Have you laid the foundation for becoming a great thinker? Do you have a process for capitalizing on your intellectual breakthroughs? Journal writing or journaling is a sure-fire way of documenting your insights and ideas and turning them into great bodies of work.
Deep analysis and documentation mean more today than ever.
While the populous live at the surface level of existence, you can explore the Elysian Fields of great thinkers by exploring the wonderful world of journal writing.
Dictionary.com defines a Journal as “A daily record, as of occurrences, experiences, or observations.”
I was first introduced to journal writing during my sophomore year in high school. On the first day of class, our English teacher, Mr. Shepherd, instructed us to begin writing in a daily journal, and at the end of the school year, he would review it. The only instructions he provided was that we wrote what we felt.
I was 15 years old at the time, and have continued writing in a daily journal every day now at age 57.
Imagine one school assignment being the catalyst to a life-long writing project that has never ended.
Interesting enough, Mr. Shepherd never checked whether we had completed our journal assignments. Either he forgot or thought we lacked the discipline to write every day for an entire school year.
Nevertheless, it is quite interesting to be able to read and reflect on any part of my life starting from age fifteen.
There is a drastic difference between who you thought yourself to be at a certain age, and what the record reflects. It is definitely myth busting.
Some years ago, I had a mental block as a content creator as to what audiences I wanted to communicate with. Traditional marketing pundits suggest creating avatars or imaginary individuals who may become ideal clients. All of my efforts of identifying a viable audience had failed. I was just not connecting with anyone.
I decided to pull out some old journals dating back from college to my early 30s. I was surprised by the development of my insights, as well as some of the ideas I wanted to pursue, but had forgotten about.
Suddenly, it dawned on me that my passion has always been working with smart people who are preternaturally curious. Throughout my years, I had been seeking people within industries, instead of people hardwired to a specific way of thinking. Assisting intellectuals in creating solution-based intellectual property became the direction I decided to go.
My journals served as a basis for my remembering who were the members of my intellectual tribe. Also, the desire for personal power and influence resonated as a continuous theme within my journals.
Psychology, philosophy, and political science seem to be the disciplines by which my ideas rested upon.
Journals are a depository where your deepest thoughts, insights, and ideas are housed.
Mires (2020) said, “By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel” (para.10).
Sir Frances Bacon once said, “Reading makes a full man, conversation a ready man, and writing an exact man.”
Hardy (2017) suggested, “Neurologically, when you listen to something, a different part of your brain is engaged than when you write it down. Memory recorded by listening does not discriminate important from non-important information. However, writing creates spatial regions between important and non-important pieces of information — allowing your memory to target and ingrain the important stuff you want to remember.
Furthermore, the act of writing allows your subconscious mind to work out problems in unique ways, intensifying the learning process. You’ll be able to work out problems and get insights while you ponder and write about the things you’re learning” (para. 41).
Many great thinkers have lived full lives without documenting their hard-fought ideas and experiences that could have served as benchmarks and roadmaps for future generations.
Norris (2017) postulated, “As a record of your personal history — all the events, decisions and important people who make you the person you are now are in your journal. Keeping an accurate and complete personal history can be extremely useful. By remembering who you were yesterday, you can avoid making the same mistake today”(para.7).
The advantage that introverts possess is their natural inclination for long periods of reading, writing, and solitude. Advantages that are easily taken for granted because it is second-nature.
However, merely because something comes easy does not mean it doesn’t require cultivation for excellence. In a world fraught with unending challenges, introverts would be remiss in their responsibilities by not becoming active solution providers.
Journal writing allows you to go to a deeper state of self-analysis in creating a body of work.
Here are a few suggestions for capitalizing on intellectual breakthroughs with journal writing.
Write about your daily activities and ideas
Contrary to popular belief, great insights and ideas are not created in a vacuum. They are the distillation and synthesis of everyday living. Because I did not have a lot of experiences or insight when I began journaling in the tenth grade, I always started my entries with the weather. To this day, I start out with, “It was a sunny and moderate day out.”
I then recount what occurred from the time I awoke that morning to the last thing that happened that night. I editorialize what an activity might have meant from a learning perspective, as well as any philosophical takeaways about people and life in general.
By allowing your own process for thinking and writing to flow, you will create your own system of journaling that will encompass your unique method for writing entries.
Also, I use a 5 subject spiral notebook generally consisting of 180 pages, and I don’t write over a page a day. You should be able to cover all of your day’s thoughts and ideas in one page.
