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The Joy of Journals:Keep a record of your life ? and nourish your soul.
by Sara Eckel

Dan Price is constantly meeting people who wish they kept a journal. Although they understand that having a personal log of their experiences would help them feel more in touch with themselves and capable of facing life's challenges, most have a difficult time sticking with their writing. Price, the author of "How to Make a Journal of Your Life," says that the biggest mistake people make is approaching "journaling" as a job and not a joy. "You have to connect with the passion of why you're doing it," he says. "Once you do that, you don't have to worry that you didn't write in it yesterday or all last week." Here, some ways to find the passion to keep on writing your journal:

Don't force it. Remember when you were a kid and you bought a padded diary with a lock to record your important thoughts ? and then you did it for about three days and got bored? "A lot of people think they are going to write every day, and feel guilty when they miss a day," says Price. "If you make it a chore, it will never work." Remember, the beauty of a journal is that it's there when you need it.

Record the good stuff too! Rose Offner, author of "Journal to the Soul," believes most people tend to write in their journal during difficult, trying times. "When life is moving along and we're happy, we're not thinking about writing. It's only when we go through a challenge that we pick up the pen," she explains. Offner, who hosts journal workshops, says that although hashing through life's problems on paper can be useful, your journal experience won't be satisfying if it's nothing more than a complaint-fest. Writing about the blessings ? the great phone conversation you had with your college roommate, the way your five-year-old looks in her Halloween costume ? enables you to cultivate a greater understanding of what makes you happy and how you're evolving. "Sometimes people don't realize how well their lives are going," says Offner.

Take note of the world around you. Take the pressure off the journal-writing experience by tossing the idea that your journal must reflect how unique and brilliant you are. "People act as if their journals are going to be published," says Price. "Do what real writers do: Take notes about stuff that may or may not turn into something bigger." Next time you're riding the bus to work, pull out a notepad and describe the scenery you pass. Having lunch at a caf?? Paint a verbal picture of the other customers ? the girl with the orange hair, the elderly man with a pocket watch ? and fantasize about their lives. "Journaling is about slowing yourself down and noticing details about your life and environment," says Price.

Go to the heart of the matter. If you think that nothing in your life is worth recording, Offner suggests you start asking yourself some big questions: Where am I going? What do I want? "We have our own sage counsel within. We just have to stop and take a deep breath and begin writing," she says. "Often by the time you get to the last sentence, you have figured out something important about your life." Another trick: Begin each sentence with "The truth is?" Keep writing that until something bubbles up. Offner suggests that articulating your deepest desires brings them one step closer to reality.

Create a gift for yourself (and your offspring). Price's journals don't just contain words; they also hold photographs, sketches, dried flowers and leaves. "It's more like a scrapbook," he says. He also has kept an entire journal about his kids, combining written text, sketches and photos.
 

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