When I close my eyes and think about the most ideal time and place to write in my journal, it’s usually somewhere cozy and comfy. Maybe my favorite chair, or my bed. Or it might be outside on a beautiful day, not too hot, under a breezy tree, or looking out at the ocean.
It would be great if we could fit regular chunks of lounging time into our daily life. Time for quiet reflection with our journals, the wind tickling our faces and the grass between our toes.
But…a typical day for a busy woman does not have chunks of time for reflection in an idyllic setting. Nor does it allow for soaking up rays while our thirsty journals soak up words. We are busy. We are making decisions for other people. We are chauffeuring those same people to multiple destinations a day. We are laundering and cooking and drying tears and celebrating birthdays and planning vacations.
What we are not always doing, is taking time to write in our journals. To do one activity that can reel us in, help us focus on what matters most, and take a moment to stop and smell the roses. Or hot dogs the kids had for dinner.
That’s what this is all about! Journaling is about taking a moment out of your life to process. To dive into the terrible fight you had with your spouse. To wonder why it hurt your feelings when your best friend, always blunt and direct, told you she hated your haircut. To wonder if the chin hair you just plucked means you really are turning into your mother.
Keeping a journal is a way we stay anchored. It glues us to what we’re feeling and experiencing, and it captures the moment of now to make it a little easier to look back on in the future.
So, how do we do it? How do we fit in the time to get to our journal? Here are a few places maybe you haven’t tried yet.
The potty. Yes, I so totally went there. We all spend time in the bathroom, every single one of us. That time can be spent staring at the wall, counting the tiles, perusing social media, or writing in your journal. What would happen if you kept it in the bathroom or nearby so that you were ready to pull it out and write for five or ten minutes? It just might make you feel great when you leave the bathroom, because now you can leave two things behind.
In your kid’s bedroom, ten minutes before lights out. Set a timer for ten minutes and then both of you write. Side by side, in your own journals. Write about the day, dump it all out onto the page. This gives your son or daughter an opportunity to clear his or her mind before bed, and you get a chance to dump your day on the page too.
Waiting…for your table at a restaurant, your doctor, hairdresser, kid’s teacher, etc. This works well when you’ve got a portable journal. I keep my journal in my purse. I’m a mom and I carry an enormous bag with snacks, Band-Aids and water bottles for the entire family. One more item is no big deal. If you’re a light packer, then maybe this is the time you use a digital journal that can be accessed on your smartphone.
In the car. The car is a wonderful place. Dishes and laundry are not distracting you in the car. You can sit there, in a confined space, and write, read, sing, etc. It’s time limited because no one, not even people living in their cars, stays in their car forever. You can get what you need out of being in a confined space and then move on.
Your favorite hiding space. I like my closet. It’s an average walk-in that by some miracle has just enough floor space clear so that I can sit down with my journal and write. It feels like my own little cave with clothes all around me. When do I slip into my closet? When everyone is in bed and I don’t want to make any noise. This is great for late at night, or for returning from an early morning gym class. I grab my journal and write while I cool down after my workout. Where can you hide? Laundry room? Screen porch?
The places you go. Journals are handy for the coffee shop, your favorite lunch spot, or the library. I know several writers who head to the library to write and journal. It’s quiet, there are resources and inspiration, and often you can sit at a table or desk or curl up in a comfy chair. This could also be a great place to take the kids to do their homework. You can journal while they work on their assignments.
Keeping a journal is like chocolate. Or potato chips. Or any other vice. If you try it and love it, chances are you’ll create more opportunities to engage with it.
Sara Marchessault is a writer, publisher, teacher, and mom who is on a mission to increase joy on the planet. Through the practice of self-reflection, we become aware of what brings us joy and what does not, and we make choices to move forward or stand still. Journal writing is a powerful reflection tool that can help any of us move forward, even in the darkest of times. For ideas on how you can get the benefits of journal writing without always keeping a traditional journal, check out Sara’s book, Beyond Pen & Paper: 33 Experiments in Journaling.