As an aside, I choose black, dark blue, or green as colors for my notebooks. Black and blue represent power. And green represents money and prosperity.
Journal writing should be viewed as not only documentation of your life, but a nurturing of your subconscious mind of the things you want to see manifested in your life.
Write every day
Long-term success in journal writing comes through consistency. You have to program your mind to write one page at the end of the day around the same time every night. I have 42 years of documentation because I made a commitment to the journaling process.
Psychologists postulate that it takes 21 days of repetitive action before a specific behavior becomes a habit.
Some people are system oriented while others thrive on spontaneity. Regardless of the choice, systematic and methodical individuals have an advantage when it comes to structuring a life that requires purpose driven consistency.
Make and never break a promise to write one page daily about your life and insights.
You will be surprised how frequently the inspiration to write articles, blogs, and books come about through journal writing.
Write with honesty
One of the biggest fears that many people have about journal writing is that someone will read their entries without permission. This is where your right to privacy overrules any relationship. In the past, anyone close to me knew about my journal writing.
If they violated my trust by reading my journals, they often left with hurt feelings about what they read.
William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.” I have always lived by the dictum of never betraying oneself.
Additionally, make the reading of your journals without expressed permission a deal breaker within any and all relationships. No one has the right to enter your inner sanctum unless invited.
Your journal is the one place self-delusion is prohibited.
Not only are you recording facts as they happened in the moment, you are uncovering what will serve as the basis for your personal constitution in life. Although your personal constitution and philosophy may change throughout your life cycle, the basis of your thinking should be clear.
Recently, I read where intuition is nothing more than the distillation of experiences. To deny or obscure your thoughts and experiences impedes intellectual breakthroughs afforded through journal writing.
Look for reoccurring themes and patterns
Many people believe their memory is better than it actually is. Serious and busy professionals live by some system where they have to keep track of daily activities. The device they use may be as simple as a pen and pad, or as advanced as a smart phone reminder.
A journal is aligned with this notion.
You are writing for posterity, as well as future recollection. A year of journal writing may or may not garner the intellectual breakthroughs you desire. It may take years for your insights and ideas to synthesize into some groundbreaking meaning.
You are investing in the future. And because individual personality types are fundamentally static, patterns will emerge that serve as guideposts.
This roadmap can lead to the intellectual breakthroughs you seek if you follow them closely.
Journal writing serves as a means of using metacognition. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Metacognition as “Awareness or analysis of one’s own learning or thinking processes.” In other words, journal writing helps you think about thinking, which is a deeper dive for self-reflection.
An imminent philosopher was once asked, “How do you know so much about people?” He said, “Because I study myself.”
Review journals every few years
As noted earlier, I pull out my journals anytime I want to reflect on my past thinking. Journal writing is not a vanity project. It shouldn’t be used as intellectual adornment. If you view your mind and thinking as special, you do what you do with anything you value—protect it.
History is replete with the greatest minds and ideas that civilization has produced. However, you would be hard-pressed to discover any of these individuals who recorded the entirety of their lifespan.
Autobiographies force individuals to remember past occurrences, but how accurate would they have been if they had recorded the events while they were happening?
Serious scholars and change-agents revisit their past to gain assurance of their future.
For introverts who want to develop their own power and influence, journal writing is the foundation for its structuring. While many aspire to write a modern-day classic, introverts can create history by analyzing and assessing events as they are occurring.
In a society steeped in mere opinions, introverts can usher themselves into the pantheon of great thinkers by documenting their thoughts and ideas, and creating a body of work around them.
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Those of us who dare to explore the unimaginable have often reached heights only achieved by the great thinkers in history.
Begin journaling today, and be counted among the few that transform the world through their thoughts and ideas.
—Edward S. Brown, M.S.
Hardy, B. (2017, June 26). Why keeping a daily journal could change your life. Mind Café. Retrieved from: https://medium.com/mind-cafe/why-keeping-a-daily-journal-could-change-your-life-9a4c11f1a475.
Mires, E.A. (2020, June 10). 5 powerful ways journal writing changes your life. Lifehack. Retrieved from: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/journal-writing-5-smart-reasons-why-you-should-start-doing-today.html.
Norris, K. (2017, Mar. 17). 10 reasons to keep a journal. Medium. Retrieved from: https://medium.com/the-mission/10-reasons-to-keep-a-journal-b667d7a8374b.
Writing makes an exact man. (2012, April 19). PG’s Pensieve. Retrieved from: https://pgbhat.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/writing-makes-an-exact-man.