I get this question a lot, in varying degrees. 

Sometimes, it can also come up as:

  • How can I develop journaling as a habit?
  • How can I journal every day?
  • How can I find the time to journal?

To answer these questions, I believe it’s essential for us to know these three things:

1. DEFINING OUR EXPECTATIONS

What do we expect from developing a journaling habit? What kind of changes or improvements would we like to see once we are journaling consistently? How would our journaling practice help or benefit us?

Answering these questions will help us to understand what we need from our journaling practice. 

For example, do we expect journaling to allow us to be more creative? To keep memories or life lessons? To resolve issues? To express or process emotions? To organize our thoughts? 

Knowing what we would like to experience from our journaling practice—and the benefit we may get from it—will help us find the time and motivation to do our journaling practice. 

We will want to be consistent with our journaling practice if we know that it will be rewarding—whatever that ‘reward’ may look or feel like.

2. MAKING IT FEEL GOOD

My favorite yoga teacher, Adriene Mishler, always encourages her students/viewers to find ‘what feels good’ while doing their yoga practice. 

The same goes for journaling. 

Journaling can feel hard when we’re comparing our journaling process, our frequency of journaling, or our journal, with others.

Because someone writes three journal pages every morning, we think we need to do that, too. 

Because someone posts aesthetic journal pages decorated with washi tapes and collages, we think our journal pages also need to look like that. 

Because someone is adopting the bullet journal technique, we think we need to start doing that, too.

To be consistent with our journaling habits, we need to focus on our own expectations and find what feels good—for us. 

Thus, ask ourselves:

  • What feels kind, enjoyable and comforting? 
  • What makes journaling feels light and breezy?
  • What works?

When journaling feels heavy, takes too much time, or gives us too much hassle, it is no wonder if we find it challenging to be consistent with our practice.

3. JOURNALING WITH KINDNESS

With everything that is going on in our lives at the moment, how much time can we spare for our journaling practice—that wouldn’t feel like a burden?

One minute per day will do. Three minutes per week will do. Thirty minutes per month will do. Writing in our journal every morning is great. Writing every other day is great. Writing every other week is also great. 

Treat our journal as a kind and friendly companion. Know that our journal is patient and non-judgemental. 

If we break our journaling habit or have a falling-out for a month or two, it’s okay. We can always get back to it: we can always pick up our journal and our favorite pen, and we can always start again where we left off.

Release the guilt from not being able to show up for our journaling practice. 

Instead, celebrate every time we sit down on our desk, on a train, in the waiting room, at a cafe, on a park bench—simply writing our heart out.

***

Why do you journal or keep a journaling practice?

How does your practice look like?

What works for you?

hanny
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I was thinking about quitting Instagram at the end of July, but I haven’t. However, I did take a break from it in August (only spending a few minutes a week posting Stories and liking some posts/updates from the people I follow), and apparently, it gave me enough time to read.

If you’re curious about the books I read during my Instagram break:

  1. The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett
  2. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
  3. The Secret Life of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
  4. Elevation by Stephen King
  5. Imaginary Friends by Stephen Chbosky
  6. Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh
  7. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  8. People from My Neighbourhood by Hiromi Kawakami
  9. The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers (I love her writing!)

 

I found it impressive (and rewarding!) to have so much time to read when I am not thinking about what to post next on Instagram and trying to fit ‘sharing content’ on my schedule. This might be one of the reasons why I didn’t enjoy the platform that much: that constant pressure from the algorithm to churn more and more content was tiring.

A recent post from my dear Clara Devi, however, made me rethink that sentiment.

About haven’t been updating her blog for quite some time, she wrote:

"Here's a verdict: nobody expected me to be perfect, apparently (where have I been?). Nobody thinks of giving me pressure (except myself), and zero question is being thrown regarding why I let my blog stay aloof in the passing eight months (now nine). People are just super kind and supportive and chill. It IS the privilege that I should be thankful for."

Clara Devi, Lucedale.co

She is right. It isn’t about the changing algorithm.

It is more about the pressure I give myself to let the algorithm dictate my relationship with Instagram, with the platform.

It’s something I don’t care too much about when it comes to my blog: I see this blog as my own private space, where I can write about whatever I want without worrying about SEO or page rankings. I feel like I can always type something—anything, so spontaneously and I can take a break or go on a hiatus whenever I feel the need to.

