How to write a journal?
Much ink has been spilled about the benefits of daily, weekly, or simply regular journaling. Keeping a journal gives you a way to record thoughts, but it’s so much more — it’s a way to sort out your thoughts, a way to organize the clutter in your mind.
But, how to do it? For the novice journal-keeper, simply being told to keep a journal can be a big lift. Here, we’ll go through some of the basics for journaling.
What is a journal?
What is a journal? A journal is a written record of some sort, which you, the journal-keeper, contribute to on a regular basis. Journals can be kept in a notebook or they can be kept digitally, using an app like Diarly.
What is a journal about?
A journal can be about anything, but lest that feel too vague and therefore intimidating, let’s break it down a bit. People keep journals for all different reasons, and often, the reason behind the journal being kept can help define what the journal is about.
For example, if you are thinking about keeping a journal because you feel like you need to organize your thoughts or find a way to deal with difficult thoughts because they’re causing you anxiety, then your journal may take the shape of a daily reflection about what happened in your day, how you felt about it, and what you hope will happen tomorrow.
Diarly can be your new digital journal. Packed with features to help you set and stick to the habit of everyday journaling, beautiful and minimalist design built to stay out of your way, and unlimited free entries.
If you are thinking about keeping a journal because you are a writer and you want to be able to look back on your experiences and mine them for future writing projects, you too may want to keep a daily journal that reflects on what your day entailed. At the same time, though, you may want to define your journal even further. For example, you may want to keep a journal that’s just about reflections of parenthood. Or, you may want to simply record all of your travels.
Another popular journal form is a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is somewhere where, on a daily basis, you jot down three things you’re grateful for. They can be simple or huge — the only requirement is that they are things you are grateful for. Gratitude journaling has been shown to help boost positivity in those who use them.
What if I want all of the above?
The world is certainly your oyster! If you are using a paper journal, aka a book you write in, you may want to buy different ones for different types of journals. At the same time, you could just keep it all in one place. If you’re using a digital app like Diarly, you can either tag your posts depending on what they are, or you can have separate journals for different things. Keeping a journal digitally has the huge benefit that it's always with you — you can keep your journal in your iPhone, so it's always by your side whenever you feel like writing.
Step one: write
The first thing you need to do when starting a new journal is simple, though for so many people it can feel like a huge hurdle. What is it? To start a journal, you need to write.
Writing your first journal entry can feel intimidating. After all, you have a big blank computer screen with a blinking cursor. The best thing to do to get yourself in the groove? Turn down the pressure and just let yourself write.
Sometimes, if you’re feeling stuck, it can help to literally close your eyes and just type whatever thoughts come to mind. They may be nonsense. That’s okay! Or, you can take a reporter’s approach. A reporter doesn’t always need to make sense of the scene in front of them, especially as it’s happening. Their job in the moment is to jot down exactly what’s happened — no emotion, just facts. Try doing this with your own day. What did you do when you woke up? What happened next? If you want to, you can reflect on how you felt at each of those ventures. But sometimes delving into the feelings of it all is what can feel intimidating. Don’t hold yourself back because something feels scary. Instead, just go ahead and do it however it feels comfortable. The more you see the page fill up, and the more often you come back to do it again, the more comfortable you’ll feel.
In other words, don’t feel discouraged if you don’t find your journal entries profound at first, or if you don’t walk away feeling terribly accomplished or at peace. The effect of something like journaling, which is ultimately a routine, come once you’ve engaged in that routine for a bit.
Another very helpful way to reduce the initial resistance to a blank page is to start with journaling prompts. These are questions or suggestions about what to write about — you can set up custom prompts that are added automatically each new day, like a template. Prompts can be intentional towards different goals: mental health, prompts for fall, summer non-fiction, or everyday basic prompts to just check in with yourself and your progress.
The trick, really, is to just start getting words on the page. As you do, you’ll find your flow, what works for you, what doesn’t. As you discover those things, you’ll also start to experience the benefits of journaling. And that, in time, will keep you coming back day after day, all on its own.