The Write Habit

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“The Write Habit,” Ensign, Sept. 1998, 71

The Write Habit

Over the years, my husband and I have tried a variety of methods to encourage our children to keep personal journals. We have discovered that while no single approach works all the time, a series of frequent reminders seems to be the most effective. The following ideas have helped us to become a family of journal keepers.

  • Getting started. When our children were very young, we gave each of them a folder in a file drawer where they could keep special Primary or school artwork, papers, awards, photos, and other special items. Our toddlers also delighted in tracing their handprints or drawing the events of the day on journal paper.

  • Writing journal entries. As the children learned to write, we encouraged them to begin writing their own journal entries. Some jot down a few hurried phrases; others sometimes write pages about a single event.

  • Measuring the cost. We have found spiral-bound notebooks and loose-leaf binders every bit as useful as more expensive, bound journals.

  • Developing a habit. Along with scripture reading and family prayer, we include writing down the day’s events as part of our bedtime routine. Developing the habit and sticking to it helps make it less of a burden. When we travel, we tuck extra sheets of paper into our scriptures to avoid packing bulky journals. This allows us to record special activities that might otherwise be forgotten.

  • Giving encouragement. During the day, if something of consequence happens to a member of the family, we comment about what a nice journal entry it will make. When we notice efforts beginning to slacken, we occasionally add an incentive by offering a special reward for consistency. We once issued the challenge to write daily for a week. At the next family home evening, we rewarded all family members with a bowl of ice cream if they had made at least one journal entry. For two entries, we added chocolate syrup; for three, strawberries; and so on. We good-naturedly observed that we each received our “just desserts.”

  • Teaching the gospel. We use family home evening to teach the importance of record keeping. Some scriptures are like inspired journal entries kept by a prophet. Other times we have referred to ancestors’ journals to illustrate an important point.

  • Using our entries. We actually refer to our journals to improve our lives, measure progress on problems, and answer questions. When the awarding of a certain Scout badge was in jeopardy because of poor record keeping, our son produced the needed information and dates from his journal. Another time a friend who filed an insurance claim couldn’t recall the weather conditions on a day two years earlier. A journal entry came to the rescue.

We have found that the more extensive and detailed our entries are, the more often we look to our journals for temporal and spiritual guidance.—Susan Romney, Bullhead City, Arizona

Illustrated by Julie Armstrong