Gustave Courbet

Some purists believe in writ­ing a jour­nal the old-fashioned way. Tobacco pipe not required.

In the last post, I dis­cussed the advan­tages of keep­ing a diary, and how to ensure you see the good in every day. This is the best place to start, as most every­one will repeat an action that makes them feel good. In decid­ing to start, you must con­sider how to record and keep your diary. There are numer­ous options to weigh, choos­ing the best for your writ­ing style is impor­tant to keep up your inter­est. Once you are in the habit of keep­ing a pos­i­tiv­ity jour­nal, there are a few other types of jour­nals to try: a neg­a­tiv­ity diary, and for another post, a pro­duc­tiv­ity log.

Where to Write

I write using one pri­vate online blog for the pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive entries, and one for the pro­duc­tiv­ity entries. I think the media and method for writ­ing is an indi­vid­ual choice; the impor­tant thing is to track and record your thoughts. The options I have found (and tried) are:

  • Sheets of paper. These are best for any ran­dom thought, but worst for orga­ni­za­tion. When I started writ­ing impromptu thoughts down, I started here, and it quickly turned into a big mess. I had stacks of paper on my desk that weren’t cohe­sive and impos­si­ble to orga­nize. This was improved by writ­ing down a date, time and loca­tion, but the lack of a cen­tral­ized repos­i­tory made it very dif­fi­cult to manage.
  • Paper note­book or diary. I have used these on each of my trips over­seas, and they have proven valu­able. They are far more orga­nized than errant sheets of paper and do not require a com­puter or Inter­net access. All of my friends who are musi­cians swear by this approach, espe­cially due to its cre­ative flex­i­bil­ity. You can for­mat the text how­ever you feel, eas­ily make draw­ings, or even add clips from a newspaper.
  • Online pri­vate blog or diary. This is the approach I use, and have been using for mul­ti­ple years. I think it offers many ben­e­fits over the other approaches. Every­thing is located online, and there­fore I can write in it any­where in the world, be cer­tain my data is rel­a­tively safe (I do make back­ups), and it doesn’t cre­ate the clut­ter a phys­i­cal medium can. It never runs out of space as a paper note­book will, and is search­able if you want to eas­ily refer to an older entry. Although a blog is meant for pub­lic view­ing, many, includ­ing (the free ser­vice I use), allow you to keep it com­pletely pri­vate. But if I want to give some­one access to read some­thing I can eas­ily allow an indi­vid­ual access.
  • Twit­ter. As online blogs can be made pri­vate, so can Twit­ter accounts. I have exper­i­mented with this, but haven’t got­ten into a habit of using it. Twit­ter used for jour­nal­ing has the same unique func­tion­al­ity as Twit­ter for its default pur­pose, in that each entry can only be 140 char­ac­ters. This forces you to be suc­cinct with each entry, which may be some­thing good to try, at least as an exper­i­ment. One advan­tage of this option is you can text mes­sage each entry using a mobile phone.

Writ­ing About Negativity

Most blogs, books and other media focus on pos­i­tiv­ity. It would be great if we lived in a per­fect world, but some­times bad things do hap­pen. Every­one has neg­a­tive thoughts, regard­less of how pos­i­tive you try to be. I have found it very advan­ta­geous to write these thoughts down and to see them on paper. Since I started doing this, I’ve noticed two things:

  • The neg­a­tive thoughts I have often con­tra­dict themselves
  • The asso­ci­ated neg­a­tive feel­ings are stronger than the sit­u­a­tion really deserves.

As I said in Part 1, writ­ing down what I was think­ing let me see the con­fu­sion in some of my thoughts, and has made my gen­eral stream of con­scious­ness clearer, and more effec­tive. This trans­for­ma­tion occurs far more effec­tively when writ­ing about the bad, rather than the good.

The pur­pose of a neg­a­tiv­ity journal

Another ben­e­fit to writ­ing down neg­a­tive thoughts is that it helps in find­ing solu­tions. Even if the thoughts and feel­ings aren’t entirely war­ranted, writ­ing down neg­a­tive thoughts can lead you to see devel­op­ing pat­terns. Per­haps your neg­a­tiv­ity is focused on some­one at work or your cur­rent liv­ing sit­u­a­tion. By keep­ing track of what makes you upset, you can pri­or­i­tize what needs to be changed in your life. And after you try a solu­tion, you can track the effi­cacy of the solu­tion and decide if some­thing else needs to be tried.

Writer Beware

A neg­a­tive jour­nal presents more haz­ards that a pos­i­tive one. If you only write about the bad events in your day, and get caught up think­ing your life is really awful. If you decide to write down the neg­a­tives, you must do two other things:

  1. Make sure you also write down the good things that hap­pened in your day.
  2. Always offer your­self solu­tions to rec­tify what caused the bad thoughts.

If you fol­low these rec­om­men­da­tions, a neg­a­tiv­ity jour­nal can uncover the incon­sis­ten­cies in your thought processes, help you rec­tify them, and let you instead focus on your passions!



  1. Direct­ing atten­tion is a pow­er­ful tool. A lot of Edward de Bono’s tools are sim­ply devices for direct­ing atten­tion. Jour­nal­ing is a way to direct atten­tion and explore a path … and the act of writ­ing things down over just think­ing through things, is a forc­ing func­tion for clarity.

    J.D. Meier
  2. […] Dear Diary: The Ben­e­fits of Keep­ing a Jour­nal, Part 2 […]

    Dear Diary: The Benefits of Keeping a Journal, Part 3 | A Life Out Loud

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