I am happy enough to keep this blog as a cabinet of curiosities where I document my life, a place where I’ll keep on writing and posting entries even when there’s nobody here commenting, liking, or reading it.

And I realized that I want to have this kind of relationship with Instagram or whatever platforms I want to experiment with in the future.

***

So, I’ve been reading a lot during my break, and I’ve been writing a lot as well—revisiting my writing practice—and strengthen my muscle to work on a longer narrative piece. And, oh, a piece of news to share: the poem I wrote last year was published in an Italian poetry journal, the 29th edition of Antologia del Premio Internazionale, Centro Giovani e Poesia Triuggio (Prometheus, 2020).

The poem was originally written in English and titled ‘Language School for Strangers’ (the title of the translated poem is All’inizio—’at the beginning’).

Here’s the English version for you to read:

LANGUAGE SCHOOL FOR STRANGERS

At first,

the racket of separation;

of a life packed across the ocean;

of dreams set into an unexpected motion.

[ porto. documento. punto di controllo. ]

A week,
the silence of cardboard boxes piled on top of one another,
the barely-there hum of a second-hand refrigerator;
the not-so-temporary matter.

[ farmacia. stazione di polizia. scuola. ]

A month,
the resonance of a faraway life;
of roots severed with a knife;
of letters and comfort blankets that never arrived.

[ sono. sei. siamo. ]

Three months,
the rhythm of fears and many failed starts;

of worries and not fitting in for the most parts;

of slurs that lurks and, at times, barks.
[ dove. perché. come. ]

Six months,

the distant whirl of a shy hello;
the shriek of coming in contact with snow;

the way the winter sun casts a neighbor’s house in a soft shadow.

[ fare. avere. stare. ]

A year,
the way Hellen Keller first spelled W-A-T-E-R;
the explosion of meanings, letter upon letter upon letter;
you sew the words, and the sentence rolls with laughter.

[ ascoltare. mangiare. amare. ]

***

I’ve been back to Instagram these days, posting more snippets from the behind-the-scene of my life, spontaneously. I may go on another break or hiatus some of these days, then I may pop back up. A friend of mine told me that I am somewhat ‘elusive’, and maybe she was right. Some weeks I may be around, and some other weeks I may be retreating into my woman’s cave, preparing things to share into the world slowly, gently, without the rush.

Clara is right.

I have the privilege of not having to treat my blog or my social media platforms as a work thing, and I am thankful for that. I just need to remind myself from time to time that it is okay to carve a space and a schedule of my own. That sharing is not supposed to be a burden or a responsibility.

It’s supposed to be fun and exciting; like that feeling when you’re about to reunite with an old friend after some time, full to the brim with the enthusiasm of spilling the stories, giddy to listen to what they’ve been up to.

I need to remember that feeling.

And I hope you’ll be that friend 🙂

hanny
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*) This post contains a sponsored link that will help me grow this blog and post more often. The rest of the content is made with love by yours truly, as always 🙂

Naturally, I don’t like workouts.

Maybe because there’s the word ‘work’ in it—that makes it feel like another thing I need to tick off from my to-do list; a chore; a responsibility. However, I enjoy movement, and I feel the need to move my body every single day. To me, it’s about ‘celebrating what my body can do’ (I read this somewhere, and it really encapsulates how I feel).

There are some weeks when I am diligently roll out my yoga mat late in the afternoon or following some strength training and boxing workouts on YouTube. There are some weekends when I go into the natural parks and have a 12-kilometre hike. But there are also many days when I just feel too tired, too heavy, or too sad to do such things.

However, I am trying to make movement a part of my daily life, and one way to do so is by incorporating mindfulness practice into it.

Let’s call it mindful movement.

Listening to my body

I know when I need to move because my body tells me so. When I wake up in the morning with a stiff shoulder. When I go about my days feeling lethargic. When I have spent 2 hours in front of the computer.

I think our body communicates with us every time. The urge to stretch your arms or legs after a long working day, for instance. I realised that if I listen to my body more, and do check-ins from time to time throughout the day, I can hear when it needs me to move. It could be to just stand up and do a stretch, to walk around the house picking up dirty laundry or to do some quick jumps in place to increase my heart rate. 

Finding what feels good

When I feel angry or agitated that I wish I could punch something, I will do some boxing exercises and channel my emotions through a 15-minute session of kicking and punching the air. When I feel solemn or cosy, I will go for a qi gong practice. When I feel good and energized, I’ll go for strength training. When I feel tired, I will go for a comforting and calming yin yoga session. When I feel like my head is full, I will go for a walk in the park or go swimming. When I feel sad and blue, I will put my wireless headphone on, turn on some of my favourite dance music, and do a silent disco in my room.

