The more I have gotten to know the journaling community the more I have realized how diverse it is, which is contrary to what I initially thought. When I first started Easy Journaling I was sure that most people who kept a journal where similar to each other. Call it stereotyping or call it demographics but I was sure I knew what types of people were most likely to journal.
Obviously I was wrong as I have come to the realization that there are journalers of every age and stage in life and from every country and nationality in the world. This diversity has given the EJ community a unique flavor and voice.
I’ve also noticed that everyone has their own reason to write a journal. There are many reasons, as I have recently documented in 101 Reasons to Write a Journal, but these can actually be boiled down into two broad categories. That’s right, there are only two main reasons to keep a journal, coming from the guy that wrote about 101.
So here it is, you either journal to improve your life or to capture your life.
That’s it. All of my reasons and every other reason can fit into one of the much broader categories of either improving or capturing your life. If you disagree I am very much looking forward to your comments below this post, but please hear me out on this one.
Let’s dive into each of these categories a little more in depth. First, the improving. This reason to journal is what most of the journaling community focuses on. This is where the prompts, introspection and self-healing go. This is the self-discovery, conversations with the soul and finding your inner voice. If you will listen to virtually any journaling ‘guru’ you will get instruction that will show you how journaling can improve your life.
This is good. Journaling can be powerful and I am glad there is a strong movement showing this process of self improvement.
Now let’s talk about the other side, the capturing of your life. This can also be described as your personal history and includes everyone that wants to keep a personal journal to capture memories of this fleeting earth experience. This is the process of writing down to remember. In fact, this is the older form of journaling and much of our world history is based on personal journals recording life to remember it. In many ways, this type of journaling is closely related to family history and genealogy.
Capturing your life journaling is the reasons that many of us write down our life for our kids and future posterity. We want them to know us and the life we lived so that our history and memories can live on. We also write down their lives when they are too young to write it down themselves so that they can have a history of the tender moments of their youth. My parents did this for me and it is priceless.
Alright, so now that you understand the two broad reasons of keeping a journal I want to reveal the final piece of this puzzle that will show you that it makes sense. Because these aren’t two separate groups but rather ‘reasons’ or ‘categories’, most of us probably keep a journal for both of these reasons. Take me for example, I truly believe that keeping a personal journal can improve my life but in all honesty I typically do it to record my life history. Let’s give some numbers to it- I do it for about 20% self improvement and 80% capturing my life.
In fact, let’s look at it this way. Imagine a line with improving life on the left and capturing life on the right (see below). My dot is 80% towards the right which represents that I lean more towards the recording history. Everyone is somewhere on this line and although some would argue that they are 100% to one side or the other, I think we all do a little of both. Still, the side you are closer to is the group you identify with the most.
I’ve noticed this breakdown of the journaling community most recently in places like the popular Lifehacker.com. Those who follow this website are most likely to be young and techy. They want to use technology and tricks to optimize their processes in life.
Keeping a personal journal has been featured on Lifehacker several times recently and as I have listened to the comments I have noticed that these aren’t the traditional ‘journalers’. In fact, many of them don’t even like that title! Most of them (it seems, remember that this is only anecdotal) simply want to find the best way to record their life history, typically using the software and applications I speak most often about on this website.
This group also includes the growing (but very vocal) ‘plain text’ writers. Yes, I know who you are and what you do is probably beyond what I teach and even know! The way these users are utilizing plain text editors is actually closer to coding and programming than it is ‘traditional’ journaling. I respect much of what is happening in this community and hope to write more posts and mini-guides in the future that highlights this high level of journaling.
So, where are you on this spectrum? Do you journal more to improve your life or more to capture it? Let us all know your reasons and I’m sure many of you think I am way off base and I want to hear from you as well.