MEMORIES WITH MEANING
Effectiveness: 9/10 Effort: 3/10 Enjoyment: 5/10
Last weeks habit challenge was for me to journal every day. I think it’s important to explain why I would choose such a dull task as my first challenge. I mean, I could have decided to abstain from masturbating for 7 days. That would’ve gotten people excited, but no, I decided to write in my diary, and here’s why.
After six years in America I've decided to return to Europe to work on Burning Boat. The move has taken me from Los Angeles to New York to St. Louis to Germany and the final stop is Copenhagen. This process has forced me to go through all of my possessions and evaluate what I had accumulated over the years. It ended up being a lot of crap to be honest, but there were some gems in there. My favorite being a series of journals I had kept from high-school.
My memory is pretty horrendous, so I've always found comfort in writing down experiences rather than letting them recede into the fog of my mind.
The oldest journal I found dates back to 2010 and was used to record my nightly dreams- I was trying to learn how to lucid dream at the time. These dreams would be terribly boring for anyone else to read, but to me they were a fucking gold mine. The thing is, before reading this, I knew what had happened in 2010 on a very surface level. I knew I was in the tenth grade. I knew I was on the volleyball team. I knew I was learning how to make videos with my friend, but for the life of me I would not be able to run you through a single day- beginning to end. And to me that’s very important. I don’t have much of a reaction to just knowing I was on the volleyball team, but I do react very strongly to an entry that describes me going to practice, who I saw and what drills we did, because these bits of information suddenly trigger more bits of information to leak out of my mind. Before I knew it, I was able to vividly remember that specific moment, which in turn set off a chain reaction of other memories related to that moment. And that is a beautiful experience- to suddenly remember a moment you literally haven’t thought about for 8 years.
Every single entry in my journals was doing this for me, but the dream journal was particularly interesting, because I was able to remember dreams I had over 8 years ago. And I don’t just mean parts of the dream, I mean vividly recalling what I was thinking during that dream, how I woke up that morning, how I wrote it down, how I didn’t finish writing the last words in my journal because I was too tired.
My dreams also follow my love life at the time allowing me to watch myself fall in love, then pursue someone a few entries later, and then see how that relationship starts to blossom. It’s hard not to have those same emotions come up again, memories with emotions that you can feel. I can now tell you exactly what it felt like to fall in love back then, an experience that would be hard to recreate had I not decided to journal during those months. That was suddenly very important to me. I think everyone can relate to young love and chasing those feelings, so to have those emotions bubble up to my conscious was truly amazing. (This is getting too cheesy, so I won’t bore you with the details. You get the point.)
Now, I’ve never been very consistent about writing down my daily experiences. I’d go for months writing almost daily and suddenly there would be a huge swath of time where I’d write absolutely nothing. And these gaps are really quite sad to see. So much must have happened during those unrecorded times that I will most likely never remember again.
So, knowing that I will always value reading about my past, I feel like it is my responsibility to my future-self to record what is happening now, because I know how much joy it will bring him. And not only that, as a filmmaker I draw a lot of creativity from what’s happened in my past and understanding and analyzing my history. Having a more detailed map of where I came from helps me understand why I am the way I am today.
It also gives you perspective, to see that what once seemed an all consuming problem would have been completely forgotten had I not written it down. I’m able to take a step back and view myself in the third person and remember to enjoy what is happening right now, because someday this will all just be a fond memory. And since I’d like to remember this moment as much as possible, I’ve got to write it down.
So I decided to start journaling again for 7 days straight after about 6 months of not writing a single entry.
Now there are three main ways I personally journal.
- Stream of consciousness (write for 10min. without stopping to think. Just write whatever comes to mind.)
- Log (Run through your day and jot down what happened. Try to add specific details.)
- Dreams (Have the journal next to your bed and write down your dream every time you wake up, even if it's to go to the bathroom at 2:00am).
For the last 7 days, I focused on the second variation as that is the easiest to follow through on. It was a way for me to get back into the rhythm of journaling, and now I want to continue with that and incorporate the other two as well. I’m most interested in my dreams. Trust me, it's great to have a log of your dreams.
- Incorporate your journaling into you morning or night routine, or both, so that you don't forget.
- Don't put to much pressure on writing a good entry, I've got a few that are a sentence or two and brought up a whole host of memories.
- Be honest. Finding posts where you were brutally honest about yourself are a treat years later.
- Don't write about general routines (i.e. I went to work, then I ate lunch, then I drove home...), focus on specific details.
This entry has become much bigger than I intended, but I think I’ve found out exactly why it is so important for me to journal, and knowing exactly why you want to implement a habit is the key to it sticking to it.
Happy Habit Building,