Personal Archiving: Journaling Tips for Self-Reflection

In a world of hashtags and clicks, connecting with physical items is a rarity. Moreso, the space to collect our thoughts and engage with any type of self-reflection is quickly dwindling. We live in a constantly moving world that leaves little time for looking back at past experiences and learning from them.

While so much of our lives are on the internet and our hard drives, our personal archive is also hidden in the handwritten notes, photographic prints, and trinkets we collect throughout the year. Though small in number, we save these snapshots of our lives with the intention that, one day, we will want to look backward and cherish the stories attached to them. They are the physical representations of our past and our identities.

Keeping a journal has many benefits, but it also creates a very real, tactile way to document your life. Incorporating a few of these tactics into your journaling practice can ensure that your journal becomes more than random, scribbled phrases that’ll surely be tossed out the next time you move; your journal should be a document of your life that provides space to nurture your memories and encourage self-reflection.

1. Provide context
At the beginning of each journal entry, spend some time providing context. You may know what you’re talking about now, but give it a year or two and you’ll be scratching your head about what you meant by that random phrase. Context can be brief or elaborate, but always consider the who, what, where, why, and when of the journal entry.

2. A few sentences are better than a blank page
For a journal to be a documentary reflection of a time in your life, it needs to be consistent. And honestly—the key to this is not setting the bar too high. Don’t be afraid to keep entries short and sweet (but always with some context). On days when you’re tired, busy, or just can’t be bothered, try to think about at least one highlight or memory of the day.

3. It’s ok to be boring
Sometimes, it’s the boring things that tell us the most about ourselves. Don’t be afraid to record what tv show you’re most obsessed with or what you ate for lunch. They seem mundane now but those tiny details are what make each day special.

4. Leave room for compliments
Honesty is certainly a big part of self-reflection–but so is being kind to yourself. On rough days, it’s nice to flip back through your journal and get a little confidence boost from your past self.

5. Keep it for a lifetime
You can protect your memories for yourself or future generations by doing simple things like using a pencil (or a pen with archival ink) and storing your journal appropriately. If you can, keep your completed journal in an acid-free, archival container in a dry, dark place. Try not to keep your journal in a bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, basement, or attic, as these environments will fade, yellow, and degrade the paper.

by Jessica Whitaker

Jessi Carrubba is an Austin-based artist, writer, and archivist. Her writing plays with the space between academia and art, taking the rigid paradigms of technical subjects such as writing or archival studies and using them to create playful, abstract constructions of thought. She is particularly interested in the documentary methods of today's society and seeks to encourage her readers to connect with their identities and personal histories through self-reflection, archival creation, and creative practice. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and a well-crafted cocktail.


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