. But when I journal on a weekend after finishing the usual weekend activities of shopping and cleaning, I end up writing about topics without major repetitions

I stop and think if something was unique about that week. If I attended a cousin’s wedding or nephew’s birthday, then naturally that is what I am writing about. I may glue in a part of the invitation or thank you card that came with the take-home gift. I would mention those who attended and who I conversed with most. It is not very different from what I would have updated another relative who wasn’t able to attend the same function. 

Work related topics deserve a single page every month. If a new teammate joins the team or a teammate leaves, there is usually an entry with my actual thoughts on the person included. If there is a shift in a teammate’s attitude of late, then that deserves a bullet point at least. An average work-month deserves 4-5 bullet points, and I may write them all at one go or one bullet point a week.

Health and Wellness of self and family members are similarly chronicled.  What were the symptoms, what were the medications and what did the doctor say go into a page or half. I naturally go into these with a lot more detail if it was a case of someone being very sick or admitted in a hospital.

I may write about a friend who called after so many years or about a movie that reminded me of something back in college.

But I also write about what my YouTube playlists are looking like these days. My entertainments are also a huge part of me. I remember that my Year 2000 diary was very so-so, but in the last page I had a “favourites of the year” section like a slam book and I had made a small questionnaire for myself. Questions were about favourite websites, TV Channels, TV Shows, movies, songs of that particular year.  And my favourite website of Year 2000 was It reminded me of that time of my life when I would go to a browsing centre to pick the movie that Star Movies was going to air that weekend. Just recording something so simple reminds you of that year in a way photographs cannot.

There was a page for QFR awards in 2021 and there are always multiple entries per year about BR’s blog in the past 2 decades. It shows where my interests lie and that is always quite interesting to me. It shows me who I am more than anything else.

Gratitude Journaling and Ungracious Journaling

People seem to have two extremely opposing thoughts about journaling. That it is about being good and grateful and gracious and you are to write stuff like. “Today I stepped into the garden after it had rained for one hour. The smell of rain is so beautiful, and I am grateful for my eyes that I can see and my nose that I can smell and my mouth that I can smile”. Well, I don’t know why but writing like that will make me giggle and somehow Gratitude Journaling unnerves me. I fret about if I forgot to have grateful gracious thoughts on someone. People say that with Gratitude Journaling you’d train yourself to see the silver lining in each dark cloud. I do feel grateful for all my privileges. It is just that writing about them seems to have the opposite effect of what it is supposed to be and if some one can help me here, I would be most grateful.

The other thought is that journaling is all about dirty secrets and coded words for all your unspeakable sins and that it is where you write about people you hate without reason. It isn’t. At least it needn’t be a collection of blush-worthy thoughts. People speak about keeping your journal under lock and key. I prefer to write very little about family and store it without secrecy.But I never would keep a journal when I stayed in a hostel.

Do I want to pour out my thoughts on bad days? Sure. I have been honest that I wasn’t in high spirits, but it is better to journal in a password protected journaling app for those purposes.

Artsy Journaling

The internet journaling community is divided into people who decorate their journals with costly stationary and those who believe that making your journal pretty is the worst waste of time and money. I believe in neat journaling on a quality notebook. I use a few coloured pens to make the occasional doodle of a Christmas tree or paisley pattern here and there. I may keep old wedding invitations around to cut out their cute borders for my journal. But while I restrict my journal décor and aesthetic based on my own limited talent in doodling, I don’t see why someone who can make cute rose petal borders should not go for it. Creating a page with several flower doodles and a watering can at the centre maybe your idea for journaling that day and it may relax you. It will serve the same purpose as written journaling in the long run.

Why I chose Notion as a Reading Journal

Once I started reading at a reasonable pace, I knew that my reading journal must be separate from my regular journal. My reading journal contains books I have already read, books I intend to read, funny reviews on GoodReads and YouTube and Review Sites. If I kept all those in my regular journal that is all I will have space for. After a couple of years journalling in separate dedicated notebooks, I took my reading journal into the Notion App. Just a glance at the following screenshots will show you why. As years roll by, it is difficult to look at a specific genre of books scattered in different reading journals.In an app like this I can sort it by Genre or Year and read the typewritten reviews for the favourite titles.

Fiction sorted by Genre

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