A friendship journal? That sounds like something little girls do, in a pink pretty notebook full of unicorn and rainbow stickers. But what about two grown people. Two men at that. Different story.
Judgment, judgment, judgment. A cynical voice in my head that tells me this is a dumb idea. But that’s exactly why I love doing it. Because that cynical voice is just my cover for being the most foolish kind of scared: scared to look dumb, scared what others will think of me. It’s not a high-frequency anxiety kind of being scared. It’s more a low-frequency hum of fear, deep in my guts. Subtle, I could easily overplay it, pretend it doesn’t exist, even to myself.
But that’s not the game I want to play anymore. I want to be open. To fine-tune my antennas. To embrace my sensitivity, my gentleness, my tenderheartedness. Admit how delicate I am behind that facade of hardness, and maybe even stop hiding behind it. Maybe I don’t need that anymore.
But yeah, writing a journal together with a good friend to chronicle the journey of our friendship through the years. There’s something I love about that idea, so why not just fucking do it?
The logistics: Format, shared, material?
How are you going to do this exactly? Do you keep a physical journal in which you both make entries? Do you both get together once a week or a month to write a new entry? Or do you do it all virtual? There are so many different ways to run the friendship journal that’s right for you—just pick one and get going, and if you figure out that it’s not the right thing to do, then change it up and do it another way.
Shared physical journal notebook
You can have a journal notebook and actually make your entries there with pen and paper. There’s something beautiful about this, because in longhand writing you get a sense of the personality, it conveys more emotional meaning.
We’re living in the age of disembodiment. Moving more towards virtual lives. I often think to that scene in 1999 movie The Matrix where humans are living in little pods, getting fed through tubing, living in virtual realities, but really serving as energy source for sentient machines. Having a book made from paper, where you can actual go through the journal pages.
2 separate physical journal notebooks
You also can both have a journal notebook and make your entries there with pen and paper, and then at certain times just exchange notebooks so that you read your friend’s notebook, and your friend reads yours.
There’s something beautiful in this, because it’s something where each of you create something for each other, and handwriting is a very personal thing. You actually physically exchanging these, and then taking the time to read them is almost a ritualistic act.
A scrapbook is another beautiful thing to capture memories and events in. It allows you to make use of pictures to represent certain moments and shared experiences together, as well as extend beyond just the written word: photos, doodles, tickets, stickers, etc.
A physical scrapbook obviously is a lot more difficult to pull off, and it’s something that works best if you meet with your friend and work on it together, maybe once a week, or once a month, or once a quarter. Ideally you and your friend schedule these session long in advance, and then each of you gathers materials in the time in between and then brings them to the journaling session to put them together.
A scrapbook like this will have the highest emotional and sentimental value, especially if many years into the future you both go through this memory book together again. But it is also the most difficult thing to pull off since there’s so much coordination involved.
A virtual scrapbook in its simplest form can be something like a Google Doc where you drop pictures and other rich media content into. A beautiful thing about a virtual scrapbook is that you can also include audio and video recordings.
Here are some virtual scrapbooking platforms you can use:
- Google Docs
Google Docs is free, and you most likely already are familiar with using it. Simply learning a bit more about it’s capabilities and how to use rich media content and the formatting options can help you create a pretty good virtual scrapbook, and what’s more, the collaboration features of Google Docs are fantastic.
This is a good solution specially for virtual scrapbooking.
Canva is a good choice if you want to use pretty looking templates and focus a lot on the design elements of your friendship journal.
- Microsoft OneNote
What I like about OneNote is that it actually has a very similar feel to a Scrapbook, and you have a bit more creative freedom than you have with a Google Doc. I see Google Docs more as a word processor, whereas OneNote is almost more like a journal.
Even if you create a virtual scrapbook, I’d encourage you to print it out once a year, not just because it’s a good idea to have a physical backup, but also because it’s just nicer to revisit a physical friendship journal.
Shared or separate?
Again, you have to decide whether you want to have one shared virtual friendship journal, or two separate ones. Most people will find that a shared journal is preferable, as it again simplifies things. One recommendation I have here is to somehow sign off on each of your entries, either by name, or by assigning each person their own font or color, so that it’s easy to see how made a particular entry.
Printable friendship journal templates
You can also use printable templates for your friendship journal. I’ve got a set of 6 printable templates (PDF files) you can download here, some in the form of a bullet journal, some in the day journal format, some more in the form of an art journal and a travel journal. Use them as they are, or as inspiration for your own design:
These provide some basic structure, and you can put them in a ring binder or use them any other way you see fit—but there’s no need to use these, and you can go the DIY way and create your own journal.
