When Your Heart Speaks, Take Notes

Woman sitting against tree writing in notebook
Credit: Blend Images

The first time I looked at Jay-Z’s book Decoded, I thought it was a collection of thoughts, poems, songs that he wrote and made it look like a journal. Although that’s not an exactly accurate description, it is an artistic book, and it’s clear that he has a way with words.

Rappers–the ones who still write their own rhymes, that is–basically capture their thoughts on all kinds of topics and then spit them. I don’t know that any of them would necessarily consider their writing as journaling, but to me it is almost the same thing–writing in the form of journaling helps release a lot of mental stress so that you can try to process it and make sense of it. For anyone who goes beyond the beat and actually listens to song lyrics, you can see what I mean.

One of the things that makes my book What’s Wrong With Me? different from other teen self-help books is that is based on the authentic thoughts and situations I had growing up. Although it’s been one to two decades since the actual occurrences, I didn’t have to strain to remember things, make up facts, or fill-in-the blanks; I could go directly to one of  my15+ notebooks diaries and journals and see exactly what I said about those situations as they went down.

Getting Started with Journaling

Journal pageIt’s not hard to start journaling, so long as you don’t overthink it. You can use any notebook or simply a sheet of paper. Get into a comfortable atmosphere where you’re not distracted by anyone, and simply let your thoughts flow. They don’t have to make sense to anyone else–you are the only audience. Writing in a journal is a bit safer than recording your thoughts on video–it’s not easy to share. Write freely–be uninhibited. Say whatever’s on your mind, and whatever’s in your heart–just let it flow. Your handwriting, grammar and punctuation do not matter here. PC or not, let her rip. Believe me, writing in a freeform, brainstorm, unfiltered kind of way will help you release a lot of stress and help you think through your problems. Or you can just make a list of the things your grateful for (a gratitude or blessings list). If you pray, you can make a list of things you prayed about and God’s answers. The ways you can use a journal are limitless.

I’ve often heard of this technique to release bad feelings, such as writing an unedited letter to someone who has hurt you. But you can also write about good things that happen as well. I enjoy looking back from time to time and seeing my personal growth and progress. I can also see patterns of thought and inconsistencies with my goals.

Some people compare the concept of journaling to blogging, thinking of a blog as an online journal. I can see the reasons why they think these two methods (journaling and blogging) are similar, but to me, blogging doesn’t measure up. There is just something about writing your thoughts with a pen that engages you more than typing them. Somehow, someway, writing things down shows you how real they are to you.

When you’re starting out with journaling, don’t put pressure on yourself to write for a set length of time or a certain time of day (unless you need that type of consistency to get you in the habit). I would suggest you aim to write at least weekly, if not every few days, so that you don’t forget the types of events, reflections, and revelations you want to record.

Journal Chat

If you like to tweet and want to find out more about journaling or join a conversation about it, you can start by searching o Twitter for the #JournalChat hashtag. JournalChat is a weekly Twitter chat (Thursdays at 5 pm EST) where participants discuss various facets of journaling. Of course if you can always search on that hashtag anytime and get interesting links and discussion about journaling.  http://twitter.com/journalchat

Have you ever kept a journal? How often do you write? How does it help you?

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2 thoughts on “When Your Heart Speaks, Take Notes

  1. I kind of kept a journal, but for some reason I always feel uncomfortable writing out my feelings and expressing them for fear of someone finding it, people are nosey! But the Jay-Z idea has really struck me, I do write hip-hop lyrics from time to time and I hope to do it more often like I used to before, it is very satisfying to produce rhythmic poetry that just sounds good too.
    I don’t know, I might start a journal during university but we will see. Loved your post by the way. 🙂

    1. Thank you Element. I forgot to say that I have to have pads of paper with me in the car and around the house so that when ideas strike, I can record them quickly. So whatever comes to you, whether it’s lyrics or feelings or something profound that a friend says to you–just write it down. 🙂

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