Saturday, April 24, 2010

Add a Table of Contents or Index to make your Journal Searchable

There have been several times when I've wanted to look back at something I've written in my journal, whether it be a favorite poem I've copied down, or the name of a book I was thinking about reading. I typically would have had to sift through my box of filled (or somewhat filled!) journals and flip through page after page, hoping to find what I was looking for. Inevitably I would get side-tracked, as my search would end up being a stroll down memory lane.

I have a couple of solutions to making your journals more searchable: create an Index or Table of Contents in your journals.


An index is a list of words, phrases, names or subjects that you perceive to be important. Examples could be the obvious occasions such as "prom" or "engagement" or your "son's birth." Less common examples might be "double rainbow" or "writing spider on front porch."

Table of Contents

A table of contents is just what you would find in a book or large document: a list of parts in the order in which they appear. You know... Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, etc., or Bill and Mary Met, Bill and Mary Fell In Love, Bill and Mary Got Married.

In my case, my journals are mostly about random nothings (though no less important!) and have the occasional nugget of wisdom or something of great importance that I don't want to forget. A table of contents probably wouldn't work well for me, because so much would be insignificant and that would make it hard to find the significant entries. So an index works best for me.

In a typical book, the table of contents goes at the beginning, and the index is at the end of the book. However I usually put my index at the beginning. When I begin writing in a new journal, I skip the first one or two pages, and label them as the index. Then, as I'm writing entries, if I think that a particular entry is something that I might want to come back to later, or is just something that I want to remember, I'll make a note of the subject matter and the page number on the index page.

Happy Journaling!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Reader Input for Fun Friday

I had a great idea for a weekly feature here at Journal Keeper.  Every Friday would be "Fun Friday!"  Everybody loves Friday.  It signals the start of the weekend.  If you work in an office, you may have "Dress Down Day" or "Casual Friday," and if you have a really cool boss, you get to wear jeans!  (I have yet to hear of someone letting their employees wear ratty T-shirts and sweat pants to work on Fridays.  That, to me, would be the ultimate Friday.)  So that was my idea for Journal Keeper Fridays -- do something fun and casual.

But that's where my idea stops.  My mind is drawing a blank.  Sure, I could post cute videos or pictures or post links to other websites that are fun.  But none of those ideas quite fits the bill.

So, I'd like some reader input.  How would you like to celebrate Fun Friday at The Journal Keeper?  C'mon, don't be shy.  There are no wrong answers!  Please post your comment below.

Thanks for your help!

~ Sharon

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Three Little Words

Did you know that you have an internal editor?

I picture my internal editor being a little mouse of a man named Marcus. His small stature, balding head and beady little eyes are a contrast to how brutual he can be when I am writing. Whether I am writing in my journal, writing an article, or working on any of my other writing projects, he will show up uninvited and give his unsolicited opinion on what I have written. And a lot of times he will tell me what he thinks before I've even gotten the words down on paper!

"You're going to write that?!" he says.

"No, no no. That just doesn't make any sense."

You may have been approached by your internal editor, but just looked at him queerly and turned away, like bumping into a man on the street who tries to sell you his shoes. You may have had an ongoing dialogue with him, and have become so frustrated that you don't even try to write anymore.

Don't get me wrong. This internal editor fellow (or maybe yours is of the female persuasion) can be quite valuable. His skills come in handy when you are editing something you have written, such as a research paper or article or story. But he has no place whatsoever interfering when you are writing that first draft, and he certainly should not butt in when you are writing in your journal.

Well, I have a neat way to help you get that writing done quickly and beautifully, and that busy-body won't even know you did it. And you will have so much fun!

It's called the "Three Little Words" Writing Machine. I learned about it while taking a correspondence course on how to write a book in 14 days. Here's how it works:

1. Choose three completely random words.
2. Write as fast as you can for five minutes using the three words.
3. One word must begin the first sentence.
4. The remaining two words must be included in the first paragraph.

Now, it is important to choose your words quickly, and then begin writing with them even quicker. Because if that internal editor of yours gets wind of what you are doing (and remember, he is fast!), he will start in on you before you know it.

