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Day One and Learning to Journal

To follow up on the idea of capturing it and trashing it I wanted to talk about journaling, which I’ve started doing, and how it relates.

First, a bit about what I’m using.

Day One

I only starting journaling after discovering an application called [Day One](http://dayoneapp.com, which is available for Mac and for iOS. It’s a beautiful, simple app which lets me focus on writing. It has a great design and some smart features that fit well with a journal app. Some of its features include: Password protection of your journal, favourites, reminders, a calendar view, and Dropbox sync.

Day One for Mac also includes a clean and simple Menubar applet which lets you add new entries at a single keystroke’s notice.

Do You Need an App to Journal?

Do you need to buy a special app to be able to journal? No, I just buy a lot of apps. What I’ve found though is that being able to use one application for the job has helped me keep it going.

Along with using Day One for my journaling, I use a few different apps, each for a different writing goal. I use Byword for my blog, nvAlt for my notes and ideas, and for work related writing I like to keep all that in Evernote. What I like about this system is that I never get the different kinds of writing mixed up between apps, and I have one place to do one type of writing.

How Journaling Helps me Write

Two years after I started my blog I slowly got more serious about improving my writing. Since then I’ve read a few books on subject including Bird by Bird and On Writing Well. One simple and pretty blunt piece of advice I’ve come across that has stuck with me has been that to become a better writer you need to write more. This means doing actual writing, not planning or brainstorming, but filling pages up with words over and over again. It means writing consistently, and doing it every day.

Journaling helps me in a few ways.

  • It forces me to think through what I’m feeling and thinking.
  • It helps me clear my head.
  • It helps me start writing.

Articulating and Reflecting on Thoughts

I always do a bad job of journaling when I try to simply write what I’m thinking. If I don’t take the time to prepare, what I write comes out a big mess, and I don’t get any insight from it afterwards.

So before I write anything I need to prepare. I start with working to better understand what it is I’m thinking. I try to understand what I’m thinking clearly so that I’m able to articulately write it out. Then, once I’ve written my thoughts down and they’re out on the screen in front of me, I can better reflect on them. Once I’ve reflected on my thoughts, any answer that come to me or any new ideas that emerge get written down also.

Clearing my Mind

The biggest reason I’ve been able to stick it out with journaling is because it helps me clear my mind. In general, the more I’m thinking about other things, the harder it is to do what’s right in front of me. Going through the process above helps me clear my head. The more that’s out of my head and on paper in front of me, the more I feel relieved and lighter.

I’ve found journaling is the best way to clear my head. Since I know that no one else will read my journal posts, I’m free to clear my head of everything I can, from thoughts about long-term goals, recent things that have happened, and even the mundane.

Whenever I find my self thinking of something I try to open up Day One and write it down. Because the more I put there, the better I feel.

Getting Past the Hard Part of Starting

Like just before I go out for a run, when I sit down at the computer to write, starting is always the hardest part. After I get into it, writing goes more smoothly and becomes enjoyable. Journaling helps as a great warm-up exercise before I start to blog.

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