How to start journaling – and 5 tips to stick with it!

What if I told you that there is a daily routine that makes me more focused, more creative, and less anxious? And it only takes 20 minutes and it’s mostly free? Artists and leaders, from Frida Kahlo, Susan Sontag to Oprah Winfrey, have sworn that this habit is the key to success. If your guess was “journalism”, you are correct. Wondering how to start journaling in a way that is truly supportive of your goals and mental health? Then you have come to the right place. My own journaling practice has been the number one tool that has helped me set priorities and create traction for my goals over the past decade. As Sontag said,

“In my diary, I don’t just express myself more openly than I can with anyone; I created it myself. Diary is a vehicle for my sense of self. “

I’ve been journaling semi-consistently for the past few years, but I recently made an adjustment to my practice that completely changed the game. I switched from typing in a diary on my computer to writing lengthy notes in a bound notebook. (I know, obviously!) While I figured being able to type as fast as I thought would help, I didn’t realize I was missing the meditative part of journaling. As my hand moves slowly across the paper, it untangles the thoughts, feelings, experiences, and inputs that are often so wrapped up in my brain that I don’t even know what I’m thinking until I write it down. And I’m always amazed by what I discover – a sudden dream that came from the night before, knowing the answer to a business decision, or most often, some new creative inspiration.

So I thought I’d dedicate today’s post to the products, rituals, and inspirations that helped me start 2022 with a solid journaling habit. If you’re wondering how to get started with journaling consistently, it’s much easier when you set yourself up with a few good tools.

1. Create a Ritual

I’ve been thinking about how creating rituals in our lives can enhance any experience. Nowhere is this more true to me than in the morning. I generate small cues that speak to my senses, reminding me to be present and acknowledge the moment as sacred. When I wake up, I pour coffee into my favorite mug, put on a playlist of good songs to write (no vocals), and light a candle on my desk. The repetition of those sounds and scents amuses me. When my alarm went off at 6 a.m., I found myself really excited to participate.

2. Collect your journaling toolkit

I can not write with bad paper or a dirty pen. Literally impossible. I’m currently using the Apica Notebook CD15 that a friend gave me and I love it. It lays flat, and is large enough to write comfortably but thin enough to slip in my purse.

For writing, I ordered a large pack of Black Uniball Micro Point Gel Pens. I love the smooth black ink, and I ordered a box of 12 because Adam stole my pens from my desk and then chewed their tips while he was calling zoom.

3. Get started with journaling reminders

You know how sometimes, you sit down to write and your mind goes completely blank? This feeling often gets in the way of sticking to a journaling routine, so I find it really helpful to have a few journaling reminders up my sleeve to start my flow. Here are some favorites:

I used to be ______, and now I’m ________.

What makes me feel energized? How can I bring more of that into my daily life?

What do I want to do for the first time this year?

How can I “become a good person” in my sphere of influence today?

4. Get inspired

As with many healthy habits, I’m usually really excited to get into them for the first few weeks, but then hit a bump when the novelty wears off. When I need a new source of inspiration, I look to writers, poets, and other sources of inspiration that back me up to invest my time and energy in what’s important to me. Here are a few places I get inspired to look:

My friend Leigh created these amazing workbooks called List of moons different from any guided magazine I’ve seen before. Full of thought-provoking quotes and reminders, with space to doodle and dream. It reminds me to notice and pay attention to the little details around me, giving me more of a presence every day.

I recently saw Joan Didion’s documentary, and it was great. It is a pioneering, curious, one-of-a-kind creation, and her diaries are key to her growth both personally and professionally.

All of Austin Kleon’s books (as well as his weekly newsletter) inspire me to put pen to paper and use it as a tool to be creative, explore my curiosity, and just play or entertain. His work is one of the best cures for the block of writers I have found.

5. Just do something

Loved this tip from Mark Manson’s email and it really is a great reminder for any New habit you’re trying to create this year:

“When I’m feeling unmotivated, I use the ‘Do Something’ Principle. “
Based on the observation that action is not only an effect of motivation, but also its cause… Don’t feel like working on the book you’re writing? Just start on an outline for a section of a chapter. Let’s see what happens.”

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