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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Guest Post: Manly Journaling

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Sam Lytle is the founder of, a site dedicated to keeping a personal journal or diary using smartphones, tablets and computers. He previously reviewed iPhone apps for and recently released the ebook Modern Journaling: The Complete Guide to Keeping a Personal Journal or Diary in the 21st Century. He works in the transportation industry and lives with his wife and 1.5 kids in northern Nevada.

Most people don’t wake up one morning and solemnly declare that they are going to try to challenge the gender definition of a genre. Sure, Danica Patrick does. Men that take on mormon mommy blogs as well. But it isn’t exactly a common occurrence, especially in the LDS community.

Let’s be frank -- journaling as the world knows it is woman’s territory. ‘Dear diary’ is for pre-teen girls and leather-bound, moleskin journals are for middle-aged women locked in attics with quill-tipped pens. Any man that keeps a journal only does so in fear of the day that his buddies find out he engages in such a ‘pansy’ practice. Right?

I recently watched an episode of one of the newer (albeit lower-rated) sitcoms. The characters began a confession session and after one man admitted he almost left his girlfriend a few years previous, his friend shrugs his shoulders and confesses, “I journal.” The studio audience crowd roars with laughter. A man who journals? Buahahaha!

Growing up in the Church obviously lends to a different experience. The practice is preached to us by living prophets and the history of our faith is documented by the journals of our forefathers. Keeping a personal record not only benefits our future generations, but also is promised to enrich our lives and help us through trials we face. I assume the subject is preached somewhat equally in both young woman and young men classes.

I seriously didn’t understand this disconnect between Mormonism and everyone else when I started a website about journaling six months ago. A few weeks into it I started looking around at my peers. It was seriously like walking into the wrong bathroom.

“Wait, where are all of the urinals? And what is that machine?”

It was quickly apparent that the rest of the ‘journal pros’ were on the other side of the gender divide. Amazing people, but still bearing a different chromizonal makeup than myself.

This didn’t phase me though. I love journaling and don’t care who knows it (but please don’t post this on my Facebook page). On my mission to ... ahem ... Hawaii (yes, it is a mission, not a vacation) I hand wrote a full page. Every. Single. Day. That’s 766 pages of illegible handwriting documenting way more detail than was necessary. But I am so grateful for those four journals. How else would I remember Punakapu Okeokeo Okalani Leilani Kani Kahakai, the name of the girl we baptized on the Big Island? (Seriously.)

My journaling continued after my mission in weekly fashion and then soon fell to once a month. Between school, work and dating (not in that order), my life had become almost too busy and my priorities had changed too much for my journaling to continue in the previously epic fashion.

And then something changed. My sister told me about this website called LDS Journal. Not only could I now keep my journal from any computer in the world (for free), but I could include pictures, scriptures, links and even use fonts that could be read! Since I can type much faster than I write, I now had time to journal, even if it was once a week.

A few years later I got an iPhone and realized that I could have my journal with me everywhere I went. Entries increased in frequency and the pictures I took of my sons first steps could be effortlessly entered into my journal that night. I once lost everything on my phone because of an update, but that didn’t matter to my journal because it was safely synced in the ‘cloud’ and easily re-downloaded.

What I have learned from my (manly) journaling journey is that whatever method you currently use to journal is probably not the best way (i.e. there’s a better way). It’s a busy world and there are some dang easy ways to keep a journal these days. Yes, you can journal via text message.

So uninstall (the highly overrated) Angry Birds from your phone and replace it with something your children will treasure in the future, not just cry for today in the grocery store line. In the meantime, I will continue redefining the amazing and often misunderstood practice of journaling, even if it takes an app store or two to do so.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go wrestle a rabid cougar with my bare hands.

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