It’s only in the past few years that I’ve started journaling consistently. Before that, I didn’t journal unless I was really upset about something (or had just gotten a new journal). Now, most days, I try to write three pages of stream-of-consciousness (adapted from Julia Cameron’s morning pages).
Honestly, most of what I write in those pages is repetitive and boring. But I’ve found it helpful to practice showing up and writing every day. It’s a way to clear my head and pay attention to what’s on my mind. I can tell when I’ve been neglecting my journal because my brain starts to feel cluttered.
There are also definitely times when those pages turn into something deeper. Sometimes it takes a lot of writing through the mundane for the deeper stuff to work its way to the surface.
Last time, we looked at a couple of the big fears that keep us from journaling . Today, let’s explore some of the practical details that can help us make journaling a consistent part of our lives.
What You Need
You don’t need much to start journaling. Pen and paper. At the same time, it’s worthwhile to figure out which tools work best for you.
Some people like to carefully select beautiful journals and enjoy having a special place for their deepest thoughts. Others like to create homemade journals filled with their unique personalities. Some choose to journal digitally. Still others use a variety of media to make their journals works of art.
Personally, I prefer to stock up on cheap notebooks during back-to-school sales. Anything fancier and I start to weigh my words to determine whether they are worthy of the page.
I used to journal in pencil. Now I choose pens that don’t tire my hand out too quickly. Once in a while, I like getting out my paints and scissors and glue.
All that to say, there is no one right way to journal. Experiment a little. Choose whichever tools work for best you. There are, however, three things I would suggest everyone bring to their journaling practice—honesty, curiosity, and a willingness to try.
Starting and Continuing
It’s one thing to start journaling. It’s another to keep going. Habit formation can be a tricky thing. There are plenty of people who know a lot more about it than I do.
A couple things I’ve found most helpful in trying to journal consistently are keeping my journal somewhere easy to see (which might be harder if you have concerns about privacy) and pairing journaling with another thing I do every day. Currently, I’m trying to make a point of grabbing my journal instead of my phone when I go to eat breakfast. That way, instead of cramming more words in my head to start the day, I’m getting some out onto paper.
Here are a few tips for getting started:
- Try to journal every day, even if you don’t think you have anything to write about.
- Keep your pen moving, even if that means writing that you don’t know what to write over and over. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught myself daydreaming with my pen stopped in midair. All those thoughts that didn’t make it to the page…
- Don’t put pressure on yourself to uncover anything deep or profound. Instead, practice showing up. We can’t force insights, but we can make space for them.
- Feel free to start small. Pick something that works for you. One page. Three pages. One line. Five minutes. Half an hour.
- Try to write even on really busy days. If you don’t have time for a page, can you write a line?
- Don’t beat yourself up if you miss days. Simply start again. Remember why you’re journaling in the first place. You don’t have to be perfectly consistent to experience the benefits of journaling.
- Feel free to experiment. If something isn’t working for you, try something else. There is no right or wrong way to journal.
- Date your entries. It might seem insignificant at the time, but will be helpful if you decide to look back through your journals later. I’m also trying (semi-successfully) to get in the habit of creating a rough table of contents at the front of each journal as I go.
- Keep your journal private. We can journal most honestly and vulnerably if we know what we’re writing is for our eyes only. There may be times when you choose to share what you’ve written with another person, but make that decision after you write instead of before.
What to Write About
I usually default to stream of consciousness in my journaling, but I also enjoy other techniques for digging deeper into what’s going on for me and interacting with different parts of myself. Sometimes I do them in place of my normal morning pages. Or I might do an extra journaling session. Sometimes just responding to an interesting question can help steer my journaling deeper more quickly.
You can find journaling inspiration anywhere. Sometimes the simplest question can prompt deep exploration. Maybe you hear a statement or read a sentence or see an image that makes you pause and think. What if you pursued that line of thought in your journal?
Of course, our lives are filled with decisions and worries, hopes and plans, experiences and memories. Our journals give us a safe space to honestly explore whatever is going on for us—past, present, or future.
There is a wealth of wonderful journaling resources out there. Here are a few to get you started:
Other places I’ve written about journaling:
Some of the resources I’ve used:
- The Gift of Writing with Claire is full of resources for writing for personal growth, including free and paid courses .
- Hannah Braime at Becoming Who You Are , has a category of her blog devoted to journaling tips . She also provides helpful journaling tools and prompts through books and courses .
- The Center for Journal Therapy with Kathleen Adams is filled with great journaling resources. I’ve turned to her book, Journal to the Self , often for journaling tips and techniques.
- Margarita shares interesting questions and unexpected practices at Make a Mess: Everyday Creativity . Maybe you want to try out one of these journaling ideas for people who are too busy to journal .
- Lisa Sonora does visual journaling. I’ve participated in and enjoyed her 30 Day Journal Project in recent years (even though I mostly stick to writing instead of visual journaling…so far).
- Kristal Norton uses art journaling to help people reclaim their creative selves. Along with her blog she offers a number of supportive books and courses .
- Jen Morris Creative also shares a wealth of creative journaling resources, including free journaling courses and daily prompts.
- I tried 10Q for the first time this year. It will be interesting to see how my answers change from year to year.
Journaling has come to play an important role in my life and the possibilities are endless. We can only cover so much in one blog post, but I’d love to know…do you journal? What tips would you give? What are some of your favorite prompts and techniques? What still gets in the way?