A Plug for Journaling
I was a big journaler in high school and college – in fact I just did a LOT of writing in general. I wrote reams of letters to friends and family and filled a notebook every year with my random thoughts on just about everything (emphasis on boys – especially in high school!!). Then I got married and my writing slacked way off. For one thing, email had just become common and we all quit writing paper letters that go through the mail. We thought it would be easier to email more frequently and more cheaply – but really it just meant that we didn’t write letters any more. Phone calls got a lot cheaper – I quit writing my parents and started calling. And somehow I never seemed to have much to say in a journal. I was lucky to find ten or so entries for year in my notebooks. Tom bought me a really nice journal the first year of our marriage, and I think I finally filled it up eight years or so later.
So, while I still believed in the power of journaling – the ability to think things through in my writing, to preserve memories, to share my deepest beliefs and values – I wasn’t actually doing a lot of journaling. Think of all those funny things that kids say, all those parenting milestones, all those years of working out the business of a marriage – I don’t have many of those things recorded. It’s one of those things I regret about my past – along with all the home videos we never made!
Last year the woman’s group at my church had a meeting on family history. I was asked to teach/talk about ways to do online journaling. I’d never done any online journaling, but I had a month, so I figured I could at least give it a go. I found a number of ways to online journal. The obvious one is blogging – and I’ve done that for awhile, so I could talk about how to set up a simple blog and pros and cons of public vs. private blogging. Then there are a number of sites that are set up specifically to help you record your family history (as opposed to the day-to-day stuff that most of us record in traditional journals). For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there’s a site called LDSJournal that has both a place to record daily journal entries and also has a section with hundreds of questions that you can answer about your past and the significant events in your life. It works equally well for someone who is not a member of this church, but there are question and answer sections that are specifically about church related events. But the type of online journaling that changed my journaling life revolves around a little site called OhLife.
This site doesn’t do a lot of fancy things (though that is changing for premium members). Basically, you sign up and they send you an email either daily or weekly (you choose). It’s the same message everyday – “how was your day?”. You reply with your journal entry for the day/week and send it back. That is all. It shows up in your inbox and stays there until you reply or delete it (which I’m known to do on occasion). All the entries are stored at OhLife (and they are actually in your email “sent” box too – double storage!). You can download a plain text version of your entries at any time.
So, at the end of last year, I downloaded my entries and made myself a little printed journal. It only had about four months of entries – but I was pleased. This year I did the same and made a book three times as thick – awesome sauce! Here’s the finished product.
The picture isn’t great, but I love seeing how all those quick little entries (most of them are five or six sentences) have added up to a real record of my year. Though you can just print the text file as is, I copied it into MSWord, turned my paper to landscape, made two columns, and then formatted the document with Bold for the dates and also cleaned up spelling and punctuation errors (did I mention that I sometimes reply to my emails on my phone??). I added graphics too, because it’s fun – but not essential. Then I cut my paper in half to make a pleasing notebook size and had it bound at the local OfficeMax. I think the days of filling a notebook every year are BACK!