When I started a website on journaling two years ago, I naively thought that all journaling was basically the same. You just sit down and write the thoughts and feelings that come to you, right?
Well, not exactly.
As I got to know other thought leaders in the journaling world as well as software developers and daily journalers I started to see a clearer picture of what journaling really is and isn’t. The first observation should have been obvious from my very first post; not everyone journals for the same reasons.
I mean, I knew that everyone journaled for different reasons, but it wasn’t until later that every person that keeps a personal journal does so essentially for one of two reasons (more on that later).
I wrote a blog post and then later full book by the same name- 101 Reasons to Write a Journal. This was proof that there were dozens and dozens (probably hundreds, actually) of reasons that someone would want to keep a journal. But once I understood that little fact about only two different main reasons I realized that every one of those 101 reasons can be included in one of those larger reasons.
Alright, so what are the two broad reasons to keep a journal?
You journal to either capture your life or you journal to improve your life.
While everyone leans towards one direction or the other, I’d wager that everyone who keeps a journal does at least somewhat for both reasons. Take me for example, I have learned that I lean much more towards the capturing life side of things. Still, about 20% or so of why I keep a journal is to discover and improve myself.
I’ve noticed that many of those who call themselves ‘journalers’ do so more to improve their lives. This is what you typically find in the great books, websites and podcasts on journaling. Create Write Now is a great example as it seems that Mari leans more towards the improving side of things and offers a ton of great content and products to help you in that way.
The good news is that one way is not better than the other and spending time in both camps is okay as well. I feel that the most important thing is to understand why you keep a journal.
Once I understood this it changed my perspective on what I was doing. I didn’t feel as pressured to follow anyone elses teaching. It helped me better focus on who I am and what is important to me.
When I wanted to start a podcast my initial thought was that it should be on digital journaling or journal and diary apps. This was the easy choice since I have become known as the ‘digital journaling guru’. However, as I understood why I keep a journal and that I do so more to capture my life, it became clear what the podcast should be about and the Capturing Life Through Technology podcast was born.
In addition to the podcast I have also just released my latest book, 101 Ways to Capture Life, to give ideas on the many different ways we have these days to capture our lives and history as well as demonstrate how easy these suggestion can be. And yes, it is from the technology perspective!
Yes, I know that most ‘journaling experts’ (if any of us can really call ourselves such a thing!) write books filled with prompts and activities to find your inner voice. Most books on journaling don’t include how to convert VHS to DVD or how to more properly organize pictures on your external hard drive.
But this is who I am and I’m grateful for this opportunity to share it with all of you.
So... do you journal to capture your life or improve it? Let us know in the comments!
Sam Lytle is the founder of Easy Journaling, a website dedicated to keeping a journal on your favorite smartphones, tablets and computers. He works in the civil engineering industry and lives with his wife and two kids in Nevada