5 Steps to start Journaling in Earnest

I have had many journals in my lifetime. My first was a little lime-green diary (key-lock, and all) given to me as a gift in elementary school. The observations and musings of my barely literate mind could hardly be considered interesting, even to myself. I doubt I scribbled more than ten pages.

In high school I had a journal a la Roger Kumble’s “Cruel Intentions.” Filled with my artwork and collages as well as narratives on the unsavory pursuits of an adolescent, it held my interest for some time, but I consider it incomplete. I was never really a disciplined journalist until much more recently.

Previous to the creation of this blog, I had three Moleskine journals in progress: A plain notebook for daily stream-of-consciousness writing, a sketchbook, and a ruled pocket-sized notebook for business ideas. I guess it is fairly evident that I am a fan of journals. I recommend it as a practice for anyone who wants to be more creative, live more mindfully, or just create a record of his of her own interesting life. The benefits of journaling are well-known, but many people have never given it an honest effort.

  1. I would recommend buying a journal about which you can get really excited. A lot of people will tell you that the physical appearance of your journal is trivial, but I disagree. This is something you will be handling every day. Perhaps someday your children or grandchildren will enjoy it. This personal item may one day be an heirloom, so this is no time to flippant. Find a sturdy tome worthy of the epic you are about to write. I, personally like the anachronistic feel of my Moleskines, but you should do what feels right.
  2. Buy a nice pen. I don’t mean you need to blow a fortune on a Montblanc, or even necessarily a fountain pen, but I would steer clear of the Bic on which you gnaw all week at work. Again, find something that inspires you and is a joy to see and to touch. Journaling takes discipline, but (lacking that) interesting tools can help one make the time to write.
  3. Some say that the first pages are the hardest. No need for that attitude! Start with a prologue. Set the scene for yourself and your reader. Use your first page or two to put your whole journal into context. Describe yourself and your life and your world. Pretend your reader knows nothing about you, and set the stage for a poignant writing (and reading) experience.
  4. Choose a theme. Is this a journal of dreams? Sketches? Profanities? Is it a story? A screenplay? Drawing a wide guideline for yourself will help you find your muse when it seems you can think of nothing to write. Don’t worry: your theme can evolve as you go along.
  5. Allot time each day. Some people like to journal in the evening, and this technique is especially useful for narrative journals in which one recounts the events of the day. Dream journals are probably best relegated to the morning. Inspirational journals and sketchbooks should be toted around with you everywhere, so that you can hang onto those invaluable flashes of inspiration that so often vanish into the Ether. Setting a schedule for writing will help you avoid a stack of incomplete old notebooks accumulating on some shelf.

Good luck, and I hope journaling becomes a part of your routine.

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