Kid Friendly: Journaling Off the Grid

By Katie Hellmuth Martin

Last month’s column invoked the importance of writing down your life in a journal so that you could look back to see what you thought, what you did, what dreams you pursued. Another benefit — whether you write in cursive, print or doodles — is the impact it has on your brain and spirit.

You are writing now — but where? Usually you are typing into Instagram, Facebook, texts and emails. When you type your prolific, heartfelt, funny or profound statements on Instagram, where do they go?

They go nowhere. All of this beauty we are creating for photo streams is going downstream, perhaps never to be seen again. Think about the photo library on your computer. A scary place, right? Where are you going to find that trip to your cousins or out west if you didn’t print the photos right away?

Digital disappears

All of those amazing photos of your amazing children that you shared on Instagram — have you printed them? Have you written down your thrilling captions? Have you created vacation photo albums?

If not, this needs to change. Applications for instant photo printing need to be on your phone immediatelies (this is a word my son uses — the plural of “immediately” — that’s how important it is).

Writing by hand

There is this belief that writing letters with your hand connects to your brain in ways we may never understand. This is emphasized by Julia Cameron, who created The Artist’s Way, a book that enforces that we are all artists. Tapping into that artistry, she believes, can be done through writing anything, even “I don’t know what to write.” Thoughts will start coming.

If you do this in the morning, for some reason, your day goes a little better. You might even write something upsetting. But if you write it, the day shifts in a different direction.

Your assignment

You are going to start a journal. And so are your kids. You’ll do it together, or in-between Device Time. There are journals of all kinds available, plus gel-ink pens if you want fancy, scented gel-ink pens, pencils, chalk pencils, highlighters, stickers, all of it.

I have baby journals for all of my babies. The first is filled with details. The next two are … a little sparse, due to a lack of time. My son, who is now 7, likes to watch me write in his journal, and he likes to contribute to what I am remembering, and what makes him laugh.

I gave up on my own journal about nine years ago. My journalizing time was put into those baby journals. For your assignment, you could start one for your child or children where you write memories or things you notice about them. But you also must keep one for yourself, to tap back into one you started but left.

Journals come in a variety of sizes and colors. (Photo by K. Martin)

Motivating the kids

The gel-pens help. More effective, however, is when a kid sees you journaling. You might sit next to them, or across the room from them, or in a room that they pass through frequently, and write or doodle. Their curiosity will be piqued. Have a Special Place for your journal. Kids like Special Places, and they may set up their own Special Place, with Special Pens. Journals with locks and keys are fun.

At night before bed, you might journal together (keep your deeper journaling for later when you’re by yourself and can totally zone-out). They will be in their beds, writing, and you maybe in a chair or at the edge of the bed. Just having you near can help center them enough. Eventually, Journaling Time will be a thing they do on their own at bedtime or in Quiet Time in the morning (see an earlier column about that).

Your photo assignment

Photos are just as important. You must print them.

Choose a photo-printer-by-mail, such as Snapfish, Apple’s print option from the computer, and/or Chatbooks (for instantly bound photo books). Install the app on your phone and send-to-print individual photos or “mini-books” after an adventure.

I’ve tried the print-at-home options, and it’s just not happening with these printers that need endless refills of ink or toner or ribbon ink. Alternatively, skip the mail and use Accuprint’s easy computer machine in Beacon.

Print out anything you published at Instagram or texted to someone.

Get a journal and paste in the photos, and write next to them what you wrote online.

At the very least, write on the back of the photo what you typed into your digital medium.

Let me know how this journaling goes for you. Take pictures and tag @katiejamesinc. Or wait — is that counterproductive to all the advice I just gave?

Katie Hellmuth Martin is a Beacon mother of three children, wife to one man and owner of A Little Beacon Blog and Tin Shingle.