The Secret to Journaling

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By Liz, enjoying the longer days already even though it’s still kinda cold…

Last month I wrote about some foolproof ways to find the muse when she seems to be hiding. One of those critical steps I mentioned is journaling. And I’ve since found that the thought of it scares some people.

I mean, it does sound kind of intimidating, if you haven’t been in the habit of doing it. Especially if you go into it thinking you have to write a certain amount of pages every day, or spend a set amount of time. I remember the first time I contemplated doing The Artist’s Way and committing to writing three morning pages every day.

I gotta tell you, it wasn’t an easy commitment. But once I jumped in and started, it was worth it.

But three morning pages a day aren’t the only way to journal. In fact, there are no rules about how to do it, as long as you do it.

So here are some alternatives to think about, if you’re still on the fence.

  • Use a guided journal. There are a ton of them out there, and they help you get your thoughts down and ease you into the process. From a simple gratitude journal (so many to choose from), to the popular Five Minute Journal, which asks you to write affirmations, gratitude lists, and document amazing things that happened to you that day, to a Bullet Journal, there’s no shortage of ways to get some thoughts down.
  • Go digital. If the thought of going to the bookstore, picking out a journal, maybe even getting really crazy and decorating it – not to mention the pens! – then go digital. Our phones are never far from us, so we may as well put them to good use. And there are really cool journaling apps out there now. The Five Minute Journal has a digital version. Journey is another good one. And if you want a written invitation to journal – seriously – try, the app that emails you at a time of your choosing and asks how your day was, and you can respond however you like. (Don’t worry, it’s private – just perfect for those who don’t like the whole pen and ink thing!)
  • Focus on appreciation. A foolproof way to get your journaling going and also boost your mood for the day is take that notebook with the blank pages and write about all the things you appreciate. I’m not talking about gratitude lists – I mean, actually writing out all the things that you love and appreciate, what makes you feel good, what makes you laugh and gives you a reason to get up in the morning. Write one thing and watch it build into the next, and the next. I learned to do this from Gabby Bernstein, and at first I thought it would be too hard. You know how it is when you’re cranky in the mornings and want to write down everything that makes you mad or upset? Yeah, that. But seriously, try it. It can lift your mood and change your whole outlook on the day.

And of course, you can alway just go old-school. Buy a pretty journal, or buy a blank one and put awesome stickers on it. Buy some fun pens – gel, felt-tip, pretty colors, whatever makes you happy – and write whatever comes to mind. You can set a timer, or not. Write until you feel like you’ve got it all out, or write two sentences and call it a day. However you do it, just start.

Once you’re in the habit, you won’t want to miss a day. Seriously. And you’ll start seeing results in other areas of your life – writing productivity or otherwise. Guaranteed.

Readers, do you keep a journal? What’s your process? Leave a comment below!

21 Thoughts

  1. I keep a couple different health-related online updates and answer queries. that’s about as close to journaling as I am comfortable (but, then, I am not a writer).

  2. I love to journal. I love to buy and use beautifully bound journals that smell of leather. But I do think I need to focus more on the gratitude. I realize, lately, my journaling has become more about mundane what-happened-today stuff. Thanks for the reminder, Liz.

  3. I kept a diary for years as a teen, on and off through college, and during some traumatic points in my life. But I haven’t kept one for years. I have done fits and starts with gratitude journals. Thanks for all the suggestions to get back to it.

  4. I used to keep one, and then I stopped when my husband nosed his way into it when we were just dating (that was nearly the end of us). I’ve kept a journal for trips we’ve taken and fun stuff we’ve done. I love Journals Unlimited. I bought a couples one, I bought a homeowners one, and a Christmas one. I think I’ve used the Christmas one twice. I really do like the trips one, and I use that frequently. I’d like to journal again.

    1. Oooh – reading people’s journals is a total dealbreaker! I’ve had that experience, Kristin, and it’s not fun. I think if I hadn’t been so convinced of how much it helps me, I might have stopped after that. I hope you get back to it!

  5. I almost feel guilty that I don’t journal as such. I almost always have a purse-size notebook that I carry around, and when stuck waiting somewhere (like an airport) I’ve been known to sit down and outline a plot or a chapter for a current or planned book. Other times I simply observe a lot, finding details to sneak into a book–those little things that make a story come alive. But I seldom write them down because they’re kind of snapshot images.

  6. Then there are blogs. No, I’m not talking blogs of today. When they first started, I knew a ton of people who kept personal journal type blogs. In fact, my oldest blog is one just blog. I am bad about updating it regularly these days. Like twice a month if it is lucky. But I’ve had it since 2002, so I definitely don’t want to let it go.

  7. I still have all my journals from when I was younger. Every once in a while I like to read thru them. They’re a nice trip down memory lane.

  8. I used to feel badly about not journalling, but like Sheila, I carry a notebook everywhere. I figure my chronological notes from meetings and classes, to do lists, drafts of various things, calendar entries and other jottings ARE the story of my life. I had them going back to about 1995. During the last move I did a bunch of consolidation, pulling out pages that will never be meaningful. But if I ever have to testify in court about where I was on such-and-such a date, I am ready!

    1. Too funny – I did the same thing when I moved. But they weren’t dated and there was no order to my pages…just random scribblings of potential ideas and other gems!

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