Marybeth Whalen

Healthy Habit: Journaling

HealthyHabitHeader0922 September 2022
Photography courtesy of Marybeth Whalen

MarybethWhalen0922Marybeth Whalen
Healthy Habit: Journaling

Family: Married 31 years, mom of 6 kids ranging in age from young adult to teen

What motivated you to start a practice of journaling?
I’ve always journaled. Chronicling my life in various forms was a compulsion for me as soon as I learned to write. I was the kid who counted my diary with a little lock on it as my prized possession, the kid who could be found in the office supply aisle instead of the toy aisle. I got more intentional and devoted to the practice when I discovered Bullet Journaling, which was a way to both organize my life and preserve memories along the way.

How has this practice enhanced your life?
It’s made me live life more aware, both in terms of keeping track of tasks and deadlines, but also logging the little things that happen in a day. Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” In that sense, my bullet journal is a tangible record of my life.

How do you fit it in to your daily life and stay dedicated?
I keep it near me and open, with a pen always at the ready. If I go out, it’s in my bag. (I even choose purses based on whether they will hold my bullet journal!) As for dedication, I’ve learned there are simply days where we are depleted or uninspired. I don’t beat myself up if I miss a day. I just jump back in when I can. It’s not because I have to, but because I want to. To quote Annie Dillard again, my bullet journal is “a net for catching days.” The older I get, the more aware I am of how precious each day is and, if I may quote Aerosmith, “I don’t wanna miss a thing.”

What is a non-negotiable when it comes to your journaling habit?
A good pen that writes well. And a notebook with good paper. My current favorite combination is a Stalogy 365 notebook or a Moleskine notebook, paired with the Uni Jetstream ballpoint pen. That paper plus that pen equals a very pleasant writing experience. I love turning the pages and hearing that delightful crinkly sound.

What is bullet journaling?
Bullet journaling is a concept invented by Ryder Carroll. It is a way to pair your schedule/task list with what he calls rapid logging via bullet pointed information that is important to you. For example, my bullet journal includes writing ideas, family notes, brain dumps where I just get all the information swimming in my head down on paper, health information, menu plans, and many, many random lists. It’s basically my brain on paper. The beauty of it is, once I get it out of my head and down on paper, my brain is freed to think of other new things. If you’re interested, I highly recommend checking out Ryder Carroll’s site, and watching his video on YouTube called “How To Bullet Journal.” It’s four minutes long and is a great way to get started.

What would you say to encourage others to start their own healthy journaling habit?
Just start. Don’t get hung up on making it pretty or decorative at first. (You will see in the photos that I add stickers and color, but that’s after years of developing my own bullet journaling style.) Don’t try to be perfect about it right out of the gate. Let your own style evolve.

If you’re like me and have random notebooks lying around, grab one, open it, write down the date and make a list of what you need to do, things you want to look up, calls or emails, the name of the book you’re reading, or the podcast you’re listening to. Just whatever comes to mind. Your bullet journal becomes a time capsule of where you were, what was on your mind, your life at a particular moment in time.

You are a bestselling author! Tell us about your books:
I wrote four books set in Sunset Beach, NC (where I live) that are sweet love stories based on an inanimate object that brought two people together over time and against all odds. These are, The Mailbox, The Guest Book, The Wishing Tree, and The Bridge Tender. Then I wrote four books set in the suburban south that revolve around the aftermath of a traumatic event, and how the event both exposes and redeems the people involved. Those books are The Things We Wish Were True, When We Were Worthy, Only Ever Her, and This Secret Thing. I’m currently working on another book along these lines, but I’m planning to return to my beloved Sunset Beach as a setting in the very near future.

Why are healthy habits important to you?
I am always trying to become a better version of myself, and establishing and maintaining healthy habits are a key way to do so. Mind you, some days are better than others in that regard!