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How to Journal in 10 Simple Steps

How to Journal in 10 Simple Steps

If you don’t have time to read this whole guide, stick with #1 and you’ll do just fine!

1. Keep it Simple

Journaling at its core is simple. You get some paper and a pen, you write a few pages about what’s going on. You do it again tomorrow. And the next day.

We humans are a curious bunch — we make things needlessly complicated. So if you feel yourself getting mired in whether or not you’re doing it right, what kind of journal to use, when you “should” write, or if the color of your pen will affect the outcome, take a breath and get back to basics.

Words, on a page. It’s really that simple.

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The Magic of Journaling by Hand

The Magic of Journaling by Hand

I’m a big believer in the power of the handwritten word. I do the majority of my journaling by hand in a bound Blueline notebook. I’ve experimented with different methods of journal writing, from stacks of loose-leaf paper to password-protected online documentation. I get the best results writing by hand.

Journaling is a powerful tool that everyone can benefit from, so I encourage you to do it however works best for you. The most important part of keeping a journal is keeping it. Writing by hand is my method of choice for several reasons, which I’ll outline here. Give it a try and see if you experience the same benefits.

1. Visual feedback

Flipping through my notebooks, it is evident immediately what mood dominated a writing session. Some pages are filled with neat block letters made by my Pilot Precise V7 black roller pen. Others are smudged with uneven scrawl because my hands were frozen from riding my scooter to the cafe without gloves – evidence I was out of sorts enough to forget details like protecting myself from the elements.

Most cherished, perhaps, are the pages scribbled frantically with a foreign pen – the urgency transparent – stranded somewhere without my usual writing instrument. Perched atop a toilet in the restroom of a restaurant, or writing excitedly in the closet of a sleeping lover.

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7 Ways to Keep Your Journal Private

7 Ways to Keep Your Journal Private

Privacy is often a central concern for journal writers, especially when you’re first starting out. If you are concerned about someone reading your journal entries against your will, it’s essential that you find a solution to this problem right away.

The need for privacy is one reason people turn to electronic journaling, which enables you to secure entries with a password and “hide” files. This is a perfectly acceptable solution.

However, as I detail in another post, writing by hand in a paper-based journal can be enormously beneficial. See if any of these privacy methods help you feel safe enough to try giving handwritten journaling a shot.

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7 Ways to Beat the Journaling “Blahs”

7 Ways to Beat the Journaling “Blahs”

Let’s face it. As much as we love journaling and all the benefits it brings, journal writing is not always a picnic.

Sometimes we just get, well… sick of it. We’re bored with our journals, bored with our writing – even bored with listening to ourselves.

Here are some tips that have worked well for me in the past when I’ve hit the journaling wall. Give one of them a try next time you don’t want to journal and see if they work for you. Let me know how it goes – I always love to hear about your experience!

1. Journal about why you don’t want to

Yes, this is a bit of a trick. But it’s okay to trick ourselves into action once in awhile. When you don’t feel like writing, just write about why you don’t feel like journaling. Your writing may sound like that of a petulant 3 year old, but that’s okay. I don’t wanna! I hate journaling! This is stupid. This is boring!

Once you’re done venting, you may discover that you start writing about the real reasons why you don’t want to journal. Maybe you’re about to hit on some inconvenient truth. Maybe you’re on the cusp of discovering something about yourself that’s going to shatter your worldview, shake up your life. (That is scary stuff. Take it slowly.)

Maybe you’re mired in perfectionism. Worried that all this journaling is happening but you’re not seeing any progress. Or you still can’t write. Or you’re not doing it properly.

Or perhaps you’re concerned deep down about privacy and your fear of being discovered is hampering your desire to document your world.

Maybe you’re just worried about the long-term consequences of putting it in writing — whatever “it” is.

2. Change it Up

Sometimes we fall into a rut. It’s been said the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole. While rituals and regularity can be helpful in establishing habits, a ritual that steers you into a rut is a hinderence. It’s time to shake things up and try something new in your journal.

Write someplace you’ve never written before. Switch morning for evening and vice versa. Try a different pen. Just do something different, something new. A change of scenery can have a huge impact on your journaling.

Novel experiences physically alter your brain chemistry, stimulating you and boosting creativty and motivation. It’s an instant hit of inspiration!

3. Get Creative

If your journal writing has become tiresome, try putting the words aside for a day. Try taking photos instead to tell the story of your life.

Infuse your journaling with some heart. Or make a collage to explain how you’re feeling. One of my favorite ways to collage is to chop up old magazines and use the headlines and text to tell my own narrative.

Try some art journaling.

4. Use Tools

There are plenty of journal writing tools out there, including great decks of cards that supply you with ideas for topics to write on. I really like the Wide Open deck and the Inner Outings kit.

Sometimes a little external nudge will get you moving in the right direction.

5. Use Prompts — or don’t

If you normally use prompts to write in your journal, try taking a break from that and just write from your heart and mind. If your writing is normally unstructured, try a journaling prompt to get you writing again.

6. Change Your Point of View

Write in the third person. Write from the point of view of yourself as a child, or as your significantly-older self. This exercise is like looking at a familiar room while hanging upside down. Everything seems new and different.

7. Take a Break

Although I’m a big believer in the value of daily journaling, it’s okay to take a break, too. I need a day or two off every once in awhile myself. If you’re new to journaling, it’s a good idea to write regularly until it becomes a habit. But if you’ve been doing it awhile, there’s no reason you can’t take a few days away from the page. Go for a walk, get some fresh air.

I almost always find that a little journaling vacation refreshes my desire to write, and I often have lots of material to cover when I return.

Journaling should be enjoyable (most of the time). So if you’re finding yourself sick of it, bored with it, or just plain don’t wanna, try one of these tools to get the juices flowing again.

Have your own recommendations for overcoming journaling blahs? Leave them in the comments below so we can all give it a shot!

Hey, friend!

I’m Kristin – welcome to Journaling Saves. If you’re new to the site, start here for the grand tour. Thanks for coming!


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