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I’ve been journaling pretty consistently since I was 16 (over 5 years, wow!), but before then I always struggled to keep up with it. I’d always loved writing, but journaling was elusive to me. I tried my hand at all types of journaling, even the half-fiction kind with accompanying cartoon drawings (Read It and Weep, anyone? No? OK). But I guess when I was 16, something finally clicked and I stopped trying to be something I wasn’t.
Journaling is one of my favorite things because it’s an easy way to be creative without all the pressure of having to share it with the world. Writing in my diary is the best way for me to clear my head, work through thoughts, or just write about aspects of my life (kind of like my blog, hence the name). 🙂 There are so many benefits to keeping a journal, so you will probably see that in another blog post sometime in the future.
I’ve put together 8 tips that have helped me consistently keep a journal for over 5 years. I’ve also included 50 journal prompts to inspire you and help you get started, because I’m helpful like that. Just something to keep in mind when you inevitably write about the bonus journal prompt. 🙂
Do It For Yourself
This is a big one for me. I spent a lot of time trying to write journals like the ones in movies, believing that every entry had to be well-written and exciting and novel-worthy. But in reality, I just wanted to write for myself, and that doesn’t require any fancy doodles or epic character sketches.
Consider why you want to journal. Do you want to clear your head? Keep all your memories in one place? Document important moments in your life? Whatever your reason is, it should be for you. No one is going to read it, so don’t get caught up in trying to make it perfect. Once I got over the need to journal like everyone else, I got into my groove and found my own style of journaling that worked for me.
I would describe this style as ‘largely incoherent word-vomit with a sprinkling of bad jokes to lighten the mood.’
Don’t Have High Expectations
I want to reiterate, just because it’s so important, don’t get caught up in trying to make it perfect. Your journal is likely not going to be a well-crafted novel. But that’s because it’s not a novel, it’s a journal, and journals are often a complete mess of thoughts. Don’t bother getting caught up with word count or sentence structure or correct grammar.
That’s not to say that you can’t have writing goals, but let it be OK if you don’t meet them. If you don’t write beautiful prose, that’s OK. That’s not your goal. Your goal is to write when you can and when you need to.
If your goal is to write perfect, beautiful prose… refer back to #1. You didn’t forget it already, did you?
This is another really big one for me. When I first started journaling, my goal was to write every day. But that was a completely unrealistic goal for me. My journal was meant to be a place to clear my head and get my mess of thoughts out on paper, but I didn’t need that all the time. Some days I had nothing to write about, and forcing myself to write on those days just discouraged me.
So I started writing only when I needed to get thoughts out on paper, to work through thoughts or emotions, or when something big or important happened in my life that I wanted to document. Sometimes I go a month without journaling, but I know it’s useless for me to try and write when I don’t need to. Because those entries always turn out something like, “I woke up and I was in a bad mood but I ate some chocolate and cuddled with my cat and now I’m fine.” As riveting as that content is, it’s not really necessary to document anywhere other than Twitter.
Don’t Set Too Many Limits
When you think of journaling, you’re likely thinking of putting pen to paper. But if that doesn’t work for you, don’t limit yourself. If your goal is to keep track of moments in your life, there are so many ways to do it. Aren’t photographs, scrapbooks, bullet journals, and daily vlogging all just variations of a journal? If one of those mediums make you feel more creative, go for that. If you write better on a computer keyboard rather than a pen, do that.
Allow yourself to be creative in the ways that work best for you. Trying to copy someone else is one of the biggest limits to your own creativity.
How’s that for a tweet-worthy quote?! I think I just upgraded to a level 2 blogger for that.
Get a Journal You’re Excited to Use
I have to admit something. I collect journals like a hoarder. Pretty notebooks are my weakness, and I can’t help but buy every one that catches my eye. Sometimes they’re even too pretty to use and I buy them with absolutely no intention of ruining them with my chicken scratch. Yeah, I’m crazy. I’m aware.
But getting excited about a new journal is a great trick to get yourself writing. I’m always excited to switch journals, so I start over with a new one about every year or two just to keep it fresh. Just make sure it’s practical, easy to write in, and cute enough to sit on your bedside table to you never forget to write in it.
Because if you can’t put it on your Instagram feed, what’s even the point?
Get a Guided Journal
I use this Q&A A Day 5-Year journal* alongside my regular one, just because I think it’s fun. It asks you a question every day such as, “what feels really important right now?” or “what did you eat for breakfast?” and you record your answers right there in the book. I like this because I’m able to see how I answered the questions in previous years and it’s always fun to see whether my answers have changed or remained the same.
And I love answering ‘my cat’ for almost every love or relationship-related question…
This journal is not my main one, but if the thought of a completely blank journal scares you, something like this is a much easier commitment. It gets you in the habit of recording your life, but you are not required to write a lot or think too hard.
One thing I’ve done since I started journaling regularly in 2012 was actually inspired by Taylor Swift. This was around the time of her Speak Now tour, where Taylor wrote a different song lyric on her arm for every show. This gave me the idea to start off every journal entry with a quote or a song lyric.
Sometimes it’s just a lyric to a song I’ve been listening to, and other times it’s a quote that fits with how I’m feeling. Sometimes it’s just Taylor Swift lyrics over and over. Regardless, it always seems to spark an idea in my head and inspire me to write.
Use Journal Prompts
If you’re having trouble journaling but you’re desperate to keep it up, this is a great way to get yourself writing even when you’re not inspired. I find prompts especially great if you want your journal to be more than just what you had for breakfast that day. They can help you to delve a little deeper and inspire you to write more than what immediately comes to your head when you’re exhausted and ready for bed (I made a rhyme!).
So if you’re interested in trying journal prompts, I went ahead and created a list of 50 ideas below. Hopefully these prompts and my above tips are helpful to you if you’ve been struggling to journal.
- Something you’re looking forward to
- A list of things that make you happy
- The highs and lows of the past week
- 5 weird things you like
- Something that scares you
- Ways you’ve changed since this time last year
- Describe your style at the moment
- The songs you’ve been listening to lately
- Favorite book/TV/movie characters
- Something you regret
- The most important thing in your life
- A lesson you’ve learned recently
- A change you want to make
- What gives you hope
- What you would do with $1 million
- Your Meyers-Briggs personality type and what you like/hate about it
- The best gift you could receive
- Your favorite advice to give
- One thing you wish you could do
- When you feel most relaxed
- What inspires you
- A list of things you like about yourself
- Describe a recent accomplishment you’re proud of
- Your priorities in life right now
- Something you don’t understand or want to learn more about
- Describe a mistake that helped you grow
- One thing you learned about yourself recently
- A trip you would like to take
- The causes you feel strongly about
- What you look for in a friend
- Some common things you’ve never done
- Something new you want to try
- Your favorite moment of the week/month/year
- Someone you admire
- Something you wish others understood about you
- How you are different than what you thought you’d be like when you grew up
- The best way to spend a day off
- Something you could do to make others happy
- Your bucket list items
- Something you lie about
- What your life looks like in 5-10 years
- Things you know a lot about
- Something you hope will be different a year from now
- What you would do if you could do anything in life
- Your favorite book/TV show/movie at the moment
- A list of your strengths and weaknesses
- Some things you would like to do more often
- Favorite childhood memory
- What you would write a book about
- Things you never want to forget
BONUS: Your favorite blogger/vlogger who’s name rhymes with ‘grin’ 😉
Do you keep a journal? Let us know your tips for keeping it up in the comments!