Journaling Tips

Last night I was exhausted.

I hadn’t gotten nearly enough sleep all week, I was stressed about homework and tests coming up, and I didn’t even want to think about the mountain of laundry I’d been avoiding. (Of course, I couldn’t avoid thinking about it anymore when I had to put on my laundry-day pants today. You know, the ones you only wear when all the others are dirty).


So of course, instead of solving the tired-ness problem by going to sleep, I decided the best option was halfway lay down on my bed, distract my roommate from homework, and complain about all the things I need to do instead of doing them. Classic college logic. Of course, when you’re emotionally and physically worn-out, logic doesn’t exactly come in first place. Either laziness or its close cousin, time-wasting, usually wins.

After successfully procrastinating going to bed for about an hour, my hand started reaching, almost without my thinking about it, towards my beloved-yet-often neglected friend, the journal. I don’t know what it is about my journal that makes it so difficult to open, yet so difficult to close. Once I start to write, it’s so therapeutic that I just can’t stop.

This is terribly selfish of me, but I don’t write in my journal for the sake of posterity or whatever, I mostly do it for my own well-being. Maybe I’ll eventually compile it all into a personal history that can be more easily read by my grandkids (that’s the hope) or my million cats (that’s probably more likely). I’m at least 99% sure that no one would understand my journals anyway (especially the cats. Unless by the time I’m old, cats have learned to read. That would be both awesome and incredibly frightening).


It’s amazing what journaling does for me. That’s why I want to recommend it to everyone else as well. And since I know how terribly, terribly, hard it is to start (seriously, I don’t understand why it’s so hard), I thought I’d throw out a few tips that have helped me.

Get a journal that you LOVE. If your journal is just a spiral-bound notebook or your brother’s old one that he started, never finished, and ripped the first pages out of, you might not be very excited to write in it. However, if you spend a little time and money picking one that fits your own personal style, you’ll be much more tempted to pick it up and start writing. When I see a journal I love, I buy it and keep it on the shelf until I need it. That way I have motivation to finish the one I’m currently using.

This is my current journal. I love how big it is. Cheesy but inspiring quotes are always nice, too.

Consider a “Line-A-Day” journal, or create your own system. I have one of those 5-year, one-line-a-day journals, where you just write something small each day. This might not work for everyone, but I love it. No matter how tired I am, I can always take 30 seconds to jot down something interesting about the day. Sometimes it’s just one word. But It makes me feel at peace knowing I’m keeping a record of my life. Then, when something important happens, or when I’m more in the mood to write, I crack open the big journal and expound. If you create some sort of schedule for yourself like that, your chances of keeping it up are a lot higher.


Write stuff you’ll actually care about remembering. I absolutely love reading back through my journals and reading about funny things my brother did, or how excited I was that a certain boy talked to me, or who I was spending time with. I also love reading about spiritual experiences I had, because sometimes I can trace parts of my testimony back to those experiences, even though I had forgotten what happened. I also like reading crazy stories that I retell, so I can make sure I am telling it how it really happened (you know how stories  tend to change over time . . . that’s why my brother has, apparently, gotten at least 20 feet of air while tubing). Then, some things are just tedious to read about. In high school I would say “so today was pretty good, I did some homework, but I’m really tired, bleh” or something. Did I really need to write that down? Try to look at yourself in the future and wonder, what would I want to know about today? What am I likely to forget if I don’t write it down?

George Washington's diary entry about when the U.S. Constitution was signed.
George Washington’s diary entry about when the U.S. Constitution was signed.

Be as honest as you possibly can. It’s one thing to sugarcoat, edit, and alter what we say to other people. You know, we automatically respond “good” when anyone asks how we are. We often end a conversation about something difficult in our life with “but it’s okay, everything’s going to work out fine” even if we aren’t so sure, and it’s not okay. If we want to keep this up for the sake of social acceptability, fine. But it has no place in a journal. If you’re trying to really get how you feel out on a paper, don’t act as if you’re talking to a girl you sit next to in class or someone you’re on a date with. This is just you and your own brain. Like I said, I don’t plan on letting anyone read my journals, ever.

Anne Frank may have been just like me, and didn't want anyone to read her diary. But what if she had never written it?!
Anne Frank may have been just like me, and didn’t want anyone to read her diary. But what if she had never written it?!

Consider doing more than just writing. Once a friend of mine told me how she liked to use sketchbooks or journals with unlined paper, because she felt that the lines restricted her. I’ve thought about that ever since. I love using paper that isn’t lined because sometimes you want to write bigger for emphasis, write small enough that no one can read over your shoulder, or illustrate what you’re feeling by drawing. I’ve never considered myself an artist–my drawing skills are, well, we don’t even have to talk about it. But sometimes I draw some sort of diagram or just really big words to express what’s happening. I love journaling that way.

anthro - prospero journal 1

I hope that you all go out and buy a beautiful journal, write eloquently about the important details of your lives, and reap the benefits of doing so. Just kidding. I know that my saying all this stuff probably won’t convince you. Now you just know what you’re missing out on if you don’t write in your journal!


One thought on “Journaling Tips

  1. Dear Aubrey,
    Penni returned from a two-day trip to a reading conference. We had dinner–she brought two pieces of fried chicken and a big scone from Chic’s Cafe in Midway. That’s where the conference was held. I fixed a few things to go with the chicken and we ate dinner. After I loaded the dishes in the dishwasher, Penni called me in to see all the books she had bought. They were beautiful, with one fantastic illustrator. I sat reading one of the books, and I fell asleep, so I know what you are talking about in your e-mail. The desire for sleep is a powerful feeling to battle. It’s also pretty elusive sometimes. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just turn it on or off, as we saw fit? On the other hand, maybe we aren’t wise enough to use that kind of power. We’d better let well enough alone.

    Liked by 1 person

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