I’ve recently decided to try – really try – journaling. It’s like blogging, but private.
Why private, when I have a blog? For a few reasons, really.
One reason is that it requires a lot less thought to construct decent posts. When I’m writing for a general audience (I.e., more than myself) I want the thoughts to be complete, well-formed, concrete and relatable. I want there to be a valid take-away point, a payload; that means actually working out a point and making sure that I’m actually supporting it somehow.
Another reason is that I am very introspective. I look at everything as a web of relationships or patterns, and therefore the central locus of control and focus is … me.
That has two outcomes.
One outcome is that it’s rather boring just reading about a person’s thoughts on unclear topics that are important mostly to that person.
Another outcome is a lot of the things I think and write about are really personal and private; I find that I think I’m a fairly decent person, but my internal unfiltered dialogue is pretty brutal.
[aside]“Kindness is a lie,” I told my second son last night, when suggesting that he find a way to tell a bully that his behavior was unacceptable; “Say what you have to say, and say it kindly, but don’t let kindness change what you say.”
That’s advice I wish I was able to take more myself, really; be honest in your evaluations, but say it with gentleness. And don’t let the gentleness interfere with what you have to say, if you have to say it.
(There’s a fine line here, and I’m not sure how to straddle it in a general sense.)[/aside]
I find journaling to be handy because it’s a way of recording what I actually think, how I think it, in terms that I understand without having to explain my thought patterns to anyone. (They’re my thought patterns, after all; I generally understand them.) I get to record my actual perceptions and contributions to a thought line, centering in on the relevant points, unfiltered, and without worrying that I’m going to hurt or embarrass anyone through bluntness or observation.
It means I get to have a snapshot of how I felt and what I thought, instead of using text to remind myself of something I felt and thought at the time. The unfiltered nature means that how I feel now about what I thought then has a lot less relevance; it means I see a more pure form of who I really was, and for someone who wonders who he really is sometimes, that’s an important quality to have.
[aside]I do this a lot; I’ll catch myself doing something unprofitable, and then make a commitment to myself to not do it any more. I’m far from perfect, but it’s a good path for self-improvement. Eventually, who knows? I may be worthwhile.[/aside]
And I get to review my own thoughts, to make sure I understand how I feel about them. I can say something in a journal, and later find it to be unredeemably cruel; for one thing, the cruelty is hidden away, and for another, I can now identify that thought as something to avoid in the future.
So I have a lot of notebooks lying around, filled with stuff from past years. A lot has been lost or destroyed simply through life’s goings-on; that’s bad. Also, some of them are hard to read, as my mental state and physical environment affects my actual handwriting. (And my handwriting is nigh illegible when you read it years later, as it turns out. What the heck… I’ll write myself a note to write more clearly.)
Naturally, I’d like to figure out a way to journal well and efficiently (and conveniently); that means finding a program!
I’ve tried a few.
I’ve tried simple text editors (Notepad++, emacs, etc.); file management is not sufficient to me, and they’re difficult to categorize and classify and standardize.
I’ve tried hosting a blog on my private server (the one on my LAN, that nobody can see); for one thing, my family can see it if they try, for another it’s not private so my thoughts would need to be edited, and for yet another, well, my server is a sandbox for me to play with. It’s simply not expected to be a consistent platform with known services. I’m too likely to burn it down and install something different (which, um, I plan to do very soon, to go from OpenIndiana to Fedora 16.)
I’ve looked at products like AskSam; that’s actually not a bad idea, but I liked AskSam when it was on DOS and had a more sane interface for my tastes. (Maybe the new interface is more sane; I don’t know, I just liked the old one better.) Plus it’s not cheap – $150 USD, $400 if you want fulltext searching.
I’ve looked at RedNotebook; it’s not bad, but seems light for what I want. Something about it didn’t feel right. (One example: the categories were driving me absolutely crazy.)
Then I found DavidRM’s “The Journal 5.” In terms of what I want a journal to do, it’s almost perfect; it encrypts, it suggests journal content if you need starters, it has fine-grained journal capabilities (sub-entries, timed entries if you want multiple entries for a day), categories, topics, export capabilities, a decent editor, search facilities, the ability to insert links to other entries, a general-purpose notebook… it’s very well done.
It can even post an entry to a blog, if you want it to. (It’s how I’m publishing this entry, for example, although it publishes the entry, instead of saving it in draft; I’m pretty sure this is a setting I’ll be able to fix eventually.)
[aside]The links to The Journal 5 give me a commission, if you use them. I am not being paid to endorse the software or anything; I really do use it, and I really do like it, which is the only reason I’m recommending it.[/aside]
It’s commercial software (which you can buy through this link); it’s $50 USD after a 45-day trial.
It’s also Windows-only, more or less, but DavidRM has some suggestions for how to get it working in MacOS and in Linux. Since Linux is my primary desktop nowadays (Fedora 16), the ability to run via Wine is really important; it’s memory-hungry, but it’s worth it to have the features.
Definitely cool software to use, and I’m finding journaling to be very healthy.