Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Wilberforce Tip For Journaling More Consistently

Do you struggle with consistently journaling thoughts and events from your day?

While I love to journal, I've rarely mustered the daily discipline a journal requires. I'm a wordy person, meaning, I naturally describe a happening with the most words possible. Multiply that by every concern, prayer and victory I experience everyday and I'm writing a novel each night. That was until I began reading the journal of one my favorite history figures.

Currently I'm reading the five volume edition of "The Life Of William Wilberforce" by Robert Isaac and Samuel Wilberforce. This biography is full of efficient, yet informational diary entries by a man who was very time-conscience. William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament in the eighteenth century and the famous abolitionist of the English slave trade, was a man of many responsibilities, relationships and requirements on his time. Also, he was, by his own confession, weak in the area of self-discipline. Yet, this man still managed to keep a journal most of his life - a source his sons and a host of historians since have relied heavily on in recording an incredible life. So how did he do it? The thing is, William Wilberforce only recorded the highlights of his day, expounding only as needed. This method allowed him to leave behind a full-rounded view of his daily life that is also short and concise. For instance, while running for the highly sought seat as the representative of Yorkshire in 1734, Wilberforce recorded:
"Thursday, 25th March. Dined at York Tavern. Message from Bluitt's, about supporting anyone, if we would support Foljambe [for the seat of York] -- our answer. Stanhope, Fauconberg, &c mentioned me. Sir Robert Hildyard spoke again - I speechified again - and they agreed all should separately sound out their neighbors, and come with the result to the country meeting about a week afterwards, so putting off the determination concerning me till the nomination."*
To render into 21st century American terms, Wilberforce names the dining establishment which was the stage for the big dogs' reactions to his bold aspiration to claim one of England's most important parliamentary seats; mentions a speech he delivered and how his supporters agreed to "sound out their neighbors" in how much support there was for him before the nomination meeting. And he did it in one paragraph. To write a paragraph of this length would take me five minutes. Five minutes: pretty short investment to ensure the most important events of my life are recorded for latter years. 

So now here is how I'm planning on restarting my journal keeping habit. 

1. Limit myself to recording the most important highlights of my day (ones that I will still care to know ten years from now).
2. Focus on consistency more than content. Like every skill, the beauty of how the content is arranged will improve as I work my journaling muscle. 

3. Discipline myself to write today. One of my greatest past hurdles has been when I inevitably miss a day or two, I feel I must make up the past days before writing the current one. Yet, as faithful as Wilberforce was with his own journal, there are missing days in the account. He didn't let himself get distracted from today by the failure of yesterday. If making up past days makes the task too cumbersome, then take satisfaction in writing down today's events and move forward.

Do you have any favorite journaling tips or examples? I'd be tickled to hear them in the comments below! :)

*Robert Isaac Wilberforce and Samuel Wilberforce, Volume I, The Life of William Wilberforce, (London: John Murray, 1838), 59


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  1. Sounds like a 5-year-journal would be perfect for you. ;) There are about five small lines in which to record main events of the day. It forces one to be concise. Rebecca Theall gave me one last year and I have LOVED it. Were it not for that, last year probably wouldn't have been recorded at all, but now I know the highlights. :)

    1. LOL!! I agree. ;) I've heard a lot of good things about the five year journals. Better put that down on my list for this coming Christmas. ;) :)