How to Start Journaling

Journaling has always been one of my favorite feigned habits.

I’ve kept a myriad of diaries, notebooks and journals since childhood, but it’s only been the last two years or so that I’ve actually developed any meaningful consistency.

I’ve been trying to force myself into a “miracle morning” type routine for two years now. Ideally, it would look like:

  • Make coffee
  • Meditate
  • Read tarot
  • Journal
  • Write (as in write for writing’s sake)
  • Yoga
  • Work out
  • Healthy breakfast
  • Bonus points for making my bed and actually getting fully *ready* for the day

And I would be damned if I wasn’t going to do all of that before 9am. Every morning.

Because–I don’t know if you’ve been on the internet lately–but that’s what your mornings are supposed to look like if you’re an evolved and interesting human.

Especially if you have the freedom and privilege to work for yourself from home, or find yourself blissfully roommate and live-in partner free. What a treat, right?

Well, I’ll tell you what my morning looks like right now:

  • Wake up because the cat is literally poking me with his paw
  • Pee, while the cat whines at me
  • Feed the cat
  • Make coffee
  • Get back in bed for about 30 minutes and scroll around on my phone
  • Check my bank account and get a nice reality check
  • Then I finally journal and pull a card (Right now that’s from an oracle deck called Moon Angels)
  • Sometimes I meditate (I do love Lacy Young’s meditations and will happily do them when I’m feeling particularly evolved and mature)

After that, I head downstairs and try to write before I get started on my “work” for the day.

As one of my favorite writers and teachers, Sarah Von Bargen, finally got through my head in her Make It Stick Habit School: You can really only establish one good habit at a time.

Something that I’ve noticed is that journaling is really the thing for me. It’s the closest I can get to therapy without getting my eyes wet and it’s way cheaper–about the cost of one Moleskine notebook every 90 days because it’s one thing I get to be picky about.

I know you’re probably so thrilled to hear the nitty gritty details of my morning routine, but I know you’re here for the goods so let’s talk about journaling.

How to start a journaling habit

Pick tools you actually like.

This is honestly the key for me. Once I found a pen and notebook I really loved, I started genuinely looking forward to sitting down at my desk every morning.

I’ve since switched notebooks and now am partial to Moleskines because they really are just my favorite for writing, but even the little notebook that was a very sweet souvenir from a good friend’s trip to Paris had its own unique personality.

Also, pens are important. I’m currently experimenting with a fountain pen, but I’m partial to a Pilot G2 or a Bic Atlantis if I’m really honest.

 

Make it fancy.

All I mean by this is do a little something special to your space or time to ritualize journaling. It’s like a preemptive reward for sitting down to journal on the days when you don’t really feel like it.

I have a candle I only light when I’m journaling and I let myself indulge in my very typical Bon Iver/Iron & Wine playlist until I actually open up my laptop.

You could have a special mug or wear fancy slippers or stay in bed a few extra minutes if that’s what butters your biscuit. Whatever makes you feel a little indulgent and selfish is a good choice.

 

Pick a goal.

For me, the first goal that really worked was to commit to filling up an entire journal.

It was that journal I mentioned earlier, one that I really loved that I bought at the Denver Botanical Gardens that I decided I was not going to squander by only writing in a few pages and then abandoning it.

When I did that, I moved on to the Paris notebook, then I allowed myself to buy a new Moleskine because I didn’t have any other blank notebooks waiting in the wings.

I’ve tried writing three pages every morning, but I’ve found that as long as I write every day, the length will naturally fluctuate depending on what I need to write about.

 

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Seriously, sometimes journaling seems stupid and you’ll be writing “I just really don’t feel like writing because I’m hungover/bored/busy/content.” over and over until you think of one thing you did want to write about that maybe you thought of in the shower yesterday or something.

It’s not supposed to be poetic or prophetic. It’s easy to hope that your journals will be witty and devastatingly authentic so that someone will just have to publish them posthumously. Chances are it’s not ever going to be like that consistently.

Sometimes it’s drudgery and sometimes it’s personal revelations that unlock big things for yourself. That’s just how it is.

Like I said, this is a cheap and private alternative to therapy. Not every session is going to be a breakthrough.

 

Don’t censor yourself.

This is something I worry about. I even went through a phase in high school after a fight with my high school sweetheart when I was certain the One for me was still out there and not that guy that I started a notebook as a series of letters to my future husband.

That lasted all of four days.

Spoiler alert, the high school sweetheart was not the One for me and the jury is still out for my future husband, but I do not write to anyone anymore.

Sometimes I think about what I will want to have access to when I’m old or when I need to remember what it was like as a 20-something because my future daughter is doing something that’s driving me crazy or got me worried sick (sorry mom.)

But if you write with an audience in mind, you keep the good stuff locked up. You keep the bad stuff locked up too, and the selfish stuff and the creepy stuff and the fucked up stuff.

The only thing that comes out when you start writing with any audience or dream of future publication is just hifalutin nonsense that won’t do anyone any good.

(Sometimes you’ll write hifalutin nonsense anyways, but it will be good for you specifically when you catch yourself doing that and can dial it back to what’s really going on for you. Again, therapy.)

 

Allow for lapses.

Sometimes you’ll go a few weeks without writing in your journal and start to feel foggy and jumbled. When you notice you haven’t been keeping up with your journal, you’ll be able to go back to it.

The journal will not judge you or charge you for missed sessions. It does not ask you where you’ve been. It’s just there when you need it, which is more often than you think.

 

Try it out.

If you’ve thought about journaling but are freaked out by former attempts or think you don’t have time, I’m going to challenge you to do one page a day for a week and see how you feel.

You might still hate it or be stressed out by it, in which case, forget it. You are not going to be less successful or interesting if you don’t keep a journal.

Chances are, you’re doing something else in your life that is giving you the documentation you need to keep tabs on your own mind and that’s great. Stick to what works for you.

But if you do find your mind is less crowded and you’re uncovering stuff to work on through your writing, pick a goal and go with it.

Don’t get caught up in any rules or standards, just show up when you need to and remember that you can’t fail at this habit. You really can’t.

That’s the beauty of journaling for me, unlike other habits. Journaling is not a compound effect. You can’t get better at it, you can’t lose it if you get too busy or lazy for a few weeks.

Is there potential for journaling to improve other areas of your life if you do it regularly? Absolutely. I know my writing and anxiety have both been positively affected by journaling regularly.

So, give it a shot.

If you do decide to give it a try, feel free to tag me on instagram or shoot me an email if you want to share your experiences. I’m happy to talk about routines, notebooks, prompts, whatever! Good luck, y’all.

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