You can get the three words from anywhere except your imagination. Two ways that have been successful for me are:

1. Have a friend or partner give you three random words out of a book.
2. Use a random word generator from the internet.

Give it a try. I guarantee that you will be amazed by what you've written after five minutes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Word Prompt #1

There will be some days when you sit down with your journal, open to the next available blank page, and freeze. You want to write, you know that there's something important up in that brain of yours, but you're just drawing a blank. That's called Writer's Block. (Incidentally, if you have never suffered from writer's block, you are very lucky and one rare breed!)

A good way to get past writer's block is to use a prompt. We've already talked about the photo prompt, but in this post I'm referring to a word prompt. A word prompt can contain a single word, a group of words, a question, or a statement. The prompt is simply a way to jump start your mind and to get thoughts flowing again. When you're using prompts, it's always a good idea to write as fast as you can.

Each week I will post a random word prompt, and you will be invited to write in your journal for 15 minutes about whatever the prompt brings to mind.

Here's today's word prompt*:

Pick any color and write about where you have seen that color today, and what feelings that brings up.

Remember, write in your journal as fast as you can.

Happy Journaling!

* Today's prompt comes from David Kellin at the Journal Prompt Library. Visit his site if you'd like more prompts!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Longhand Journal vs. Blog

According to The Future Buzz, the number of blogs indexed by Technorati since 2002 is 133,000,000. Additionally, 346,000,000 people read blogs (comScore March 2008) -- that's 77% of all active internet users!

Many of those blogs are about a certain topic, whether it be politics or religion or quilting. But many of them are also in the form of personal journals where the blogger can document their daily lives, thoughts and feelings for the whole world to see.

Typing your thoughts into an internet blog can have its own rewards. Some feel that "putting themselves out there" gives them a thrill. In a way, they're being published! Some blogs gather quite a large following of readers, and in some cases readers and bloggers have become fast friends.

One very important thing to consider before you start blogging is what was mentioned a moment ago: your blog has the potential to be read by the whole world! Some journalers (this one included) shy away from sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings with the whole world. Some things are too personal and meant for only for the writer.

The good thing is that journalers have options available to them. They can journal the "old-fashioned" way by writing in a book or on paper, or they can type away on the keyboard into an online blog. Or they can do both!

The choice is yours. I invite you to give blogging a try if you haven't already. There are many free blogging sites out there (I've listed a few below).
What is your favorite form of journaling? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with others!
And Happy Journaling!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Photo Prompt #1

Hello, and welcome back to The Journal Keeper!

You know, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words. That is true. And in fact, the same picture can mean different things to different people. Two people may see the same picture, but their minds may tell each of them a totally different story about what they are seeing.

Pictures are a good tool to use in your journaling. They can even help to generate ideas for stories or articles or poetry. Try it out. Take a look at the photo below. We all probably see the same cat curled up in the same toilet. But our minds are telling us each a different story about how the cat came to BE in the toilet. Or we might be reminded of a cat we used to have, or of the time the toilet became really clogged and flooded the bathroom floor. Just let your mind do its own thing.

Write in your journal for 15 minutes about this photo. What do you see? How does it make you feel? Does it make you think of anything in particular? Write as fast as you can, and don't stop to re-read or edit what you've written.

Each week I will post a random photo, and you will be invited to write in your journal for 15 minutes about whatever the photo brings to mind.

Until next time, Happy Journaling!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What Is This Journaling You Speak Of?

This post originally appeared on my previous Journal Keeper blog, which never really got off the ground.  No one can ever say I don't recycle!

While some of you have been writing in a journal or diary for some time, there are still those who have never put pen to paper to pour out their thoughts. So today I'd like to speak to them directly. You "old-timers" are welcome to stick around. There will be doughnuts and coffee afterward.

To the newcomers, first let me say Welcome Aboard! You are beginning a journey that will be fun and enriching and enlightening. So let's get started.

What is a journal, you ask? Merriam-Webster says that a journal is a record of experiences, ideas, or reflections kept for private use. I'd say that's pretty close for our purposes.

Your journal can act as a diary where you record what happens in your daily life, such as what the weather was like, what you ate for breakfast, or what your three-year-old did to the cat. While a journal can be so much more, this purpose can be very useful. Think of the fun your grandchildren will have when they go through your cedar chest packed with aged notebooks with yellowed pages, and read about the minute details of your life. And seeing it in your own handwriting will add another level of interest and meaning. Think of the diaries written by soldiers and farmers and prisoners many years ago. Those entries, which may have seemed mundane to the writer at the time, have given us great insight into what life was like for them.

