My Journaling Template

One journaling tool I use to help me write consistently is a “template.” There’s no shame in using one. A template is simply a prompt to think about certain things that I might not otherwise think about as I sit down to journal at the end of a long day. Many days I reach the time when I want to sit down and write, and I simply can’t think of what to say. Lots of things come flooding into my mind, mostly disconnected thoughts, and nothing much makes sense. A template helps to bring order out of chaos.

Here’s one that I’m using now, along with some explanatory notes:

A picture for the day

Since I am an amateur photographer, I often like to include a picture to document the day. This also helps remind me during the day to look for opportunities to photograph.

What I am grateful for today

I believe in the power of gratitude, so every day I try to think of at least one thing that I am thankful for.

As I prayed and meditated this morning, these were my thoughts

Some of the more profound thoughts for the day come out of my quiet time. This is when I read and meditate and so I am digging deeper into my inner self. This is really the “point” most journal keepers seek to write about.

Looking back over today, this stands out in my personal life

What were one or two things that really stood out today in this area of my life. Quite honestly, sometimes there’s nothing here (and that goes for the next two categories, also). Sometimes one of the categories fills up the day for me, and I don’t write anything about the others. That’s okay! That’s just life!

Looking back over today, this stands out in my home life

Looking back over today, this stands out in my work life

Describe today’s weather

I do this just because I want to remember what the day was like – and sometimes it helps to interpret my moods, my thoughts and perceptions.

What was the major news of the day?

This, again, just helps me to remember what was going on in the world at-large, and helps interpret moods, thoughts and perceptions.

Any particular feelings about it?

Sometimes they are very strong, such as on 9/11, and there is much to say about my feelings. Sometimes it’s not really worth mentioning (or so it seems today), but that bit of news may show a little about what our world was like during this time.

I actually came up with this template on New Year’s Eve, and already I’ve tweaked it several times. So it doesn’t have to remain static; you can make it your own. But it does have to accomplish the purpose of prompting you to think about certain things.

Within some journal programs there is also a way to create a rotating template. Each day will produce a new question or idea to write about. That is also a very viable option in template journaling. And, again, let me remind you there’s nothing wrong in creating a template to prompt your writing. Most of us need help in generating ideas, and bringing out the flow of thoughts. Once you have written your thoughts, you could even delete the prompts to create a more flowing journal experience for the reader (even if that’s just you at some future time).

Here is an entry I made just a few days ago.

A picture for the day

The drying out process was completed by               today, so we went over to the house to have a look. They left quite a mess, but everything is now dry. All the flooring in the two bathrooms, the master bedroom, the hallway, the office, and the living room were torn up and disposed of, and blowers and dehumidifiers were used to dry out the sheet rock. Some of the baseboards were pulled up and discarded, also.

Friday we meet with the flooring company to discuss our options for replacement, and to hear what the next phase will be. While we were not wanting this to happen, it may turn out to be a blessing as we try to sell our house in the near future. We have much work to do to prepare the rest of the house and the grounds.

What I am grateful for today010513_0324_MyJournalin2.jpg

I am grateful this little guy made it through the day! This is                                 , the son of            and. They rushed him to the hospital, where he is now responding and recuperating.

Father God, we praise you and thank you for the healing power of your son, Jesus. Thank you for redeeming          life!

Looking back over today, this stands out in my personal life

Today has been an emotional day. The incident with         just about drained me. I know he is no blood relation to me, but the                have been friends of ours for nearly 30 years. I performed the wedding for             and           , and just feel a closeness to them and their family, as well of                 and                  . And having a grandson or two about the same age, it just really hit me hard. When we got word he was likely going to be okay, I sat in my chair and just cried, Alma holding on to me and crying, too.

Looking back over today, this stands out in my home life

          has been sick today, aching all over and nauseated. She did come down and eat a bite this evening at supper, and watched a movie with us. Then went back to bed.

Looking back over today, this stands out in my work life

I simply don’t feel I’m getting anything done at                . I tried to line up several visits today, but was unsuccessful. I finally visited a lady in the nursing home, and had a short prayer with her. I doubt she knew anything about it, but I trust she was aware in her spirit. I need to be working full-time, so I can devote myself to ministry in ways that really count. But this is also a business, and if there’s not enough income, then paying me a full-time wage is not warranted.

Describe today’s weather

What a dreary day today! Rain most of the day with dark, heavy clouds.

What was the major news of the day?

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was released from a New York hospital on Wednesday, three days after doctors discovered a blood clot in her head.

Clinton’s medical team advised her Wednesday evening that she was making good progress on all fronts and said they are confident she will fully recover, said Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines. Doctors had been treating Clinton with blood thinners to dissolve a clot in a vein that runs through the space between the brain and the skull behind the right ear.

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Memories of Christmas Eve

Christmas GiftsTomorrow is Christmas Eve 2012. My, the year seems to have flown by; at least for this old man. As a child, it seemed it took Christmas forever to arrive! Now it just flies by. As usual, much of this year was good, and some of it was very, very bad. But, regardless of that, we’re still here, and still writing! Reviewing the year is a post I’ll take up very soon, since we’re almost to that point.

