Curious about journaling and don’t where to start? Guilty of starting countless journals only to stop after just a few entries? There are a few simple things that support regular journaling. You can put these methods to work immediately and feel how supportive they are.
Despite our best intentions to journal daily, there are so many things that can get in the way and encroach on writing time.
Resistance makes us feel bad, because creating something new makes us vulnerable.
If you fear you are are too busy, lazy, or disorganized (those are the unkind words of resistance) to keep a journal, this is for you.
How to Start Writing a Journal
1. Keep Your Writing Setup Simple
Consider your journals as your opportunity to go minimalist. Even if you’re a maximalist everywhere else in your life.
A simple setup for journal writing is a notebook and a pen. That’s it!
Switch it up with pencil, if you love writing in pencil.
Use one of those glitter gel pens or a purple marker if that’s your jam.
If you’re especially resistant to writing, then try going analog—writing by hand, old school!
Don’t get bogged down with journal keeping apps, or how to organize and hide your journal files on your computer.
Notebook. Pen. You’re ready to write, always and anywhere.
Pro Journaling Tips
The less fancy the notebook, the easier it is to “ruin” with your bad handwriting. 🙂
Another way to say this is:
The cheaper and uglier the notebook (think spiral bound back-to-school special) the easier it is to write in it. Nothing to loose!
Rookie Journaling Mistakes
Getting a fancy $100 leather bound handmade journal and then saving it until you have something important to say.
Going shopping for the Perfect writing journal, and not finding it. Which means you are again putting off your journaling because you don’t have the right journal.
2. Keep Your Writing Private
Do you know the biggest fear holding people back from journaling?
The fear that someone else is going to read what they write.
This saddens me so much, because all that stuff that seems so worrisome to write about just stays stuck in one’s craw. This is not a good place for worrisome things to be!
The best place for worries, frustrations and all sort of vexations is right in the cosy and closed pages of your journal. They’re not going to hurt anyone in there, and you get to enjoy the benefits of unburdening your heart and mind by writing it out.
If you are doing Step 1. and using a notebook, it’s easy to stash that somewhere. It won’t even look interesting if you’re using a crappy notebook.
Guarding Your Journal Writing From Nosy People, Prying Eyes
You can keep your journal as private as possible. Stashing it on a bookshelf with the rest of your books or magazines is a good place to “hide” a journal.
If you have messy handwriting, this works to your advantage.
You can also keep your journal writing practice and intentions private. Don’t tell nosy people that you’re even keeping a journal. Don’t try to get support or approval from people who don’t have a track record of encouraging you.
The best way to establish a new journal writing practice is to keep a journal for a year or so without talking about it to anyone. Then see what you want to do from there.
Give yourself a chance to discover the benefits of journaling, without the fear of naysayers stopping you.
When you’re ready, you’ll find journal keepers online that are eager to connect. Community support for journaling is one of the big reasons I started the 30 Day Journal Project.
Make peace with the fact that you can’t control what nosy people are going to do when it comes to you and your journal.
People who ignore boundaries are the problem. You, the journal keeper are not.
If they don’t respect your privacy, there are bigger issues, n’est pas?
3. Limit Your Writing Time
Limiting how much time you spend writing in your journal might seem counter-intuitive. After all, isn’t more writing better? Not when you’re just starting out.
If journaling takes up too much of your day, it’s going to be the first activity to make the cut when Life Gets in the Way, a.k.a you’re Too Busy.
Also, if you’re writing too much, it will start to seem like work. We avoid things that feel like work.
There are a few easy ways to limit your journal writing time.
1. Set a timer for 3 or five minutes
Write stream-of-consciousness until it goes off. Writing for a few minutes can be plenty and enough, especially during times of extreme stress, chaos or busyness.
Giving yourself 15 or 20 minutes of journaling time is another good, small measure. But build up to that amount, especially if it’s feeling difficult to start.
2. Write until you fill a half sheet or a full sheet of notebook paper
Depending upon the size of the paper and how fast your write, one sheet is about five minutes of writing.
3. Use a writing prompt
The 30 Day Journal Project builds on the power of journaling to a theme and a writing prompt for the day. Writing prompts allow us to bypass the critical mind and just start moving the pen across the paper. Easy!
For example, the following writing prompts are from the JOURNEY: 30 Day Journal Project.
“The journey of a thousand miles
Begins with a single step…”
― Lao Tsu
Journaling Prompts to Try
- Think about the word journey for a moment. What does the idea of taking a journey evoke in you?
- The idea of taking a journey is…
- When I consider this journey with journaling for 30 days, I feel…
- Taking a single step reminds me of…
- In my experience, beginnings are…
You can do one or all the prompts. Try just one prompt a day if you’re short on time or just want to try this out.
Lao Tsu’s words (from the Tao te Ching, #64) is also translated as: “The journey of a thousand miles, begins under your feet…”
I think this is another way of saying, that no matter how daunting a project seems, all you need to do is start where you are. Starting to keep a journal can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be so scary or intimidating.
If you have the desire to write your own journal, you also have the means to do so. Everything you need is within you. You have everything you need to start now.
Next time you think about starting to journal, keep the words, Simple, Private and Limited in mind. You can get great results from journaling with just a few minutes a day — but only if you start writing!
Read my story about how I started keeping a journal that became my lifeline and my creative practice.
So many people who write with me in the 30 Day Journal Project are brand new to journaling. I hope this post helps. Let me know what other questions you have about starting to keep a journal.
Besides writing out the journal prompts, I’ve also made a video and recording.
The idea is that you can listen to me read your the prompts, just like I do in live workshops. Is this useful? Lemme know!