Writing down your personal thoughts and feelings isn’t something most people do on a regular basis. So sitting and staring down at a blank piece of paper trying to figure out how to start journaling can be somewhat intimidating. After about five minutes of looking at your journal, it’s tempting to just give up altogether and just chalk it up as something that’s not for you.
However, writer’s block does not have to plague you. With these approaches to journaling, it’ll no longer be overwhelming or laborious.
Here are 10 journaling tips for beginners:
1. Use a pen and paper
Though we recommend using a traditional diary or notebook, doing so can sometimes be a challenge. Having an app allows you to write down your thoughts almost anywhere. The downside is that your device can quickly become a distraction when notifications begin to go off.
Writing by hand gives you a break from the screen, allowing your mind to unplug, especially if your work requires you to use a computer or phone all day.
If you’re going to write by hand (like we suggest), make sure you get a good journal to write in.
[Notes by Amythyst: For most of my professional writing experience, I've always chosen to hand write the first draft of a manuscript. It's only with the last couple books that I've forgone this practice in lieu of Libra Office and my computer. Journaling ALWAYS takes place by hand, with pen and paper, and preferably with an old-fashioned fountain pen... there's nothing like them, nothing writes this way, or feels this way, so connected to the paper and so grounded. There's something about hand writing your thoughts that open up the pathways to creativity. If you've never done it this way before, I suggest you try it. Find a notebook and a fountain pen that speaks to you.]
2. Journal in the morning
Studies show that it is best to write first thing in the morning. It’s when your mind is most quiet and free from external influences. Do not pick up your phone to check social media. Instead, keep a journaling book and a pen next to your bed. Once you’re awake, reach for it and start writing. It does not matter how groggy you feel, just let the words flow. This is also a great practice for dream journaling as well.
Night owls might not agree with this. If morning is not the time for you, set a time in your day where you’re most productive and least likely to be interrupted. Do this the same time every day to make journaling a lasting habit.
[Notes by Amythyst: I totally agree! I've always done the bulk of my writing (both my personal journaling, as well as working on manuscripts) in the wee early hours of the morning, preferably with a good cup of hot coffee, a comfy bathrobe, and when weather permits, an outdoor table spot. Your thoughts will flow while the birds do their early morning thing. I love it!]
3. Write Every Day
Whichever time you pick, morning or evening, make sure you write in your journal daily, even when you don’t feel like it.
If you perceive that you have nothing to write about, write that sentence down. After a few lines of struggling to get your ideas out, the reason why you don’t want to write will soon reveal itself. It’s likely that you’re running away from something you don’t want or aren’t ready to face.
[Notes by Amythyst: So true! The well is never completely dry, not even when you think it is!]
4. Make time
Sometimes days get off to a busy start, and you’re unable to spare time to write. On these days, carry a journal with you so you can write your thoughts down when you have free time. 5-10 minutes of quiet and uninterrupted time is sufficient. You don’t have to write in prose; state main ideas in bullet points. If you need to, you can go and flesh these out later.
[Notes by Amythyst: I have a couple thoughts to add here... 1. "Not having time to write" ~ I have written diary entries and written books while consumed with the physical care and home-schooling of six children, a huge house to maintain, meals to prepare, and babies to breast feed. The WRITER will WRITE, no matter how many obstacles are put in their path. 2. I've always carried a notebook to jot down unexpected thoughts and ideas because it never fails that if you don't write them down, you will forget them!]
5. Try stream of consciousness journaling
Write about everything and nothing. It is a non-judgmental flow of your thoughts; think of it as transcribing what is in your thoughts without any editing to have it make sense.
This session is known as a “stream of consciousness.” Don’t filter or censor your thoughts or feelings. Don’t mind the grammatical errors, just keep writing. After a few minutes, your mind will take on a more defined flow or theme that you can reflect on. This method is the rawest form journaling there is. It de-clutters your mind and shows you what the source of confusion, stress or pain is.
During this process, be patient. Most of all, don’t force yourself to think and write contrary to the “stream.”
