I’ve kept a journal since the start of 8th grade.
Well, actually, I’ve kept a total of 20 journals since the start of 8th grade.
19 pictured. (Fall 2015- Winter 2016 is at my other place.)
Before Fall 2004, like a lot of people, I’d dabbled. I’d journal for a few weeks and then lose interest.
So, how have I stuck with it for almost 14 years?
Tip #1: Start small
My first journal was tiny
In all seriousness, I think a lot of people struggle when they try to write every day. It’s a bit like dieting. If you miss a day (or eat a donut) it can feel like you’ve failed. You might catch yourself thinking, what’s the point? So you stop. I did. I tried several times before I had an epiphany:
You haven’t failed if you don’t give up. Most of the time I try to write once a week. There have been times when it’s more like once a month (or once every two). I just make sure I come back to it. I let myself off the hook for the time I missed and keep going.
Besides, it doesn’t have to be a long entry. Sometimes I write a page or even just a paragraph. If I’m writing about something big, I might scrawl four-six pages.
The journals above have at least one travel entry in them^
The only time I write every day is when I’m on a trip and don’t want to forget. (Even then, the “writing” is usually scribbled in a tiny spiral bound notebook I keep in my purse when I travel. I put it in the journal when I get time.)
Tip #2: Use ballpoint pen (or pencil)
I learned this one the hard way. After years of writing with fun gel pens, markers, and rollerballs, a water bottle spilled all over my journal during a high school camping trip. Weeks of entries were destroyed.
You can see some of the runny ink….
Ballpoint pen doesn’t run. Pencil doesn’t either, but the colors aren’t as much fun. Hopefully you won’t see your work ruined like mine was.
Tip #3: Buy spiral bound notebooks (or spend some $$$)
Only half of mine have been spiral bound. (Two have a hidden spiral.) Of the ones that aren’t, half of those have a broken spine.
All my high school journals. The three normal books have broken spines.
By the time you reach the end of a regular journal, it’s going to start breaking. The pages separate from the binding and, after a decade has gone by, the glue has pretty much given up.
So why don’t I always use spiral bound? Honestly, they aren’t as common. Besides, the vast majority of my journals have been given to me as gifts. (If you have a known hobby or collection it becomes the go-to gift.)
Sometimes the bindings aren’t terrible. The nicest ones I’ve had have held up pretty well. If it’s cheap…well, you get what you pay for.
Tip #4: Choose a journal you like
Forget about trends. If you like it, get it. One of the main reasons I’ve stuck with journaling is that I do it for myself.
All of my college journals
I love patterned pages and pretty covers. While there’s something to be said for continuity, I love that all of my journals are different. My life has changed dramatically in the years since 8th grade…why shouldn’t my journals change too?
Bottom line: There’s no right or wrong way to journal
For me, my journals are part time capsule, part therapist. It’s a place to process events and work through decisions. If it’s a really big decision, I talk to my friends too, but the journal is a good first place to start thinking through all my options. Besides…no journal is going to ask you to stop talking about your crush.
I do, however, suggest not going the Bridget Jones’s Diary route. Unless you are very sure nobody else will ever read it, don’t write anything too terribly cruel.
Mark Darcy was much cooler about the whole thing than anybody I’ve met
Sometimes I draw or tape things into my journals. When I worked in outdoor education, I taped in feathers I found.
Little Guy may have heard about the birds…
Other times I add quotes that seem particularly meaningful. I’ve transcribed entire poems when the mood strikes me. I’ve also written down travel tips and kept track of the books I’ve read.
Are some of the early ones embarrassing? Yes. Absolutely.
But emotions fade and it can be healthy to remember. I love being able to look back on my journals. They’ve covered the very best and most painful moments of the last 13+ years. Remembering how it felt to be in high school has helped make me a better teacher. Even when I’ve been so stressed I haven’t been able to work on my other writing, journaling has helped me keep writing something.
Feel free to add your own thoughts or tips about journaling in the comments 🙂