I find it important to find the right movement that corresponds to how I feel, my state of being, and my energy level.

When nothing feels good, I check if I am lacking nutrients. I take supplements sometimes, like B-12 vitamins and magnesium. When needed, you can check how you feel and shop for supplements to fulfil the nutrients you’re lacking.

Doing it my way

I know I’m not the kind of person who would commit to one type of exercise for a long time. I like to change things up a bit. I like to experiment. I know I like to exercise mostly alone or with the people I feel close to. I don’t find it comfortable to exercise surrounded by strangers. I don’t like it when someone shouts at me to ‘lift up my spirit’. I don’t enjoy competitiveness. I don’t like gyms with loud thumping and pumping music.

Knowing what I like or don’t like enables me to find the movement and exercise that works for me. I don’t need to be stressed out by doing exercises I don’t like in an environment that stresses me out.

Being aware of the present

I like to do my mindful movement in silence, without talking to anyone or watching something on Netflix. When I am walking outside, it’s nice to just walk and feel the ground beneath my feet, noticing the plants and wildflowers along the way, the smell of decaying woods, the chirping of the birds. When I am dancing, I just dance, feeling the beat of the music and move accordingly. When I swim, I just swim back and forth, feeling the way my body moves, that magical buoyance, the way the sunlight makes the lapping water sparkle, the faint smell of chlorine…

To me, it’s about being present with my body, with my movement, and my surroundings, to the point that I don’t really know what I’m doing anymore, I don’t think, I don’t command my body to do something… my body just moves, and my mind is still. Maybe it happens for only 2-3 minutes during the exercise—but that is enough time to feel the ‘euphoria’ of what I guess people often referred to as a “runner’s high”: when my mind is completely still and I feel like I am not moving, but I am the movement itself.

How about you? What’s your version of mindful movement?

hanny
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I recently have this fear: I would not have enough time to read all the books I want to read.

Every time I glance at the pile of to-be-read books on my shelf, I feel overwhelmed. Soon, there will be new books: new releases praised by BookTubers or shortlisted by Vulture or Esquire, new translations recommended by indie booksellers like POST or published by Marjin Kiri or Penerbit Haru.

How can I keep up?

And still, every time I go out, I browse the little free libraries around the city (most often the one at the corner, across the canal), hunting for surprises. Amsterdam had gifted me some excellent titles these past few months: Judy Blume’s In The Unlikely Event, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled, Brady Udall’s The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint (which gave me Sherman Alexie’s vibe), and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park among others.

From time to time, I visit Scheltema’s web-listing of second-hand books (despite struggling with their website’s not-so-friendly UI/UX), trying to find out if someone has sold some of the books on my wish list.

I am still finding myself coming home to tiny bookshops or climbing the stairs of 5-storey bookstores when I have no idea where else to go. The sight of those shelves comforts me. The words hidden inside rows and rows of closed books promise me another story, another world, another reality.

When I was little, I lived vicariously through the books I read, mostly Enid Blyton’s and Hitchcock’s. When I read a novel, I was a student in a British boarding school; I had a summer picnic and stumbled upon mysteries to solve; I played lacrosse; I had new neighbours with tree houses; I was a girl with five siblings.

I could be anyone I wasn’t.
I could be anyone I’d like to be.

Over ten years ago, a friend of mine said that he wrote like crazy because he was afraid that one day, he couldn’t write anymore. At the moment, I couldn’t understand the sentiment, but as I grow older, I realized that I feel this way when it comes to reading.

The clock is ticking. I only have so much time, while there are still so many books I want to read. I can feel myself getting anxious when I think of how, for sure, I won’t be able to catch up.

I have a book-FOMO.
And I guess I’ll just have to live with it.

hanny
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In Indonesia, kopi hitam (black coffee) is made by pouring boiling water over coffee grounds (and, if you like, sugar). Stir as you need, then leave it for a while, not only to let it cool down a bit—but, most importantly, to let the coffee grounds fall to the bottom of the glass and settle there (yes, it is served in a glass, not a cup). 

Lately, to me, social media feels like watching someone stirring a glass of black coffee. 

It’s hot and loud and chaotic. 