Right now, though, I want you to think about Christmas and Christmas Eve. This is the time of year most of us see the world a little more charitably, and we tend to think brighter thoughts. These are memories most of us like to savor. Particularly those of us with children and grandchildren close around.

First, I want you to think about Christmas Eve as you were growing up. What was it like at your house? What did your parents do on that evening that was special to your family? Did you attend a special candlelight Christmas Eve service? Go to Mass? Did you open presents on Christmas Eve – or maybe open just one? Was your family into the Santa Claus experience, where you left out milk and cookies, went to bed early with anticipation of Christmas Day? How was Christmas Eve celebrated at your house?

If your family did not celebrate Christmas, you can still share some memories. I am sure that as a young person, you experienced your friends celebrating Christmas, and may have wondered about what that was like. What were they doing? How did it affect you as you saws all the holiday lights on homes, Santa Claus on the front lawns, nativity sets in front of houses? Did your parents talk to you about it? Did you have conversations with your friends about what they did, how they celebrated? How did all this make you feel?

Your turn: What is your fondest memory of this season of the year?

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Journaling about Work

Men working

Jobs are an important element in our lives. We spend an enormous amount of time commuting, working, and thinking about working. We love our work, or we hate our work, or we’re just resigned to the idea that it’s a necessity and, love it or hate it, we have to endure it.

Regardless of how you feel about it, much of our lives are consumed by it, and so a lot of what you write about will involve work issues and work relationships. Processing work information is critical to our sanity! You really do need to be writing about it, talking about it, processing your feelings about it.

These days you must be very careful where you talk about work. Just so we’re clear, social networks are probably not the best place to process through what’s going on at work. Careers are jeopardized by frustrated individuals who said something on a social network that was really only a short term problem and would have been resolved quickly and quietly — except they published it on the internet. Wow! Shall we talk about nuclear fall out?

Talking to a significant other may be helpful if that person is a great listener who understands that you don’t want someone to solve the problem for you, or to even offer you solutions. You just want someone to sympathize.

One of the best ways to process through work issues is to write about them. In a private place. Like your journal.

More times than I can count, I have a better understanding of the problem, and arrive at better solutions by putting it down on paper. Without alienating a coworker, and causing World War III in the process. And I’m also creating memories at the same time. That’s also very important.

Journaling about work helps in other ways, too. It’s a simple method for tracking when you went to work for a particular company, as well as when you quit. Great for completing applications; one of my all time favorite things in the world! You can go back and see what you liked and disliked, what you accomplished and what disappointed you. Employers are actually interested in these kinds of things. One of the most difficult interview questions is the dreaded, “Tell me about a time when…..” How good would it be to review before an interview and speak to something from your experiences, recalling it as if it were just yesterday? Impressive.

When you’re journaling, don’t forget about your work experiences. They comprise much of your life.

Start journaling about your work today, and keep it going on a daily basis. Next, try to remember the excitement you felt that first day of work on this job. How does that differ from how you feel now? Describe both sets of feelings.

Now, complete a resume-like timeline of your jobs, going back as far as you can remember. Fill in any details you can think of, by the way. Be as complete as you need to be. Go back as far as the first job you held as a youngster, maybe delivering papers. Write about the excitement of being paid in cash, and how you felt about that smell of money, the feel of it, and what you bought with it.

Have fun with work! I’d love to hear your stories; please share them.

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The Fear of Spiritual Journaling

Journaling the spiritual life.

Probably nothing strikes more fear in us than the idea of writing down (that others may see) our most intimate thoughts and feelings. How in the world do I talk about my struggles with fear, anger, sex and relationships, just to name a few? How do I reveal the inner struggles that only God and I know about it, when the possibility exists that someone else, possibly my own children, will one day read these most intimate thoughts. Should I really do it?

The answer to that – at least for me personally – is yes, without a doubt.

First of all, it’s good for my spiritual life. It lets me clarify my thoughts; it lets me open up to God and put things on the table that need to be dealt with and resolved. And it lets me see the consistency with which God deals with my strengths and weaknesses.

Secondly, it creates an honest, authentic person that my children and grandchildren are much more inclined to relate to in the struggles of life. God never hid the struggles of the people who loved and followed him. Remember that he called David a man after his own heart, even though David committed adultery, and then murdered the his lover’s husband. What?! And God loved and esteemed Elijah, even those he succumbed to depression and despair.

This quote from Kahlil Gibran is so true: “If we all confessed our sins to one another, we would laugh at each other for our lack of originality.” Like it or not, my journey contains much sin – and much confession and repentance. To deny that would deny my humanity.

Most of us would be willing to admit our sin, but not with any specificity. We don’t want to address what we did, only that we did “things.” I happen to believe that those particulars are important. Our children need to see the sin we have dealt with, the ways we struggled, and the ways we overcame that sin. These are important things! The actual details of sin may not need to be revealed, but the sin does. Learning and growth are an important result for the young disciple who follows in your steps.

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Wonderful Days

I love my iPhone. Seriously, I wouldn’t function very well without it. But I do not like it when it comes to writing article-length entries in a journal or blog. The keyboard is great for texting, but not for extensive writing. For article writing, a computer is best. A tablet probably a distant second. The only redemption for the phone is that it is ever-present. Granted, that is an important factor.