[Notes by Amythyst: This is an excellent idea, though I've carried this a step further on my occult metaphysical path by trying my hand at "Automatic Writing". For those who've never heard this term before, it's kind of like turning your writing hand into a Ouija board planchette and allowing the spirits to take over. The results can be astounding, eye-opening, and a little spooky.]
6. Write about the current space you’re in
Journal about what’s happening in your life. In detail, talk about your relationships, work, home, family, health, finances- anything that affects you. Then write down where you want to be and the steps you can take to get there.
This approach to goal setting will push you to do what’s required to transform yourself for the better. It also gives you a realistic picture of where you are. In that way, you’re given the opportunity to course-correct to meet your target.
[Notes by Amythyst: I've kept a diary for years. Each one of my children has a diary entry relating the events on the day of their birth. When they inherit my diaries, they will also have well detailed imagery of our time at home, as well as special events, vacations, and mile stones. I have also kept dream journals, which are incredibly enlightening as to what's happening in your life and the effects at the time.]
7. Use journaling prompts
This is easily one of the best journaling tips for beginners.
Can’t get past the blank page? Journaling prompts like these will facilitate the frame of mind required when journaling. A journal prompt is just a question or topic that helps get your mind flowing. Since journaling from scratch is difficult for some people, prompts give you a starting point.
Reflect and answer each question as honestly as possible. This exercise is guaranteed to bring to the forefront of your mind the causes of most of your problems and what to do about them. Most of all, they help you shed off unwanted stress, anxiety and other burdens for a more carefree life.
[Notes by Amythyst: I've posted several "journaling prompts" at The Writer's Corner Facebook Page. Just bring up photos and you'll find the prompts. You can also visit Pintrest, doing a search for writing prompts of all kinds.]
8. Talk to your inner child
Self-help books have popularized the concept of “the inner child.” It’s quite easy to shelf this under pop psychology, but this incorrect assumption may be costing you more than you think. The inner child is not literal, though it does exist. It refers to an unconscious part of your mind. Here is where you find the source of emotional, relational and behavioral difficulties that plague you in your adulthood.
To have a conversation with your inner child, ask your subconscious mind questions in the second person. This concept might seem strange, but remember, our conscious/awake part of the mind is just the tip of the iceberg. You know more than you think you do.
9. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude
Every time you journal, list all the things you’re grateful for in that moment. Doing this at the beginning frames the way in which your approach your problems. You’ll note a shift in your outlook on life. Positivity will become the norm, and not the exception.
Finding it hard to be thankful every day? This article highlights the physical, emotional, psychological, and behavioral benefits of being grateful. If you have a hard time remembering what to be thankful for, there are plenty of apps with reminders online you can download.
[Notes by Amythyst: I have tried gratitude journaling for a brief time. It just wasn't my cup of tea. I get more out of regular journal entries. I'm not sure why. There are indeed things I'm grateful for, it just seemed contrived and artificial when I tried to record it in a gratitude journal. You may feel differently about this.]
10. Keep it private
People new to journaling often wonder if they should keep it private, or share it with others. The short answer is, it’s up to you. Some people suggest that you could show sections of your journal to trusted people. If you have to, read it out loud or summarize what was written.
Otherwise, don’t show it to anyone. Treat your journal as a sacred object.
[Notes by Amythyst: There are a couple different ways of looking at this ~ 1. Sometimes I've actually enjoyed sharing the memories and pages of my diary with family or a friend. 2. Sometimes we write when we're in a very dark place, and this is what puts perspective on our life and the direction that we're going to take. If you don't feel that your inner-most darkest thoughts are private, it might inhibit what you write.]
Journaling Writing for Beginners
When doing anything in life, having a personal and well-defined purpose. Journaling will encourage you to stick to it. Do you want to journal to relieve stress and anxiety? Do you want to deal with childhood trauma? Whatever your reason, the results will be the same. You’ll be wiser, enlightened, kinder and all-around better version of yourself. Do not be surprised when others notice the change before you.
Hopefully these 10 journaling tips for beginners are just the motivation you needed to get started. Don’t procrastinate any longer. Get a journal and start writing!