One can accomplish much with paper and pen and that’s no lie. I’ve been praising the virtues of keeping a physical journal as an act of self-therapy for years, myself a practitioner for over a decade now. I started journalling as a means to spark and maintain my creative thoughts, spurred on by a piece of advice my architect-trained father gave me when I asked him for help during my formative years as a writer. His advice, that I should keep a journal and write down my thoughts, ideas and emotions to strengthen my creativity, changed the way I approach my writing.
This habit of journaling I developed even carried forward into my professional career as a journalist and an author, giving me access to a database of written memories and points of reference whenever I was in doubt or needed to be reminded of how I felt at a particular point in time.
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The more ink I used, the more I developed a deeper connection with my inner voice. The beauty of journaling lies in its personalisation. You create the rules. Everything from the topic of the entry to the format and direction of your writing is entirely up to you. And the best part to this gateway to personal growth is that it's free.
I chose to keep my journal private, which gives me a greater degree of freedom to write anything I desire. This luxury of privacy in turn gives me an avenue of self-reflection ideal for reaffirming, challenging or even questioning my values as I grow, mature and hopefully become wiser. Humans are complicated creatures and choosing to spend time journalling is choosing to invest time in yourself. Ever wondered what makes you…you? Well, write it down.
- Personal growth
While I will admit that it took time for me to develop this habit of putting my thoughts on paper and developing an internal dialogue with myself, the benefits to doing so are incredibly beneficial. Typing on your phone and computer is practical, whereas writing on paper is a more personal experience. Your penmanship speaks volumes, imbuing your written journal entries with moments of anger, happiness, fear, trust, sadness and much more through handwriting. That is a level of personalisation and familiarisation that no electronic device can create. Furthermore, keeping a journal throughout the years will allow you to chart and examine your growth as an individual, which provides invaluable introspection that money cannot buy. Journaling will allow you to step back and see how you tackled past problems or if you are repeating mistakes. It may also give you a boost of inspiration when you need it the most.
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- Setting and achieving your goals
Got a new project entrusted to you by your superior? Are you thinking of starting your own business? Would you like to shred the guitar like a rock god? Great. Write it down.
Don’t underestimate the power of commitment and self-realisation. Writing down your goals, unrestricted by opinions and judgements, can be a very powerful motivator in giving us the first push we need to begin the foundation of achieving something worthwhile and fulfilling. Start with the 5 Ws and H – what, why, when, where, who and how – and build an overall picture of how you’re going to set and achieve your goals. You’ll notice that once you have a clearer image of how to achieve your goals it suddenly becomes more attainable. And if you experience bumps along the way, there’s always your trusty journal waiting to be opened.
- Stress relief
I can’t remember how many times I felt some sort of relief knowing that I could talk to myself about all kinds of problems just by writing in my journal and being able to weigh the pros and cons of a confronting situation. Journaling through the tough times in my life allowed me to transfer some of the weight of my mind into my journal, where it remained for me to revisit another day if I needed to or simply act as a genuine life moment. In contrast, I am also unreserved about writing positive experiences the likes of celebrations, accomplishments and such that occur, with these entries often becoming treasured lifelong memories I can forever cherish and revisit with the flick of a page.
- Keeping memories
I have written several volumes of journals since I began, each filled with a treasure trove of memories that I may have forgotten since cast back in to the depths of my long-term memory. Just like scrolling through your phone’s photo album and rediscovering memories associated with your photos, rereading your past journal entries will instil that feeling of nostalgia and relive your past in your own words, sometimes to an even greater degree than what photos can offer.
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How To Get Started
If you want to start journaling, first pick a journal or a notebook that resonates with you. My first journal was bright red with the Woodstock logo emblazoned on the front, chosen out of my love for music and the importance it has in my life.
You do you.
While you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, its cover can influence your affinity towards developing a bond towards it. What can I say, I admire good design. Next, get a pen that you find is enjoyable to write with. I always go for black gel pens, of which I have a preference for due to its bold ink and smoothness.
Most importantly of all, take utmost care of your journal and your pen for it will contain precious memories and thoughts.
To help foster your journalling habit, here are a few personal rules that I created in order to keep journaling fun all these years:
- There are no hard deadlines to writing an entry, I shall write when inspiration and time permits.
- I always carry my journal and pen, just in case a flash of creativity or inspiration strikes.
- I will be the sole reader of the journal.
- I will always write candidly, there are no benefits in lying to myself.
- Keep my journal safe out of prying eyes. Temptation is a strong desire that I do not wish to stir in others.
Tien Chew is an editor at luxury lifestyle magazine Robb Report Malaysia and YTL Life. In his downtime he can be found often talking about food, drink, video games and music. Follow him on Instagram at @chew_able.