For writing, my use of the phone is limited to making brief notes for my journal, which can be expanded later at a computer. But I just didn’t like any of the native apps for accomplishing that purpose.

So I tried various apps and the one I currently prefer is called Wonderful Days, by HandyPadSoft. When I began researching iPhone apps for journaling, this was about the only one I found that incorporated Evernote synchronization. There are some others now; Awesome Note by Brid is certainly a good example. Evernote synchronization allows me to get my writings into my journal program in the easiest way possible. There are now several journaling apps that are similar to Wonderful Days, but Wonderful Days was the first (at least that I found) that incorporated those features. It includes Evernote synchronization, a mood/weather setting, background and layout options, passcode protection, taking photos from inside the app, or accessing the native photos app.

I don’t think there is an app on any phone that I would use to make a complete journal entry, simply because using the keyboard cannot be fast enough for me. But to jot down ideas and quick notes to expand later, well this one is as good as any, and better than most.

What I’m really looking for is an app that will synchronize directly with a journaling program on my PC. With one major caveat: I need it to be inexpensive. Some options out there will do that, but cost upwards of $40 a year. I’m just not willing to spend the money yet for the convenience.

Maybe one day.

Have you discovered some journaling apps for iPhone or Android that synchronize in one step with a journal on the PC? What apps do you use on the phone to take journaling notes? How do you journal on your phone, or do you?

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David RM Software’s “The Journal”

There are any number of journaling programs and software available, and I’ve probably tried only a few of them compared to what’s out there.

journal suggestions writing softwareOne program that met my needs best is DavidRM Software’s, The Journal. This was one of the more comprehensive and well planned journaling programs I researched, tried — and purchased. Unfortunately, it’s only for Windows, and that may be a major drawback for some people. Since I spend so much time in front of my Windows computer, though, it served my purposes well.

First of all, the program offers an excellent word processor. It goes well beyond the basics, encompassing elements of most full-featured word processors. I include lots of photos and videos in my journal, and The Journal is able to format these easily.

There are two different types of entries you can make in The Journal; one is calendar based, where you can make entries by the hour, or by the day. The calendar system is what I use for journaling, as my personal journal is by date rather than subject. But you can also create loose-leaf, or notebook, categories. I use The Journal for blogging, because I can post to my blog directly from The Journal. So I’ve created a Notebook category for blogging that is driven by subject rather than dates. Within these loose-leaf entries you can also create sub-categories.

Another great benefit for me is the ability to link entries. You can create entry links within The Journal, and even create links outside The Journal, so you can link to something on your computer or on the internet, as well as link internally to other entries in The Journal.

The Journal can also serve as a day planner, keeping track of appointments and to do lists.

Although most people probably wouldn’t need it, you can also create different journal volumes, perhaps one for personal and one for business. You can also set up multiple user accounts, so that someone else in your household could also keep a journal. Of course, it can be secured through passwords, so that others cannot access your particular journal, and an even more powerful security system is available for an extra fee.

Although I’ve never had any issues with The Journal, I keep up with a user forum, moderated by the software’s creator, David Michael. I am truly impressed that when someone has a problem, he is always right there answering questions and providing work arounds. He also updates the software very regularly, which shows a keen interest in his product that I really appreciate.

My only negative comment about The Journal is that it is not available on other platforms. Since I use Windows, an iPhone and an Android tablet, I’d love to have just one product that could be used on all three platforms, or one that could possibly be formatted for mobile and used on the web. I know this is something that David may consider for the future, but his concentration has been making The Journal an even better product on the platform for which it was written. That doesn’t keep me from using The Journal, though. It’s a powerful tool, and one that I use daily.

You can take a look at The Journal by going to this link. Send me a comment; tell me what you think about it.

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Write – Even If It Doesn’t Feel Right

Journaling or Diary Writing Block SuggestionsThere are days when I would rather do just about anything than write in my journal. I should write; I want to write. Things happened today that I want to remember, to explain, to explore. I. just. don’t. want. to.

So what do you do when you hit those times – sometimes all too frequently?

First of all, WRITE SOMETHING. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t need to be brilliant or thought-provoking. It may just be a matter of what you did today; something to jog your memory for that future day when you really do feel like writing, and you can sit down and expand what you began today.

You could also do an outline of a few thoughts that are on your mind. Don’t expand them – just write down the main ideas or events that are on your mind right now.

Another possibility is to try a different medium. If you normally write at a computer, try writing long-hand with a notebook. If you’re an artist as well as a writer, paint for a few minutes. Take some pictures from that bottomless box – you know the one, where we all store our pictures — and jot down some of the memories you have of that picture. Just a few notes on the back of the picture will suffice, and then set them aside so you can include them in an album later.

The point is, do something to annotate this day. If you try to remember later what it was you did today, chances are it’s not going to be completely accurate. It may not reflect the right mood; you may not even remember the mood you were in.

Your turn – what do you do when you just don’t feel like writing, when you just don’t feel like making that post in your journal? How do you capture the day?

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