Aside from being a record of your daily life, your journal can serve you on a much deeper level. Recording your hopes and dreams and wishes can help you better focus on what you want to achieve and accomplish. It can be a great place to define your goals and map out how you are going to get there. And along the way you can record your progress to monitor how things are going. On those days when things just don't seem to be going as planned, you can review the entries in your journal to remind yourself of the progress you have made and the hurdles you have overcome.

Your journal can also be a place for refection. I have found, and it has been proven, that writing in a journal during tough times can be therapeutic. It helps to get all of the "stuff" out of your head, and getting it down on paper is the next best thing to crying on someone's shoulder or smacking someone in the face (which, by the way, this blogger does not recommend). I have found that sometimes after I have vented in my journal, I'll go back days or weeks later to reread the entry and find that what I was frightened of or mad about turned out to be not that big of a deal after all.

Let me finish by saying that your journal can be anything you want it to be. Do you like to draw? Your journal is perfect for that. Do you like to collect Garfield cartoons clipped out of the newspaper? Your journal is perfect for that. Do you like to write clever haikus? You guessed it, your journal is perfect for that.

Later I'll break down each of the different "types" of journals. And I've got some awesome tools that will help you map those goals and vent about your newspaper-stealing neighbor. We're going to have a lot of fun here. Until then, grab that favorite pen and composition notebook, turn to that first crisp blank page, and begin.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What's To Come

For the most part, I'm the type of person who likes to know where I am going before I set out on my journey.  I don't like to just get in the car and go for a drive.  I don't like to window shop or walk through the mall just to browse.  I'm a planner by nature, and along with knowing what the final destination will be, I also want to know what's going to happen on the way to that destination.

No, I don't live in a perfect world, and sometimes I don't get my way.  But I like to keep that to a minimum as much as possible.

So along those lines, I'd like to take some time to let you know what my plans are for The Journal Keeper.  Hopefully the delightful anticipation will prompt you to click on the Subscribe button so you won't miss a thing!

Where We're Going

First, I want you to know that our journey here at The Journal Keeper will likely not come to an end.  I know, I know... I just finished telling you how important the destination is to me.  But there are some cases -- and this is one of them -- where the journey is more important than the destination.  Ours will be a journey of growth and discovery that will continue for as long as you let it. 

How We'll Get There

As I mentioned previously, I have learned a lot about journaling through my own writing and from years of reading about journaling.  Here are some of the topics we'll cover:

~ the advantages of journaling
~ personalizing your journal
~ dozens of tools and prompts

Most importantly, though, I want this blog to be a sharing experience. You may have your own ideas about journaling, and I want you to share them! There will be opportunities for you to participate in polls and discussions, and you may even be a guest blogger! At any time you can leave a comment, or you can send an email to me directly at sharon at journalkeeper dot com.

There will be daily posts, and eventually we'll settle into a regular schedule for the types of posts (more on that later)

So, that's the plan.  I'm excited about this journey, and am looking forward to having you along. 

Until next time, happy journaling!

Welcome to The Journal Keeper

Hi there!  My name is Sharon, and I am The Journal Keeper. 

I've been journaling in notebooks for years.  I'm one of those creative types who loves to put a good pen to a good notebook.  I have my favorites but am not opposed to using a BIC pen in a marble-covered composition notebook.  There's something about the act of writing by hand that helps to soothe me, and filling my notebooks gives me a sense of accomplishment.   

I also love to read about journaling.  I'm interested in how other people journal, why they journal, and where their writing takes them.

Along the way, I've learned that journaling has many benefits.  There are many methods and tools that can be used to help in different areas of life.  

Although I am a pen and paper type of gal, I am also drawn to the blogosphere.  I'm starting a blog because, although my first love is pen and paper, I want to make a place in the blogging world to share what I've learned about the journaling craft.  While this is not my first attempt at blogging, I hope it will be the one that endures.

I'm happy that you stopped by.  I'm just getting started, so there's not much to look at right now.  I'm working hard to have some content ready for you.  Before you leave, be sure to bookmark this blog or subscribe to it so you can be notified as soon as a new post is available.  I also encourage you to leave comments. 

Until next time, happy journaling!

~ Sharon