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May 9, 2010

Put it on Paper

This Extra Ink was written by Betsy C.

Some of the most-read books on my shelves aren't even published--they're journals from when I was younger. I love getting glimpses into younger versions of myself, and my journals often help remind me of feelings and events I wouldn't have remembered otherwise. Sure, some of the things in there are kind of cringe-worthy (was I really that obsessed with Hayden Christensen?) but on the whole, my journals are valuable links to my past that I couldn't get in any other way.

Still, I sometimes find it hard to keep a journal on a regular basis. Days and weeks and months go by without an entry, even now that I know how much fun my future self will have looking back on my current life and writing. It can be hard to journal every day, especially if you think nothing interesting happened or you're not so confident in your writing ability.

Luckily, a "today I did this" -style diary isn't the only option out there when it comes to journaling. There are plenty of other ways that you can record parts of yourself for an older version of you (or even your grandchildren or future fan club) to enjoy.

One of my favorites is the dream journal. Did you know that you usually forget up to 90 percent of last night's dream within your first hour of being awake? Dreams can reveal so much about your hopes, fears and imagination that you should definitely consider keeping a record of them. I've had lots of story ideas that started with dreams--even scary ones! If you are plagued with frequent nightmares, keeping a journal can help comfort you when you wake up, ground you in the present, and give you insight into what scared you in the first place. Of course, you should write about your good dreams, too. You'll definitely want to remember those.

If a dream journal sounds too abstract, you might want to try keeping a gratitude journal. Those are a bit more like regular diaries, but instead of writing about what you've done, you write down what you're thankful for. On a bad day, writing in your gratitude journal can remind you of all the things you should be happy about: a good friend, nice weather, a loyal pet, or even just a roof over your head and food in your belly. On a good day, you'll make yourself even happier by listing all your blessings. You'll probably find you've got more to be grateful for than you could have imagined.

For those who are convinced their lives and thoughts are utterly boring, try making a quote book: a journal you fill with song lyrics, poetry, and sayings that really speak to you. I have one--I'm not very good about filling it, so I've actually been working on it for about eight years--and I really like looking back on the things that inspired me back then, and the words I still love to read now.

If you've tried journaling before, but never managed to fill a whole notebook, don't give up. It took me years to finish my first whole diary-style journal, and like I said, I've been working on my quote book for almost a decade. The point is to get part of yourself down on paper, even if you think your life isn't exciting. Trust me: your future self will thank you.

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