I’ve been journaling almost as long as I’ve been writing stories. I would journal when I was mad, when I was happy, or sometimes just to think about how bored I was. Over the years, a lot of things have changed about the way I journal, from consistency to content, but the fact that I am always hand-writing has been a constant. Whether it’s been two months or two days, I’m always journaling with a pen on paper. But this isn’t true for everyone.
Some people have really taken to journaling online. With websites like Google Docs that automatically saves work, it’s very tempting to want to move away from pen and paper to an online medium. It can be accessed anywhere there is a computer and through convenient apps on smartphones. There’s no threat of physically losing it and only a small threat of losing work by a bug in the system. It’s way faster to type than it is to hand write and with a private online account, there’s no need to worry about anyone stumbling upon these private thoughts.
Last month, Lifehacker writer Kristin Wong did an experiment where she compared the two options and came to the verdict that for the full benefits of journaling, it’s best to write by hand. She considered brain activity and catharsis for journaling by hand and the convenience and speed that comes with journaling online. It’s easier to stick with journaling if it’s easier and faster to do, but in the end it’s most beneficial when it comes with a change of pace from daily life.
Now, I admit I have a bias for journaling by hand. There’s something so romantic and old fashioned about opening a journal and taking the time to put my thoughts onto paper that I’ve never been able to shake the habit. But for the sake of considering both sides of the spectrum, I decided to put down my pen for two weeks and try journaling online. What I learned was not that I have a preference for one over the other but that ultimately, each has its own use in my life.
As I mentioned above, I’m not the most consistent when it comes to journaling. I go for months at a time without writing in my journal but always come back to it in times of stress, excitement, and major life changes. Writing by hand has worked for me because I get to sit down and pour my feelings onto the page all at once. I can see the whole picture. And honestly, it’s just really satisfying to flip through pages and see how much I’ve written.
However, what I discovered was how much more I wanted to record when all I had to do was pull out my laptop and start typing. Free time before class? I logged on and wrote a quick entry about the rude comment made the class before. Waiting for a meeting to start? I pulled up my Word Doc and wrote about an embarrassing moment during my presentation that day. These were the little things I will now get to remember because of how easy it was for me to write them down.
I went into this little experiment of mine thinking I wouldn’t like journaling online, that it would just remind me of homework and I would soon resent having to do it. Instead, I found it actually fits into my life pretty seamlessly without the extra hassle journaling by hand tends to bring. But, as a creature of habit, I’ll probably fall back into journaling by hand sooner rather than later. Ultimately, I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.