For a long time, I felt like I had to defend "image" in front of my peers, because there's this narrative going on in the street which considers visual things as superficial. But I think that image is very important, because if it wasn't then we wouldn't have bodies, we wouldn't have sight, and we wouldn't naturally gravitate toward aesthetically pleasing things -and each of us has a personal view on what 'aesthetically pleasing' means. If image wasn't important, we would just be minds and consciousness floating around. So I argue that image is what we are!
In any case, whichever way a person chooses to journal in, it's like talking with a friend. The aim is to be able to revisit it in a week and see someting new you didn't realise.
I've been asked a thousand times 'What the hell do you journal about? I don't know what to do!', and my answer is always:
Write about important events & people you're experiencing, and the most important thing is that you express your opinions & feelings about them. How did you feel before meeting up with that person/going to the event? And during? And afterwards? Try to recognise what your process was.
Here I'm going to share some of the things I incorporate into my journals, beyond the daily account of inner life, feelings & regular day-to-day happenings.
2. Big, important events. I don't usually write about where I go or what activities I do on a daily basis, but I do write about family reunions, concerts, holidays or vacations spent with family or friends, little road trips or big travels...
I began to write more about events three years ago, when I realised that every New Year's Eve I was possessed by the panic demon. I suffer from social anxiety, so hanging out with people -even if it's my own parents or uncles- triggers a nasty visceral reaction + a mental chatter about how I'm going to die. But three years ago, I found myself in the car back home thinking I had so much fun, this is so weird! and I decided to write myself an encouraging note, which I found by accident 364 days later. It explained in detail where my emotional and mental state were at from beginning of the party to the end, as well as what happened in between, and it ended with "Remember: last year turned out great. Expect the best!". That made me enter the holiday season with positivity and determination to make it go smoothly. After analysing three New Year's Eve, I now know the patterns of each member of my family and I know what to expect from each person, as well as what they expect from me. So each year keeps getting better and better!
3. Lists. I already have a listography, but it and my hand written journals feed off each other. I prefer to begin the process in listography, so that I can delete & add items when I revisit the lists. Once I feel they're in good shape, I transcribe them into my journals. This does not include gratitude lists, though. What kinds of lists do I write? Everything under the sun: "Things to do instead of being on the internet", "Ways to save up electric in the house", "Things to do in summer/winter/autumn/spring", "You know that autumn is here when...", "My sister/friend/dog's quirks", "No Paid Recreation: Activities to do with no money", etc.
4. Gratitude Lists. Warning: they're addictive! And they can be written or drawn or collaged. Mine are weekly, and I don't necessarily write in them every single day. I add items to them every couple of days during breakfast or dinner, when everything is quiet, thinking of happy little things that happened in the last two or three days. By sunday, my list is huge! There are weeks when I don't feel like journaling at all, but I always get a glimpse of what happened during a 'blank week' just by looking at the gratitude list.
5. Moon phase next to the date. If you believe in the powers of the moon, this can be helpful to see patterns in your emotions.
6. A list of your goals and dreams for the year/month/week. I've been using Leonie Dawson's Amazing Year Workbooks + Calendar since she released them into the world about three years ago (I'll make a post on that soon!), and I always copy the most important goals in my journal. They all come true! Every. single. year!
8. Advice from other authors. Collect advice on how to be a great artist/writer/explorer/human being from successful and soulful people. I gather advice from people like Patti Smith, Keith Richards and Jack Kerouac.
9. Prayers or Spells, however you want to call them. The point of writing these is that you set a powerful intention into the world and commit to manifesting it.