The ridiculous amount of things trying to catch my attention reminds me of drinking a glass of black coffee immediately after stirring it: it burns my tongue, and the floating coffee grounds that entered my mouth makes me cringe and cough. 

For this reason, I have been thinking of leaving social media for a while. I started by deleting Twitter, then Tumblr, then I deactivated Facebook. I feel good about it. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I think that Instagram will be next, as I am not too keen on the direction they’re going. 

So here I am, waiting for the coffee grounds of social media to settle at the bottom—and once everything is calm, quiet, and unruffled, I am back to my blog. 

I realized that I keep (wanting to) coming back to this blog: a place where I feel like conversing with a close-knitted circle of people who share similar sentiments about life, instead of talking to a bunch of strangers who are in a hurry to board a bus. 

My blog feels like a home where I can invite my closest people to come over, while social media feels like a big party I am invited to. (You know how I, an introvert, feel about going to parties). 

Yes, big parties allow me to meet plenty of people, which can be fun for a while. However, I realized how I crave more for a one-on-one connection and a slow(er) conversation after some time.

Instagram starts to feel like that big party to me, where people only see you for a minute, exchange a few words, and move on to the next topic or say hello to the next person. We scroll so fast (Well, I scroll so fast). 

Faces, messages, and interactions are soon forgotten and buried away, the way our Google Photos becomes a photo graveyard. 

Recently, I read illustrator Rebecca Green’s blog post about her intermission from Instagram and watched Julia Bausenhardt’s video, ‘One Year After I Quit Social Media‘. I feel like they are talking to me. Alexandra Franzen wrote ‘21 Ways to Find Clients and Customers without Using Social Media‘. I nodded to most of her points.

My steps of quitting social media apps are gradual. 

First, I post less. 
Then, I stop posting but still reading, liking, or interacting. 
Then, I stop checking the app altogether.
Then, I deleted the app from my phone. 
Finally, I deleted my account. 
With Instagram, I’m still on my first step—but it feels like I have lifted a weight off of my shoulder. 

Now I see a vast difference between ‘I need to share, so I need to create something‘ and ‘I want to create something, and if I want to, I can share it.’ The latter allows me to slow down. It gives me the time and space I need to focus on what I want to create.

I’ve been enjoying these few weeks facilitating an intimate 3-week online workshop on Found Poetry & Collaging.

We’ve been working on our 12-page zine, featuring our takes on various Found Poetry & Collaging techniques learned during the workshop. This week, we’ll present our zine and share stories about our challenges, creative process, and things we learn about ourselves as writers/poets during the wrapping-up of this project.

I’m excited about it, about the fact that we’re creating a finished project together, challenging our creativity by imposing limitations and boundaries, and having conversations about our creative decisions. 

Interactions like this make me think of sipping a glass of black coffee together with friends in a small warung somewhere, accompanied by fried banana and vegetable fritters. 

We’re not in a hurry. 

We have all the time in the world to wait for our coffee grounds to settle on the bottom of the glass.

hanny
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Maybe you’ve realized that you want to change direction.
Maybe you’ve had enough.
Maybe you won’t tolerate certain things any longer.

Maybe you have found something better, healthier, or more rewarding.
Maybe you no longer want to stay where you are.
Maybe you don’t care that much about what people would say or think anymore.
Maybe you want to be your own person.
Maybe you’ve tried or worked so hard, and you are on the brink of burnout.

Maybe you want to persevere somewhere else, for something else, with someone else.
Maybe you want to grow.
Maybe you want to expand your horizon.

Maybe you want to risk it.
Maybe you want to know if you can quit.
Maybe you want to see what can happen if you quit.

Because quitting is also an option.

Because quitting can also be a courageous act.
Because quitting can also be an act of self-care and self-respect.
Because quitting can be a great relief.

Just because you quit, it doesn’t mean that you’re weak.
Just because you quit, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get back on track.
Just because you quit, it doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough.

Even if you quit, at least you’ve tried your best.
Even if you quit, you can always start over.
Even if you quit, you are still worthy.

———————

Accompanying #journalingprompts: Do you think ‘quitting’ can be an option? Why? Have you ever quit? Why? Or why not? In which way ‘quitting’ can be good for you? In which circumstances ‘quitting’ can be bad? Why?

hanny
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Hanny illustrator
Hi. I'm HANNY
I'm a published writer and a writing/creative workshop facilitator based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In Indonesian, 'beradadisini' means being here. So, here I am, documenting life—one word at a time.

hanny

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