‘I never wrote things down to remember. I always wrote things down so I could forget.’ In the first chapter of his memoir, Green Lights, Academy-award winning actor Matthew McConaughey writes this line while revealing a lesser-known trivia about him: That he is an avid journaler who has been jotting down observations, life hacks, life lessons and bumper sticker quotes almost all his life.
A prescribed tool in therapy, the efficacy of journaling has been well-documented. It is, as those who practice it say, a safe space to vent record life experiences and plan daily activities. There is Clubhouse for general discussions on random topics, sure, but where do you go to express your fears and download inexpressible grief?
“If you look at it, our emotions are energy in motion. Journaling helps you channel your emotions in a healthy way,” says Bengaluru-based therapist Anitha Rajnarayan. While it is a tool she has been recommending for a long time, Rajnarayan says that she has suggested it to more people in the past one- and- a-half years.
Ahalya ‘Ally’ Matthan, Bengaluru-based perfumer and co-founder of The Registry of Sarees, has been journaling since her school days, but things have slightly changed since 2020. “I think I am internalizing things more now than before,” she says, talking about how she has now adopted gratitude journaling. “A friend told me about a gratitude app, which gives you daily prompts. It also has interesting gratitude challenges—currently there is a 14-day challenge going on,” says Matthan, who tries her best to complete the prompt every day.
Meera Gafoor, a German language translator who lives alone in Bengaluru, would journal infrequently earlier. “I’d write once a week or less. But in the last one year, I found myself writing more,” she admits. And it’s not only positive things she records. “Generally what I write is a mix of my observations of life, my poems and favourite quotes. But now, I also write about things that have left me disappointed or upset. Doing that helps me cope and gives me clarity on how to handle things if they go downhill the next time,” says Gafoor who swears by her Migoals journal.
Playwright Kavya Srinivasan has always journaled, even as a child. She describes the act of putting pen to paper as “a practice of process and reflection”. So this past year, when she found herself conducting online theatre classes for kids aged 8-14 as part of the Jagriti Theatre Arts Programme, she decided to get them into the habit of writing as well.
“It can be quite overwhelming at that age to be going through something that seems dystopian. I have been trying to think of ways to teach them resilience, and now I ask my students to write and talk about what they are going through,” says Srinivasan. “I have also written a short primer called ‘How to talk about the pandemic to children’, noting how parents, through gratitude lists, can help kids find small spots of everyday things to be grateful for,” she says.
How do you start journaling? By getting a journal, of course. Moleskine with its hardback cover and high-quality paper used to be the go-to notebook brand for journalers for a long time. Today, there are scores of inexpensive options and Indian designer stationery brands are all too keen on exploring the space. Delhi-based brand Dots & Doodles launched their journal line in January 2020. “The pandemic hit us soon after but by July our journals were flying off our shelves,” reveals co-founder Krisha Seth. Mumbai-based designer Dhruvi Doshi got into the wellness journal space for a personal cause. “I love animals but since last year, I’d been reading news about how a lot of pets have been orphaned due to Covid. That is when I decided to design wellness journals.” Categorised as ‘Shop for a Cause’ products on her site dhruvidoshidesigns.com, 50 % of all journal sales proceeds goes to the animal welfare organization, YODA Mumbai.
Illustrator and graphic designer Alicia Souza has been selling her popular Ultimate Planner on her web store for the past five years. “The Ultimate Planner is so much more than a planner. It has stickers, it has free pages where you can journal, it also has goal and habit trackers,” says Souza. Talking about the 2021 planner, Souza confesses to having had some misgivings while designing it. “I was nervous if people would like something that was heavy-duty optimistic but you know what, they really wanted that.” Sales for the planner have fared better than her expectations this year, reveals Souza who is now set to launch her much-awaited pregnancy journal. “I am getting a billion requests for it,” she laughs.
Mahalakshmi Prabhakaran is an independent journalist based in Bengaluru