If I hadn’t burnt two of my journals, I would have had physical proof that I’ve been journaling for 15 years of my goddamn life. Sadly, pre-teen angst, a box of matches and the uncontrollable urge to destroy potential incriminating evidence means I now only have journal entries dating back to 2011. Still, that doesn’t take away from the impressive fact that I have kept this habit for over half my life. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “oh, Tamanda, how do you do it? Share us these invaluable secrets.” Well lucky for you, being more generous is one of my New Year’s resolutions, so here are 7 tips and tricks to kickstart your journaling journey.
Pick a medium that works for you
I’m not a fan of spiral-spined books. They are cute and all but I am simply dubious of their durability – especially if I’m going to commit to writing in it everyday. I like sturdy case bound books that are usually bland and as most people say, speak nothing to my personality.
To me the perfect journal is one of those leather A4 daily planners that have the date for you and all because it helps me keep track. I write more in these than anything because that’s what works for me.
Whether you use the spirals and cross your fingers they won’t fall apart, or you’re one of those weirdos that would like to journal in a word document, just choose the medium that works best for you. Having a journal you actually like is almost as important as writing in it.
As much as I aim to write on the first and last days of the year, you can start your journaling practice whenever. At the end of the day, this is a habit you want to do on the daily and so the days will just bleed into each other either way. You don’t always have to set up to start on the 1st of Jan. If you’re reading this, don’t wait for a new day, new week or year to start. Begin today and then keep it going.
Set out specific times to write
An important realisation that I hate admitting to is that you actually have to MAKE time for the things you want to do. Shocker. Somewhere around my fifth year of actively journaling, I fell out of the habit because I believed I just didn’t have the time to do it. Life always had things coming my way.
However, in the following year, I realised I didn’t want to stop after so many years of writing and come hail or high-water, I somehow had to find space in my busy schedule to write how my day went. I set an alarm for precisely 19:00hrs just so that I could do nothing else but journal for 30 minutes. ( Relax, it doesn’t usually take that much time to account for your day). This helped me build back my routine and now I don’t need the reminder. I just know that at the end of the day, I have to write about it.
The suckish part about journaling daily is that it requires discipline. Life will mostly always be busy and unless you actively set aside time to journal, you probably won’t. Whether you set time aside in the morning or after your lunch or little snippets during the day you have to tell yourself you’ll show up everyday to do it.
Keep it raw and messy.
Your daily journal is your daily journal – that’s it. It’s not a submission for the Pulitzer prize, it’s not an assignment or work report. It’s just your safe space. Don’t limit yourself to the rules of vocabulary and grammar. Don’t filter your words or feelings. My good God, just write it. Write what you did, what you felt, how you handled things – write it all from the mundane to the messy to the extraordinary. Remember, this is for you and unless you’re journaling through a World War or have really annoying siblings, the chances of anyone going through the personal account of your day to day life and doing anything grandly embarrassing with that information is low.
Carry it everywhere
No matter where I am going, even when I realistically know they will be no time to fill it in, most times – like a clutch novel- I take my journal with me. Now, if you’re a better person than me, you’ll probably find time to fill it in during those times, but I mostly do it because I’m guilt tripping myself to write. It’s a reminder that “ey you have a journal, and you probably didn’t fill me in yesterday so now you have to bare the shame.”
Forgive yourself for the days you do not write
I’ll be honest with you, there’ve only been like one or two journals whereby I was crazy consistent with writing because, let’s face it, you’re just bound to miss a few days. Don’t guilt trip yourself for it. I once stopped midway my 2013 journal, only to start again the next year. Days will always be skipped for a myriad of reasons. The important thing is coming back to it.
Fill in the blank pages
One of my best journaling habits by far, is trying not to leave any page empty. If I skip pages I always come back to them and write poetry or song lyrics or quotes. Sometimes I even sketch pictures. I don’t know what the science is – maybe it just tricks my brain into remembering to fill in the pages some way or the other – but the years I have done this have been my most consistent and enjoyable journaling years.