Most sources agree that keeping a journal is great way to express yourself. It gives you the freedom to express yourself in any way that you like, in any way that resonates with you. A journal is a very personal object. While some people may choose to keep a journal for posterity, others will take their writing to the grave with them. So why then would I even consider writing about things that you should avoid when keeping your journal? Let me explain…
Don’t Write in Code
Never write in a coded system. If you are concerned about prying eyes, go digital and secure your memories with a password of some kind. The problem with codes is that they need deciphering, and unless you can easily decrypt it to read it (which means the code is useless anyway), you’re going to spend a lot of time decrypting and rewriting your journal entries. Why do I mention this? As a teenager I kept a journal, but it was difficult to keep anything private. If someone had got possession of my journal then I’d be “doomed” (as much as a high school kid could be). Because of this, and because amazing online tools such as Evernote didn’t exist yet, I decided to encrypt my entries. At first I started by creating glyphs or characters that replaced each letter of the alphabet, but this simple substitution cipher wasn’t enough. I eventually started to create new words to substitute English words. Now if someone managed to get my journal all they would see was a well written jumble of gibberish. To create and use this level of encryption I had to create a dictionary, a way that would allow me to write additional entires using the same encryption and also to decrypt my entries later. Now I had two objects I had to keep safe – the journal and the dictionary.
When I filled up that journal I stored it somewhere, and the dictionary somewhere else. No, over a decade later I find myself wanting to review this old journal, to try to remember what I was like back then. I have the dictionary, but alas, I cannot find the journal itself! Lets assume I do find it, it’s going to take me weeks to decipher everything I had written in that journal. Dumb.
Don’t write your journal in code, you’ll regret it in the future. If security is a big concern, using an app and secure it with a password.
Don’t Lose Your Journal
Following on from the fact that writing a journal in code is a very bad idea, it’s also a bad idea not to keep your journals safe. Over the last 10 years or so I have moved around a lot. Every time I’m careful that I know where these historical personal items are, especially my old journals. But, as time goes on and things get moved from box to box, house to house, I’ve lost track of where my journals are.
Always, always know where your current and past journals are, every single one of them.
If I had the opportunity to keep track of these journals again, I would take a photo of it with the box/cupboard/bookshelf/whatever that it belongs in and I’d store that photo in Evernote, along with its location on the map (Evernote does this for you automagically).
Bottom line – keep all your journals safe. Treat like a part of you. Always know where they are. Always.
Don’t use a Journal that doesn’t work for you
I attempted to get back into keeping a journal again after my son was born. I found a very nice italian leather bound journal with nice thick unlined pages.
My writing tended to be quite big in this book, but worse than that, it was impossible to write in it when I started to get to the bottom. There was simply nothing to rest my hand on since there was about a 1 inch drop from the edge of the page to the table. This made my writing get even worse towards the bottom of every page.
I then headed out and found a nice big journal, with lined pages and only about 1/4 thick. This was another failure. It wasn’t very portable. I could just through the journal into my bag and leave it there. And it certainly wasn’t very discreet to write it. Sure, if had a nice big oak library in my house where I could leave the journal and a nice big desk to use, it would have been ok. Sadly, I don’t have an oak library in my house… yet.
My Journal Solution
I’ve now found the perfect journal solution, and it’s so simple. It’s a Moleskine. It’s a little shorter than an iPad (when stood up) and only as thicker as a finger. I can quickly and easily fill its pages and it feels great to be making progress. I can throw it into my bag and keep it there so that its always with me and I’m writing in plain old English.
Have you had any disasters with keeping a journal? What would you recommend to others?