Drop everything you’re doing and write a journal entry now

I’ve never called my journal a journal, it’s always been a diary to me – but somehow journal sounds more grown up and less like what a 12-year-old girl uses to doodle hearts and the names of her crushes in. Was that imagery a bit sexist? I definitely used to doodle hearts in my diary when I was young but the 12-year-olds of today are much cooler than I was, learning coding and campaigning against climate change and other worthy things like that.

I can’t decide which term to use so for the purpose of this blog, I’m going to switch confusingly between them. 

I’ve kept a diary since I was 15. I have a whole row of volumes on my bookshelf and every now and then, when I’m sad or need guidance, I will get them down and read them all. I revisit all of my past selves with the new perspective of my present self and it helps me understand certain things. It validates how I felt at the time, and it shows me a clear map of how I got to this point and made the decisions I made. 

Reasons to journal: 

And here I’m using journal as a verb, by the way. Interestingly you can journal, but you can’t diary. Anyway: 

– Sometimes you don’t know how you feel until you try to put it into words.

– It clarifies your thoughts and feelings.

– You can be totally honest – nobody will read it but you (this is a law in diary world. Nobody who reads someone else’s diary survives).

– You will discover things about yourself you didn’t know.

– It is a chance to reflect – too often we just plough on with DOING life and we don’t sit back to process it.

– It’s an avenue for creativity – you can write flamboyant descriptions, poems, doodles, anything!

– You capture a moment in time, like a photo but from inside your mind. 

– You can always return to past dates to happily reminisce, or help with emotional healing.

– It gives you something to do when you’re out and about exploring on your own. 

– It helps you develop a strong sense of self.

– Writing about your experience enhances life and encourages you to notice more detail. 

– It makes you feel better, like offloading to a friend.

– One day when you’re long dead, they might find it and treat it as an invaluable historical document and it’ll be put in a museum.   

How do you start journaling?

If you’re new to this, it probably feels a bit silly sitting down to write to yourself.  Here are my tips on how to start keeping a diary: 

– Spend some time finding a journal you really like – whether it’s sparkly, covered in motivational quotes, or leather-bound and simple. Those blank pages will be full of your life: it’s important you like how it feels and looks.

– Find a pen that feels good to write with.

– There’s no need to start every entry with ‘dear diary’, unless it makes you giggle.

– Start by writing the day and date. 

– Don’t get caught up with grammar or syntax. How you write doesn’t matter, because it’s about your subjective expression – everything you put down is 100% perfect because it’s what you put down.

– Anything goes. You can list, doodle, write a poem or haiku, just close your eyes and dribble onto the paper if you must. 

– If you need some structure, answer any of these questions: what’s one thing that happened today? How are you feeling? What’s bothering you? What are you looking forward to? What can you see around you right now? What’s in the news at the moment?  

Above all, just relax. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to journalling. Do it how you want. Often you’ll start writing and it’ll just start to flow – and when you’re in the flow, even about something totally banal and non-personal, that’s when the revelations begin.  

Do you like to journal? Are you inspired to give diary writing a go? Let me know in the comments!