The art of journaling: Discover your voice
— Written by Ronnie —
As with any form of writing, it is important to discover your voice when it comes to journaling. Having your own voice allows your words to flow and your stories to weave together in a way that is seamless and coherent. It makes it easier to sit down and write because you already know how you’re going to write. While no one can tell you what your voice should be, the following are half a dozen tips to help you along with discovering yours, based on my personal experience.
Look to others for inspiration.
A few years ago, I was inspired by two amazing women whose writing constantly captivated me with each blog post that they published. These two women were Shoko and Nirrimi. The way Shoko and Nirrimi spun their stories with heartfelt words and poetic artistry spurred me on to discover my own voice and to record my stories in an entirely new light. I started writing down snippets of my life in a way I’d never done before and, for that, I'm infinitely grateful.
Have a go at writing in first person, second person, and third person.
For most of us, writing in the first person comes naturally, especially for those of us who used to keep one of those “Dear Diaries” when we were younger. However, writing in the third person and in the second person both have their time and place, and it’s worthwhile having a go at both to become familiar with them and to give yourself more options. For example, when I engage in personal journaling, I write in the first person. However, when I am writing in my children’s journals, I write in the second person. And when I journal for our family albums, I always write in the third person.
Consider the tense you wish to write in.
I used to always write in the past tense because this was what I was taught back in school. Indeed, writing in past tense is easy and straightforward to do, and I can understand why it is the common choice when it comes to recording simple narratives of everyday life. However, when I first started reading Nirrimi’s blog, I fell instantly in love with the way she writes in the present tense. I decided to try it for my own personal journaling, and I have not looked back. Even though I sometimes still have to think twice when it comes to penning my words in the present tense, I love the way it allows me to transport myself back to a moment in time and to re-live it as if it were happening all over again; you can have a read of this to see what I mean. All this to say—try writing in different tenses to see what works best for you.
Consider who you are writing to or for.
Who will be reading your journals? Just you? Your partner? Your children? Your whole family? Your audience will no doubt affect what voice you use to write. For example, when I am writing solely for myself, I allow myself to write vulnerably and honestly, paying heed to all those inner thoughts and emotions that swirl inside of me. I write of the things that make my heart ache because I know that in ten years' time, that’s what I will want to read back and remember. When I write for my children, I write to them. My voice is more jovial and much more tongue-in-cheek. I write imagining my boys as teenagers who will appreciate the humour of all the hilarious moments that Rick and I are doing our best to document. When I write for our whole family, I adopt a more neutral and matter-of-fact tone as I mostly narrate the events of our day-to-day life.
Use different voices for different forms of journaling.
I know I’ve already touched on this above, but just as it’s possible for an author to write for different genres, I think that it makes perfect sense for us to write in different voices for different forms of journaling. As long as you are being true to yourself, that is really all that matters.
Read your words out loud.
This is a fool-proof way to work out whether your journaling voice is true to you. Simply read your words out loud. Does it sound like you? If it doesn’t, then perhaps you are trying too hard to imitate another writer’s voice. But if it does, then you know you’ve struck gold...