Recently I saw a tweet that asked, “How do you journal?” There were all sorts of interesting responses, describing the many different styles of journaling that people practice. But when I read the question, I didn’t initially think, “What are the ways in which one might journal?” so much as “How on earth am I supposed to ‘journal’??”

I find “journaling” hard. It’s difficult for me to write without an audience. But something feels weird about writing a diary entry with the intent of someone some day stumbling across it and reading it. Like it would compromise the honesty of the process. Not that I lie to audiences, but, honestly, I hold back. There are things I think that I would never say to another person without editing. I assume that’s true for you, too. It’s common sense. It’s common curtesy. Plus, many of the thoughts that come into my head I end up rejecting. And I don’t want to be held accountable for ephemeral nonsense that I toss out after examining. But isn’t that what journaling is? Writing your thoughts? Without care for how they are presented to someone else because no one else is going to read them?

“But Mac,” you say, “Just write it for yourself. YOU are your audience.” I hear you. But I don’t get it. In school I never read my own notes from lectures, and now I’m going to go back and read old journal entries some day? Seems unlikely.

So how do you journal? Like, what is your goal? What is your process? How do you decide what to write? When to write? How much to write? I know I’m probably overthinking this. Help me out.