Writing’s Therapeutic Benefit

Have you ever had sleepless nights? You’re tossing and turning on your bed trying to sleep but couldn’t because of so many voices in your head? Or perhaps you’re having this big project and you just can’t keep your mind off from it to get some sleep. You’re planning for contingencies, thinking about things that can go wrong with it, or charting down your next steps – all of it when you really need to do is get some sleep.

What you need is to get it off from your head, quickly. Put it down somewhere safe so that you can be entirely honest and don’t need to censor yourself. Put it down somewhere reliable that you can easily retrieve when you need it in the future.

Writing benefitWhat you need is a diary.

Yes, it’s a classic solution. But really a diary isn’t just something for preteen girls. Think of it as letters that you write for your future self. It’s a journal for you to learn from your past mistakes. It’s a place for you to dump your thoughts and be thruthful. It’s somewhere for you to offload the voices in your head so that they won’t bother you while you’re trying to sleep.

I’ve been trying to keep a diary for some time right now to varying success. I started with the traditional “book” diary, which didn’t work well. The problem with a book is twofold: I needed to be home to be able to write in it and it’s not really secure – if I lock the book it’s hard to get to it, if I don’t lock it then other people can easily read it.

Then I tried to use a desktop PC to write my diary – just like Doogie Howser, MD. It’s definitely secure (I can use encryption and stuff) But I need to turn on the computer, wait for it to boot, load the software, etc – it was quite a hassle. Not to mention that at that time (which was in the 1990s), the computer was located in the living room, near the television and everything else – which is not really a good place to write anything private. Not to mention the issue of obsolescence: what if the software I used becomes obsolete? What will happen to my diary entries? Can I still access them?

Then I came accross the Day One app. The app was recommended by Tyler Hall. It has both iOS and Mac versions that syncs – which means I can write the diary just about anywhere. I have my own personal computers now (I consider my iPhone as one of my computers as that’s my primary use for it), and not a shared one like what we had in the 90s. So, privacy is not really an issue anymore. Day One also stores diary entries as plain text files, so even if the app becomes obsolete, I can still access those entries as XML files. But even if you’re not technically inclined, the Day One can export all your entries as PDF or plain text files – which is pretty good for archival purposes.

Having an iPhone version of Day One means that I can write journal entries as I was commuting or waiting for a bus. Having it synced with my Mac also mean that it makes things easy whenever I want review or even write a longer entries. A Mac version is also quite good if I need to copy-paste some stuff from other sources to my diary (most of these were a note of programming problems, hence I needed to include some source code or log output excerpts in my journal entry).

Why all the sudden I resume journaling? One of the other reason was because I was watching Star Trek Voyager as I was commuting. In this series, just about every episode begins with a “captain’s log, stardate xxxx, ….” – that is the starship’s captain or another senior officer making a journal entry. At times the storyline also shows how useful these journal entries are – some of their problems were solved by going through these journal entries and gaining insight from them.

So what are you waiting for? Start journaling today!

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