Writers' Lab: 750 words versus longhand journaling

To clear out your mind, keeping a journal is a great tool.

Keeping a journal does not only bring you more peace of mind but it also has the following benefits:
- identify your worries by expressing them
- create a moment for self-reflection
- have a personal archive of thoughts
- track your progress in achieving goals
- practice writing in a different way
- by reading multiple entries, you can analyze deeper thought patterns.

I'm a long-time journal-writer. From spring until early December, I was using 750 words and it helped me developing my theoretical approach and ultimately writing my dissertation. But since late 2012, I have switched back to my longhand journal - a notebook I've been using since 2000.

As a teenager, I wrote in my journal daily. I copied the habit from my grandfather, who wrote daily for his entire life (and thus, throughout the second World War). When I went to university, I wrote less and less and eventually spaced entries by two years. Early in my PhD, I picked up the habit again to reflect on my research, and life in general.

Having used both digital and longhand journals over the past months, I have listed to pros and cons of each method, to help you chose the right method to keep up a journal.

750 words
+ This website is designed to get you writing:clean workspace, no distractions.
+ I've used 750 words to flesh out ideas and to write a brief overview of what I did during a day.
+ It's the perfect place for typing out a rant.
+ The stats are great - they help you analyze your writing.
- You're restricted to (mostly) unformatted text: you can't highlight, scribble, draw.
- You're staring at a screen, like for too many of your activities.

longhand journal
+ It's great to flip through a journal and read random entries from long ago.
+ Writing longhand makes it easier to get into the flow of writing.
+ Distractions associated with the internet are not there.
+ You can draw, highlight, use different colored pencils,..
+ I find it easier to mix up the writing: overviews of what I did, my deeper thoughts and worries, random gratitude lists, affirmations
- Writing longhand is slower than typing
- It's not in the cloud, you need to drag along a physical object when you travel.

Do you journal? Has it improved your writing, or keeping track of your goals? Share you experiences in the comments section!