Church and CultureGrowth In Christ

Stop making excuses! Start journaling.

Paul Gotthardt8 comments870 views

I already know what you’re going to say.

“I’ve tried journaling, but I’m not good at it. I struggle to move my thoughts into words. I’m not consistent enough or disciplined enough to do it effectively. I’m forgetful. I jot stuff down and then forget where I wrote it.”

I understand. From personal experience, I know two things about journaling. First, I like the idea of journaling more than journaling itself. Second, the only time I get really excited about journaling is when I see a new leather journal that I can’t live without. (Side note: If I could transfer the motivation I feel in the store to actually journaling when I get home–I’d be unstoppable. [Side note to the side note: That will probably never happen, but the hope allows me to justify buying another journal.])

How can you move past the excuses and tap into the benefits of journaling?

1. Find a system that works for you. Everyone is wired differently. One way does not fit everyone. For example, I’ve got a touch of OCD (okay maybe it’s more than a touch). I hate to see journals that are partially finished, not chronologically accurate, or randomly patched together. If it looks like an explosion of thought instead of coherently written insight–I mentally check out. I need order. I crave order.

I few years ago, I found a journalling program called One Day. There are options for your computer, tablet, or smart phone. All sync together nicely, and it allows you journal where you are. The part that sold me was the ability to past date entries, add pictures, and then print or save a pdf of everything. In order to streamline everything and do away with the clutter of partially filled journals–I retyped all my former journals into the program, threw away the hard copies, and then saved a copy on multiple external drives.

Yes, it was a lot of work. Yes, it made my OCD happy. And No–I’m not seeking professional help. Stop judging me!

If you enjoy working with pen and paper–do it. I still keep a few of those options around. If you work best with an ongoing Word document–that’s fine. If you “need” a series of Moleskin journals that are all the same size and color coded for your subject matter–don’t let the smiles of others stop you. When people comment about your compulsive behavior, it’s because they think it’s AWESOME! Or at least that’s what I tell myself! Find the system that works for you.

2. Anything is better than nothing. Write what you can when you can. If you wait until everything calms down to start journaling, you will never do it. If you wait until you can collect all of your thoughts and perfectly express them to your liking, it will never happen. Start where you can. Write what you can. Have a place to jot down your thoughts and worry about “cleaning” it up later. Anything is better than nothing. However, if you fail to write when you can, you will be amazed at how much you forget.

3. There’s value in expressing thought through writing. Writing what’s on your mind enables you to better define, more clearly articulate, and more fully express what’s been clanking around between your ears. From personal experience, I’ve found that journaling relieved my anger in certain situations. When I expressed my frustration in words–I found out I was wrong. Awkward! I’ve seen that journaling enabled me to clarify the lessons I was learning. I’ve seen that journaling freed my mind from circulating thoughts. Once the thought was fully expressed on paper–the mental tension was relieved.

I wonder how many arguments could be avoided if we journaled more than we jabbered? I wonder how many life lessons could be transferred to our children, or shared in the workplace, or kept personally for future reference–if we journaled more? Journaling is more than a discipline; it’s a creative way to simplify the complex, reshape our perspective, and preserve what we’ve learned.

I want to encourage you to start journaling today. Buy a journaling program, pick up a new leather journal (or 3), dust off your favorite pen. Write what’s on your mind and don’t worry about everything being perfect–now. Over time you will see what system works best for you. The key is to start today.

BTW, the picture above is my newest leather journal–AND ITS AWESOME!

Paul Gotthardt
Is learning to live from the overflow of my relationship with Jesus; Husband, Father, Pastor, Church Planter, Author, UGA grad... football and UFC enthusiast.


  1. What I started doing was writing letters to my kids on their birthdays, sometimes I’ll make the odd entry at any other time of year. But I write to them about what is going on in their life and mine at that time, hopes, fears, explanations of things I know they won’t get until they are older. Writing to someone rather than myself keeps me motivated.

    1. That’s awesome Kevin. I’ve never thought of that, but I think it will work into my future journaling. Thanks for the idea.

    1. Hi Shon, Paul,

      I was going to write almost verbatim the words you wrote to Brother Paul. So instead of duplicating, I just thought I would comment here. My love and appreciation for so many words of wisdom given to me would be a good spot to start the journal I have been jabbering about for 20+ years.


  2. September 3, 1822
    Eugene Delacroix-19th Century French artist wrote:
    “I am carrying out my plan, so long formulated, of keeping a journal. What I most keenly wish is not to forget that I am writing for myself alone. Thus I shall always tell the truth, I hope, and thus I shall improve myself”
    (Note the date written! I have this quote above my shelves of mis-matched journals!)

  3. thanks Paul I’ve always started and stopped and started and stopped. Definitely a disciple that I need to do much better with.

  4. This is why I love you Paul. Your timing is always perfect. I feel certain that in a way only God can orchestrate, you were put on this earth solely for my edification. Oh and everyone else you shepherd at the same time with the same exact bits of wisdom.
    Thank you for your spirit led life!

    1. That could be the funniest and most uplifting note I’ve received in a long time. 🙂 I’m grateful for God allowing our paths to cross.

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