Maegan Kasteler | Oct 17, 2018

Journaling and Personal History: A Guide for Everyone from Newbies to Self-Proclaimed Professionals

Writing your personal history can be a formidable project. Staring at a blank page in a journal or a blinking text curser can make it seem like you have begun an insurmountable task. So, where do you begin?

The process of writing a personal history is different for everyone. Some people have been journaling for years, some people are new to the game, and others may still not understand the importance of keeping a personal history, and for each of these types of people, we have different advice!

To the eternal journal writers

Congrats! You have kept a journal for the entirety (or close to it) of your life. But, we hate to break it to you—you aren’t done. There is still much to do.

Have you thought about how you are going to preserve your journals? If you are a traditional pen and paper journal keeper, those journals that you’ve poured your heart and soul into are at risk of damage and destruction. So how do you keep them safe?

One of the great parts about journaling this way is your own handwriting. You don’t need to worry about how neat and clean your handwriting is, or spelling, grammar, punctuation, or even complete sentences. All of this together creates a unique memento of your life that the generations to come will cherish as a way to get to know you.

All this makes it important to preserve your journals, including your personal touches. High definition scans (at least 300 dpi) of your journal and backing up your scans in cloud storage is a great way to preserve the integrity of your journals. This also allows you to share your journals and distribute them how you see fit.

A personal history can be more than a lifetime of journals. And deciding what to include can be difficult. As a general rule of thumb, we think that if you believe it is important, then it is. The mundane details of your life add color and help those who come after you understand what life was really like when you lived.

So, the short answer, nothing is unimportant—include it all! Find the best way to preserve your journals, and decide who will inherit them after you are gone.

To those new to the journaling game

Well, first off, welcome to the journaling sphere. We are glad you are here. We don’t want you to start by thinking about how much time you missed. This is all about looking forward while recording the past.

If you are just getting started writing your personal history or journaling, this is an exciting time. The first thing to do is pick your format. Are you going to be a traditional pen and paper person, or a digital typist? There are merits to both, and it is only a matter of personal preference.

Once you have picked your medium, it’s time to get started. There are two big parts to getting started later in life:

  • Write about the past: you have lived a life before this moment, and that is just as important to include in your history as the future is. Don’t worry about too much detail. Odds are you won’t remember it all. Include what you can, and don’t be afraid to go back and add more as you remember details. Don’t forget to note where in time you started your history. That way anyone who reads it in the future knows exactly where it changes from remembered facts to those written in real time.
  • Continue writing about your present: don’t get so caught up in writing about the past that you forget to write about your present! They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit so it is important to stick to it. It might seem weird at first, and you might ask who will even care to read this in the future. You might not know what to include. You might feel like you don’t have anything to say because it was just a normal day. It will get easier and feel more normal as time goes on, and you will start to realize how much you have to say.

To those who don’t quite understand the importance of journaling

Have you ever had a moment where you have tried to remember a detail from something in your past and you haven’t been able to remember?

Have you wished you’d known personal details about the lives of those who came before you?

Have you ever been doing your family history, lost a path that your family traveled, and had no idea where they could have gone?

Have you ever wondered how your ancestors lived?

We know it is weird to think about a lot of hypothetical future people wanting to know these things about you, but if you have ever wondered about your ancestors or your own past, then you already understand the importance of journaling. That is the purpose. To create a record for reference in the future either by you or by your descendants so when they (or you) ask any of these questions, they can find the answers.

Odds are, if you have made it this far, you have some perspective on why it’s important, or someone sent you this post saying, “I told you so,” and there was some guilt involved in you getting this far. Truthfully, you probably won’t see the benefits of your personal journal or history in your lifetime. Keeping this record is all about who comes after you.

A final word of advice

Make it your own. However you choose to record your personal history, whether it’s typing a word document, traditional pen and paper, social media, or anything else you can think of, your personal history is important. It is an expression of yourself, your likes and dislikes, your style, how you live, how you love, and everything that falls in-between.

The good thing about your personal history—it’s only finished when you die. Because of that, you have plenty of time to improve, change it up, and learn about yourself.

Have any journaling tips you want to share? Tweet us your tips @RootsTechConf.

Maegan Kasteler

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