How to Journal

Photo by alexandra lammerink on Unsplash

I didn’t really get into consistent journaling until I was in 12th grade. With my perfectionist tendencies, I felt too hesitant about writing something down and I would often overthink things, or I would feel like I had nothing worthy to journal about. I feel like many people have this same struggle or obstacle when it comes to journaling, alongside the challenges of writer’s block.

So far, I have around 5 journals completed, and I’m about halfway through my current one. Writing consistently in them doesn’t mean that I have to have a rigid schedule or that I have to write in it every single day. Some entries might be one day after another, and other times it may be weeks until I journal again.

To beat my obstacles, I started off just trying to write out what I would be feeling or any thoughts and ideas I might have. Even if I didn’t feel like there was a point writing down these things or that they weren’t “worthy” of being noted, I still wrote them. And coming back to my words and drawings or artworks later, I would see the value in my work and often even be surprised that I was the author of the thought productions in front of me.

Here are some tips that I suggest for people who want to get into journaling and/or people who are jorunalers, but often might have trouble trying to think of what to journal about, exactly:

1. Write about how you are feeling– and be honest about it. Don’t filter stuff out. Just let go. Seriously. I think this is something I often had trouble with and still do from time to time. But letting it out through writing it out can be cathartic– it’s quite literally a release of your thoughts as you scribe them into the pages in front of you.

2. Write a letter to someone that you don’t intend to send. Again, don’t filter out what you really want to say and how you really feel. This is for you to process and validate your own emotions if you are writing to someone who hurt you, or it’s also a way for you to process things within any kind of platonic or non-platonic relationship that you might be confused about or want more clarity on. You may write a letter of gratitude and appreciation, too.

3. Write about stuff that you are excited about. What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning? What is something you look forward to in the near future, or in life in general? What is something that is considered mundane by others, but something that never fails to amaze you?

4. Write in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way. Just write out your thoughts– literally. Don’t stop to think about what you’re writing. Even if you don’t know what to write next, write “I don’t know what to write next.”

5. Draw. It could be doodles, or it can be a picture you spent hours on. I would keep sketchbooks where I would accompany my drawings with words. But even in my regular journals with mostly words, I would add lots of drawings to express myself or accompany the words.

6. Talk about a story idea or another creation. Don’t worry about it being stupid or about people laughing about it. You’re not sharing it with anyone– yet. And remember that ideas that others laugh at go on to become big things that those same people end up chasing after.

7. Don’t feel like you have to be super organized and structured in your entries. In fact, be willing to get messy and even choppy. For me personally, when I”m not trying too hard is when I produce my best writing.

8. Keep your journal secret-generally speaking. This doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to ever show anyone a part of your journal and share it with them, if that’s what you want to do. At the same time, it’s important to avoid the pressures of performing through your writing in a certain way with the expectations that someone else is going to see and judge. First and foremost, journaling is for you. You can always show someone parts of your journal later if you want to, but that is only after the fact that you wrote for you and not them.

9. Make lists of some of your favorite things. And write little blurbs about them and draw cute little doodles to go along with them. Even add some stickers and glue some photos. This could be just a general list of your favorite things, or there can be lists of different categories; for example, you can have a list of your favorite books or favorite places you’ve traveled to.

10. Express your imagination. I feel like exercising your imagination as an adult is often seen by society to be “childish” and “immature.” Yet, the same people who ridicule others for being expressive with their imagination are the same ones who will continue to watch shows produced by imaginative creativity. Seriously, I don’t care how embarrassing you might think someone else will find your ideas or how childish they might think you are for them. No one is going to be reading your work without your permission (just make sure you hide your stuff really well). Just write it out. Have fun with it.

11. Write affirmations. They really go a long way. Even if you’re not feeling it, your brain is being fed it. Fake it ’till you make it.

12. Write about your desires. No matter how big or how small. Be vulnerable. Even if you feel like it’s embarrassing or uncomfortable– remember, no one is reading it– just be really careful about hiding your journal.

13. Look up writing prompts. It helps when you have Writer’s Block, or forces you to challenge yourself by answering a question that makes you think.

14. Record things you learn outside of the classroom. Take notes on a TED talk you’re watching, or write down quotes that are meaningful to you.

15. Make it pretty! From the actual journal you pick to the way you design your entires, make it aesthetically pleasing to yourself. Pick a journal with colors that you like, patterns that please you, or just a simple one that fits your taste. Pick one made out of material that fits your style. And use glitter gels pens and stickers, if that’s your thing.

16. Keep your journal on you. So whenever you get a great idea or something you want to write down so you don’t forget it, or so that you can just be able to write in it when you want to without waiting until you get home. Of course this isn’t for everybody, but I was the kind of person who carried my journal with me to campus.

17. Create the atmosphere for it. Obviously, you might be able to journal better in a coffee shop or in the privacy of your own bedroom than you would at the family dinner table or during a dinner with nosy friends and/or relatives.

18. Write down quotes that resonate with you. You can get them from people you look up to in your life, or from your favorite TV shows or books.

At the end of the day, your journal is yours– personalize it.

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