Keeping a journal is a simple but very meaningful daily exercise. There are a lot of studies that show the many benefits of keeping a journal, and being somebody who has kept one for as long as I can remember, I can attest to this. Keeping a journal entails a conscious effort to find a quiet mind space. You can be in a busy cafe and still be alone with your thoughts. You can be in the middle of a busy day and you pause for a while, collect your thoughts and write. It’s completely relaxing. Many of my best ideas for poems, short stories and articles just popped in my head while I was writing a journal entry about a completely different thing.
So how exactly do you start keeping a journal? You just do. At the heart of it, keeping a journal is supposed to be simple and satisfying, not a burdensome chore that you force on yourself.
I can give a few tips on how keeping a journal can be more enjoyable, though. It’s a pleasure to share these with you:
Picking a Notebook
For people who love keeping journals, picking a notebook is part of a very fun ritual. My very patient husband can attest to the fact that I used to spend hours upon hours, hopping from one store to the next just trying to pick the right notebook. I open each one up, feel the paper, sniff it, check the spine…it’s so much fun. I rationalize that since the notebook will be with me for a few weeks and I’ll pour out my thoughts to it, it’s gotta be something I will enjoy carrying around.
I keep several journals with me. I keep a few small ones for random thoughts and for when it’s not practical to bring a big bag that fits my big journal. The photo above is of my traveler’s notebook from a local business (Alunsina Handbound Books).
My current go-to large journal is also from a local manufacturer, Elias Notebooks, which I just recently discovered through a friend. I also have their small notebooks for other types of writing. It has saved me hours and hours of looking for the right notebook because…it is the right notebook, for me at least. I guess the bottomline is just pick a notebook that you’ll be happy to write in frequently. Don’t overcomplicate it if you don’t want to, or overcomplicate it as much as you want, as long as it makes you happy.
When I was in college, I wrote my journals in Alibata because I didn’t want people looking in it and reading what I wrote. Now, I don’t really mind. If you’re conscious about other people finding your journal, you may want to consider replacing people’s names with letters. like “B talked to me today about…” or not writing about people too much. Remember that as much as reading your journal is a breach of your privacy, some people just don’t get it. I personally don’t write too much negative thoughts in my journal. I concentrate on edifying thoughts. I write about negative life experiences in a way that could be helpful in either understanding it or processing my thoughts about it so I can leave it behind faster.
Again, even if your journal is supposed to be private, always think before you write…without overthinking it. It’s your journal, after all.
Make it yours
Oftentimes, I like to put things in my journal that will help me visualize memories better. Photographs, little sketches, watercolor paintings (if you like this, make sure the paper you use is fit for it) and similar things. Basically, a visual bookmark. It can be anything that you want!
One thing I like to do with my journals and my letters is create a “What in the World” page. It’s a page where I write a few of the day’s news, so that I can remember what’s going on with the world for that day. It’s like a slice of life, and I enjoy it a lot.
Picking a Pen
I’m a staunch user of fountain pens. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to write well. A Pilot Metropolitan or 78G are both very inexpensive pens but the writing experience they give you is superb.
My sweet spot, however, are vintage pens. You’ll probably throw away that plastic ballpoint when the ink is all used up, but the Waterman Gentleman in the photo above still writes like a dream even if it was made in the 1970’s.
Anyway, regardless of the pen that you choose, what’s important is you’re comfortable with your choice. I love fountain pens because it helped alleviate the constant, nagging pain in my hand when I write for long hours. It requires no pressure to write with, so that works out awesome for me.
What exactly can you write about? I wasn’t even on first grade when my mom first taught me how to keep a journal. You can imagine how some of them started with “Dear Diary”… and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can write as if your journal is your confidante, a great friend with a listening ear. That’s alright.
You can write as if it’s a memoir, a commonplace book of random thoughts, snippets of unfinished story ideas, recollections…you can write anything. I write different kinds of journal entries everyday. One kind that I love best is when I write about specific Bible verses that I meditate on. You’ll be surprised about how one Bible verse can open up and bloom once you think about it and meditate on it all day, like slowly chewing food before you swallow. At times, when I’m feeling low, I just copy my favorite Psalms or I rewrite them to make them personal.
Here are a few writing prompts that you can try:
- Write about your comfort food
- Write about that lunch you had with your friend
- Write about a single happy childhood memory
- Write about a scar and recall how you got it
- Write about the first time you met your best friend
- Write about the day that you got your first pet
- Write about the first words thoughts you had when you woke up
- Write about your dream last night
…and so on and so forth. Just pause once in a while during the day, collect your thoughts, take a deep breath, and treat yourself to a few minutes of pure writing pleasure. After a few days of keeping a journal, you’ll see why a lot of people make it a part of their daily routine.