10. Your current inspirations. These can be written or doodled and colored. I do both ;)
11. Manifestos. Whenever I start working on a personal project (this could be an actual physical project or just an adjustment of my attitude), I write down a manifesto with my intentions. It's much longer than a prayer, usually 2-3 pages long. For example, I always start every new journal with a manifesto written on the first page, stating what it is that I intend to do with my life as I go through the new journal, and how I want it to help me become a better person. I also have a "Consumerism Manifesto" in which I explain my beliefs and practices when it comes to spending money -what I buy and whom I buy it from. Another one I have is a "Self Love Manifesto" in which I pledge to care for myself and accept myself fully, ugly bits and all. I re-write them every couple of years, as I keep growing and expanding my vision of the world and how I navigate it.
12. Your principles / beliefs / life habits. I like to make a page about my personal lifestyle habits in every journal. Just the act of constructing the page makes me internalize these healthy habits, which I don't always follow because... hey! life happens! Dedicating focused time and energy to construct your page of habits is a commemorative exercise that moves you at a deep level. These are not lists of obligations; they're friendly reminders of what makes you feel more alive and peaceful. And then... integration happens.
14. Answer questions & prompts to know yourself better. You can get prompts anywhere: google will lead you to thousands of websites full of questions for self exploration. I remember when Gala used to assign us homework in her Radical Self Love articles, oh the times! That sparked an interest for "self interviews" within me, and Sark has similar exercises in her books. Whenever I read a self-help book, I never skip the exercises, I do them all!
15. A wish list of stuff you want to buy or replace. I started making these lists just for myself, but then it turned out that when a family member asked me what I wanted for Christmas or my birthday, instead of staring at them with a blank expression on my face, I now have well thought-out answers! Knowing exactly what you need or want makes life easier for everybody.
16. List of compliments. I don't know about you, but I have this tendency to remember every shitty thing a person says to me and if I'm not careful, I internalize it. It's easy to remember that people dislike you -the human brain detecting danger and keeping itself safe- but it's not that easy to remember that there are people who have a positive opinion of you. I dedicate the back of every journal to keep compliments that people say to me. This was inspired by many successful women I spoke to over the years, and they all said that they print the positive e-mails and comments they receive, because sometimes they need support. This was suprising to me, because when I see these successful people, I tend to think that they're made of a different material than me: thick-skinned with a heart of marble. Turns out they're regular human beings! I must admit, I have a difficult time believing compliments, even when I re-read my pages there's some sort of disbelief in the back of my brain. But still, this has been very helpful and got me out of nasty funks.
18. Fun symbolisms. I'm big on animal symbolism, I have pages upon pages dedicated to animals that jump at me in everyday life. Whenever an animal appears in an unusual way, I look for clues on what it might mean. I remember last winter, one fine day at 8am I was working at my desk and crickets started singing outside my window... crickets in freezing weather?! It was so bizarre! According to Ted Andrews's book Animal Speak, that meant that I was about to make "uncanny leaps forward in life" and that I was going through a period of "good luck, cheer and abundance", and it was spot on. At that time, I was working hard on a few of my dreams and I felt a bit of vertigo because I seemed to be not just moving forward in small steps, but in strange leaps. Everything seemed to be going smoothly. I've had other accurate readings regarding unexpected encounters with hares in the middle of the forest, cats invading my balcony, and even tadpoles and otters.
19. Shadow Work. This is a Jungian psychological theory which revolves around the idea that each person's character has a "hidden" part, one that is difficult for us to accept or integrate. There's plenty of information out there on how to get in contact with your Shadow self and bring it to the conscious level, so you can face those disagreeable parts of yourself. You can get your hands on books that provide exercises, or you can simply go to youtube and marvel at the amount of people who make videos to help you call upon the Shadow. I record all my experiences and realisations in my journal.
20. Your success stories at the end of the journal. I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping track of our completed goals, fulfilled desires, shifts of perspective, personal growth & little and small victories, because they build self esteem and fuel momentum and courage. I like to dedicate the last 3-4 pages of a journal to going back to the beginning and reviewing everything I did and didn't do, and pat myself on the back. I see journaling as a tool for self celebration first and foremost. That is what builds character ;)