Writing prompts vs freewriting
I personally love freewriting my friendship journal entries. I feel this just gives me more freedom to do whatever I feel like, and to express what’s really going on, whereas journal writing prompts can feel formulaic to me, and tend to nudge me in a direction where I rather feel tempted to write what I think is the right thing to write, rather than what’s really in my heart.
Writing prompts feel safer, whereas freewriting is more risky to me, asks me to be more courageous. But you could easily make the opposing point: that freewriting allows you to avoid the difficult questions. You have to figure out which is better for you.
Freewriting is literally just writing whatever is on your mind. Similar to laying down on a couch and starting to talk and free associate at a therapist’s office, you write what comes to your mind.
There’s a distinction to be made between focused freewriting and open freewriting: Focused freewriting means that you stay focused on a particular topic, whereas open freewriting literally is just writing out whatever comes to your mind.
For the purpose of a friendship journal, I absolutely do recommend focused freewriting, since you want your BFF to actually get some value and understanding out of your journal entries, rather than
Journal writing prompts
Many people like to have journal writing prompts, as they provide mental focus and some structure.
Here are a few prompts:
- One think I want to thank you for is…
- One thing you did that made me feel upset/angry/disappointed/sad is…
- I really cherish that moment we shared together when we…
- There are many reasons why you are my best friend, but one little thing that I appreciate about you and might never have expressed is…
What should you write about in your friendship journal?
The answer again is: it depends, and it’s up to you. The best piece of advice I can give you in that regard is to not hold back, and give both you and your friend the maximum amount of freedom.
- Memories: What are some great moments you’ve shared together?
- Appreciation: What do you appreciate about your friend? Ideally, pick specific situations or things they did that caused you to feel appreciative of them, rather than general statements like “I appreciate your sense of humor”. Think of it as a gratitude journal, but written for a friend.
- Challenges: Positivity is good, but also write about problems, conflicts, and disappointments. Every true friendship goes through rough patches, and writing out these conflicts, how you feel about them, and how you eventually worked through them will be a testament to the quality and strength of your friendship.
- Goals: What shared goals do you have as friends? Do you want to go on a trip together? Run a marathon? Spend more time together? Create something together?
- Reflection: Take a step back and think about the evolution of your friendship. How have you individually grown and evolved? How has your friendship matured? What lessons have you learned together?
As you start making entries, you’ll naturally come up with more journal ideas over time. Don’t overthink this—just get started, and you’ll find that the longer you do this, the better you get at these entries.
How often should you write in your friendship journal?
This is really up to you, what your reasons for your friendship journal are, and how much time you have for this.
Daily or weekly
The nice thing about doing this daily or weekly is that you capture a lot of things that would otherwise just get lost in time. The downside is that it can become quiet a burden to do this, especially if you opt for daily, and there will be days where you don’t feel like doing this at all.
Monthly or quarterly
Doing this monthly or quarterly will by its very nature lead to a more retrospective friendship journal. You’ll sit down for a longer period of time to do this, and you’ll be more thoughtful looking back at the time that has passed, and what really stands out to you. What went well, what didn’t?
It’s also great to review the prior entry and see what you put in there a month (or a quarter) ago, and how relevant these things still are today. Sometimes you’ll find that things which seemed very important at the time don’t matter at all anymore. Other times you’ll find that things which weren’t even on your radar back then now matter so much. Or you find that something you were hoping for actually came true.
In general, I recommend to assess what you can realistically commit to (and would enjoy), and then actually commit to a little bit less.
So for example, if both of you say “Let’s do this twice a week”, then agree to do it just once a week, and keep that going for a few weeks and see how it plays out in real life. If you then find out that heck yeah, you want to do more, do it twice a week.
Many times we underestimate how busy life will be in the future, and overestimate how much time we’ll have to do this. What’s more, it’s much more fun to have one journaling session a week where you really take your time and enjoy the process, than two (or more) where you kind of rush through things because you feel pressured for time.
Let’s do this
I hope you see that a friendship journal can enrich any meaningful friendship, and is not just something for high-school besties. Just like a gratitude journal can help you appreciate your blessings in life more, and become a happier person, so can a friendship journal help strengthen the bond between you and your friend.
So many people feel lonely these days, and social media can’t replace true friends. Think of this as more than just a journal: think of it as a shared self care activity. It will enhance both your lives.