Journaling guidelines

2023-03-23 @Blog

Recently dedicated cycles to re-exploring years of journals I’ve maintained - everything across paper and digital. Though the style and quality varies all over, found tons of writing of insurmountable value. Especially the travel entries. Some I’ve taken care to better index for potential subsequent use.

But frankly, the prospect of leveraging parts of this material for later publishings overwhelms me. And the editing and expansion effort necessary to separate and transform the publishable from the entirely personal …

It goes to say, creating aleatory, disparately organized writings is both labor and joy. The ‘editing’ and ‘splicing together’ phase is pure labour. I cringe over most of it. How to endure?

And how to feasibly address the years of multi-lingual journal entries? What is one to do with all this? Maybe nothing. Maybe I’m to focus on the smaller subset that’s fairly tangible, well indexed, and uniform.

Putting that aside, I thought to create a series of precepts for more effective journaling, taking what I’ve done over the years into account. The idea is to journal in a way usable for posterity, whatever be the odds. For you never know.

As follows:

  1. Title and tag an entry comprehensively.

  2. Underline/circle/highlight/mark keywords and sections, especially if your writing is a messy amalgamation (more below).

  3. Avoid needless verbosity (ie pronouns, complex tenses, ever-long sentences). Sentence fragments, one-worders, okay.

  4. Emphasize compact comprehensiveness: quickly and easily scannable; visually conceivable without effort.

  5. Use words that encapsulate sufficient detail to subsequently develop or elaborate.

  6. By no means avoid intricate language that you deem poetically integral to your story.

  7. Provided all the above, no need to affix to strictly the same style. Vary to avoid monotony for later reading.

  8. Mark/update cross-written content. Include cross-references.

  9. Try to keep entries cohesive. One of my greatest challenges.

    That is, ideally one topic/encapsulating unit per entry. On the one hand, you want the freedom to write whatever and however much in a journal entry. On the other, you might want to search, scan and leverage the entries later. That means well-labeled and indexed, much easier handled with smaller, well-delineated units.

    Which only demands modest effort - effort not to restrain your output, but to separate and label appropriately. Whatever your medium, paper or digital, that simply requires you either start a new, appropriately labeled entry, or an easily distinguishable newly-labeled unit (essentially the same thing). Whatever helps you navigate through the material.

    And easier said than done. I’ve endless monolithic entries that might commence with a beautiful tree, proceed to some medical nuisance and culminate with a book I’ve been reading. Demands but small effort to refactor such content.

    If you find such journaling across existing paper notebooks, at least remedy by circling/highlighting topic-altering key words and indexing relevant sub-sections.

  10. Number odd or even pages in your paper notebooks.

  11. Maintain an index. This is paramount.

    For paper journals: ideally, a digital master index for all your notebooks. If not a master index, at the absolute minimum, include an index/table-of-contents (TOC) page that precedes: titles (reprinted) and page numbers, for anything of remote interest.

    For digital journals: whether you use plain text or some elaborate software, see that you have the means to quickly generate such an index/TOC.

Yeah, this writing craft demands lots of work. But it’s necessary.

Questions, comments? Connect.