5 Steps For Keeping a Journal

I came across a wonderfully written and very thoughtful article this morning at the Paperblanks Blog. Thought is was worth sharing! Thanks to Chris Zawadzki at Paperblanks!

A writing journal can take many forms: It can be a daily record of a person’s life, an outlet for a person’s deepest feelings and thoughts, or simply an escape — a space away from modern life pressures and the sensory-overload of an increasingly-connected world. Or a writing journal can be a tool for creative people or office workers of all stripes. (Seeing someone at Paperblanks HQ jot something down in a notebook is almost as common as seeing someone on a computer.)Here are 5 steps for keeping a journal, no matter what form the journaling takes (Be it a daily log, a creative tool, or an escape…)

1. Select Your Writing Tools

The first decision involves choosing between writing in a writing journal/notebook or on a computer. While we know many people are very passionate and opinionated about the purity and the benefits of good old fashioned writing-by-hand (especially here at Paperblanks!), we’re going to take the balanced view that neither tool is better than the other. Both computers and writing notebooks have advantages and disadvantages and it’s up to the user to decide which one works for their needs (Pros for journaling on a computer: security, searchability, and better for editing/re-writing. Pros for journaling in a writing journal: fewer distractions, portability, it’s always “on” and it never malfunctions.)However, from this point on we’ll discuss journaling mainly in terms of working with a writing journal (What can we say, we know our audience!)

Picking a journal that's right for you: Size, paper quality, binding, closures...

From there you would need to pick the right journal for your needs. There are a lot of important factors to consider for a writing journal purchase, such as the size of the journal (does it need to be small enough to carry everywhere? Or large enough for your long passages of text?), its paper quality (How smooth do you like your paper? What kind of pen are you going to be pairing it with?) and its binding (do you want a finely-constructed book that can weather any storm? Do you need it to lay completely flat when open?). Other factors to consider are closures (elastic band closures, locks… no closure at all!) and even the cover design of the book. For some, a good choice in cover design inspires their writing and raises their motivation. (It’s also important to note that, the more important each of these factors are to you, the more expensive the book will be…)

How particular are you about pens? 

Finally, you need to pick a writing instrument. And before you dismiss the importance of picking the right pen or pencil, we’d like to mention the kind of passion our fans typically convey whenever they talk about their choice of pen! Some will argue that nothing beats the erasability and even the sound of a pencil while others will swear by their particular brand of fountain pen. You have to figure out what’s right for you and your needs.

Another consideration: You may have to match your writing tool to your choice in journal. You don’t want to use a nice fountain pen on the poor-quality paper of a cheap generic-brand journal. (Unless you’re fine with “feathering”…)

2. Make a Commitment

No question about it, keeping a journal is a commitment. It might not seem so at first (maybe you’re initially drawing off the passion of a new project or purchase) but after a while it may become a chore. One thing to work on at the outset is developing the right mindset. Never view keeping a journal as a chore or a burden. It’s good to be ambitious and to hold yourself accountable but it’s also good to remind yourself that journaling isn’t a school project.

Despite the development of that mindset, it’s still important to make a time commitment for keeping a journal. Commit to a specific schedule, a specific time of the day, and sometimes even a specific amount of time per day. Maybe it’s daily, at the end of the day, and for at least 10 minutes per entry. Maybe it’s after dinner three times a week and for as long as it takes to empty your thoughts and ideas onto the paper. As usual, it depends on what works for you. But also keep in mind that, while writing every single day is admirable and productive and is proven to have more health benefits, you don’t have to do it if it doesn’t work for you (especially if it means you end up seeing journaling as a chore.)

3. Pick the Right Environment

It’s incredibly important to pick the right environment for your journals. Ideally it’s a place where you’re comfortable and where distractions are limited.Certain other variables in the environment may also aid the journaling process. A café might be the perfect environment if you like the particular café’s atmosphere (the music, the people, the coffee.) For others, however, it might be too distracting. On the opposite end of that spectrum is your bedroom: a space away from the hustle and bustle of the world and where you have complete control over the setting. Maybe you need complete quiet to write or maybe you can only write to a playlist of your own choosing. Maybe even incense candles or mood lighting can be used to aid your creativity. Regardless, the setting matters!

Don't always expect perfection

4. Just Write

You can’t always wait to be inspired or motivated and you can’t always demand perfection (of yourself or your writing). When the time comes – just write! In cases when you’re not motivated, you may end up with entries you don’t like, but you may also surprise yourself with what you do end up producing!

It’s also important to take the pressure off yourself to be perfect. It’s all right to write imperfectly and it’s incredibly beneficial to use your private notebook as a space where you can allow yourself to be honest and human, flaws and all.

Finally, recognize that they is no single right way to journal. Whatever you write, and however you write it, it counts!

5. Be Creative

Continuing on the theme of there being no right way to write, it’s also helpful to be creative and vary things up. Try out different writing styles (Writing to yourself, writing to your journal, etc.), create lists (“Top 5 All-Time Favorite Songs!”) or include other non-writing elements like photos or stickers.

But above all: enjoy yourself!

If you have any stories or additional thoughts, feel free to share them below!