…I’m hearing this phrase more and more. Our church staff talks about creating content for small groups, sermon series, announcements, and videos. Friends in the marketing world tell me it’s what they do. Even though my book is out, I find myself writing parallel content for podcasts and articles and talks.
Everyone is creating content and most of it is being stored online. When you write a post on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. When you write your notes for teaching. When you construct an email, business plan, or essay.
We’re all writers.
This week I share what I’m learning about content creation, but specifically - journaling.
Journaling is behind-the-scene content creation.
Writing thoughts down in a journal may or may not become anything for the world, but maybe it will. Journaling, drafting is a huge part of content creation. So is brainstorming, research, and experience. Next week I’ll share about publishing content. Publishing is hitting send, delivering, submitting your content.
So where do people store their content before they publish it?
Do you have a journal? Do you know where it is?! What do you write in it? When do you think to pick it up? I have an eye for them. I see those who are carting their journals around with them as kindred spirits.
I see Moleskines in hand at the crosswalk. I fight the urge to give the guys a fist bump or have an in-depth conversation with the ladies about their system. My journal is always with me. I realize many of you keep content on your devices. Cool. I would argue that there’s more undivided focus when we put pen to paper. However, if you see me on the elliptical machine at the gym, I’m either listening to worship music or a podcast. It’s common for me to pull up the Notes app and fumble to jot down inspiration, mostly in which is extremely misspelled. I transfer them to my journal later on.
I keep four journals. Yep, four. For years.
Everything is in here. Parent teacher notes. To-do lists that make their way to the planner. Mind-dumping thoughts. Blogging ideas. You name it. After a few weeks, this journal tends to need duct tape.
My Quiet Time journal
Holy Trinity Brompton, London, England makes an organized system to record what you’re learning, a verse that resonates, a place for prayer, gratitude and those you’re connecting with. For the longest time, I’ve kept this with my every day journal, but I like to keep them separate so this journal stays at the house, but my every day goes with me.
If we’ve journeyed together for long, then you know this journal is one of my favorite things. It’s a 5 year journal and I’m on my third one. I keep it by the bed and write in it nightly – recording a few lines of my day. Imagine one page is labeled March 12 and then there’s 5 sections going down the page. The first one was occupied with 2017. The next one, 2018. And I write in the third section for 2019. I can see what we did the past 2 years. This is exactly like a diary. The every day, ordinary parts and some days, I record what happened globally or nationally. I hope these will be gifts for future generations.
I use the Moleskine planner and have so for 5 years. Currently, I don’t use a digital calendar. Every appointment and shopping list is in this planner. It works well for me. Besides, calendars are journals. If you look at my week, you get the story of my life. You’ll see that Elijah and Sam took turns walking the dog. We went to the dentist. We moved weekly picnic night up a day because Asher and Ben went on an overnight school field trip. Menu planning, appointments, etc.
You probably think I’ve got too much going on, in life, but also in journals. But chances are you are writing this stuff down, too, in various places. Two stay put and two go with me. This is my system. There are thousands more.
But I’m really excited to share this with you:
My three way journal system
Throw down ideas. Move thoughts from your head to the paper. We take in so much information daily that we don’t have time to swallow it. So if it’s good, if it’s got you thinking, jot it down.
Write out complete thoughts. This will save you time later if this thought becomes something. In that 30 minutes when you could be scrolling on the phone, consider journaling. This discipline could reap something substantial, can’t say that scrolling will. Journaling engages our thoughts plus our emotions. Journaling helps us flesh ideas out. Journaling tells stories and sharpens our craft of creating content.
After a few weeks or a few months, I block off time to re-journal. I put the pen down and pick up a highlighter or a different colored pen. I go back over what I’ve jotted and journaled. This practice has been a game-changer for me. I reiterate. Humans in 2019 receive so much information that we forget how to process what we’ve just heard.
At the end of February, Ben and I went on a study break out of the city. For my morning quiet times, I stopped my routine and instead, re-journaled. I backed up to January’s date and began to re-read passages of Scripture and what I had written down and the prayers I had prayed. I saw names and blessings recorded and interceded and praised God all over again.
I went back over my daily journal. I scratched things off that I accomplished or that were unnecessary. I added more notes and considered how some thoughts would make a blogpost. The idea to run this blog series for 8 weeks of what I’m learningcame from the practice of re-journaling.
Re-journaling is going back. To me, it’s a respectful way of saying what you’ve learned before matters and is worth re-visiting. Throughout the Old Testament, people would recount what they had experienced as a way of remembering God. Re-journaling is reminding, remembering.
I wrote my book, Love Where You Live out of the three way journal system.
Here’s my story:
As I sat across the table from an editor who was interested in my story and how we were living in San Francisco, she asked if I’d written any of it down. I thought of my journals, but thought they would sound elementary and simple. So I left my answer at, ‘sure.’ She was hoping for a proposal soon after the conference.
First and foremost, the Spirit of the Living God was present and active over this project. I got home and the faucet came on. Here’s how I know. In one month, I had submitted a 46 page proposal that included the introduction and first three chapters. I waited patiently and impatiently over the summer to see if there would be a book deal. It came in August! I then wrote chapters 4-29 by December 16, the first day of the kids’ winter break.
I had jotted down thoughts and journaled stories over the years that made writing the book so much easier. So much was already written, learned, and studied in the “not having a project” season that when a project was given, content was there. I’m in another “not having a project” season, though I’m working for talks and jotting down ideas. I really want to clear my mind’s clutter by organizing thoughts, ideas, dreams in the journal and shrink drastically outside voices that I’m not intentionally inviting in.
How about you? How do you journal? Let’s learn from each other. Take a minute to leave a comment.