A Guide to Journaling

Journaling is a hobby that appears time-consuming at first, but when done right, it can be one of the most stress-relieving hobbies that will bring out your creativity and personality. I think journaling seems intimidating because of the dedication that comes with it. It seems as though there are strict guidelines on how to journal: “You must write at least five-pages every single day, and if you miss a day, you suck. Heck, you might as well give up journaling because it’s not for you.” This kind of approach not only discourages people from journaling, but I believe it also hampers one's creativity to be expressed. Journaling should be personal to an individual. It should be a canvas where you can express yourself. There is no right or wrong way to journal, your journal is what you make it. There are different kinds of journaling. There are diaries where you write an entry of how your day went, art journals for artwork, bullet journals for trackers, and life journals to store memories. You can even start a combination that includes all of those! The options are endless. I’ve been journaling on and off for almost 10 years. I first started off with a diary in fifth grade and branched out into other kinds of journaling in college. Here is my guide to journaling.

  1. 1. There Are No Rules to Journaling

    Black girl at computer desk writing in journal write natural work corporate african

    As previously mentioned, there are no rules. If you want to write once a week, go for it. I only journal when I feel creative or have thoughts I need to get down to de-stress. When I put pressure on myself to write every single day, or to stick to strict rules, it can get overwhelming, and I am more likely to quit journaling. We have lives that get in the way of our hobbies, and that is okay! Just make sure you enjoy the process. You can set the rules on how often you want to journal.

  2. 2. Getting Started

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    Journaling can be overwhelming, especially as a beginner. There are so many different ideas out there. To get started, think about why you want to start journaling. Is it for anxiety? Do you want a place to keep your art? Do you want to save special memories such as receipts, photos, or that movie ticket from your first date? Do you want to track your spending habits, fitness journey? Do you want to start a food diary? Maybe you want to track and record multiple things. This list is endless. Once you know what you want your journal to include, you can now begin to structure your journal the way you want to.

  3. 3. Get Creative and Have Fun!

    woman painting with watercolors

    Once you figure out what you want your journal to encompass, invest in some washi tape, stickers, markers, glitter, or print out some pictures. You can stick to a theme, or experiment with different themes. The best source of inspiration for me is from Pinterest and YouTube. I created a Pinterest board specifically for journaling and saved pins with different journal spreads I wanted to try out. On Pinterest try searching "journal spread ideas", "journal art ideas" or "journal inspo". If you are on YouTube, look up "journal flip through", "journal tips and tricks" or "different kinds of journals". Flip through are my favorite because I can look at how other people journal and get inspired! You learn as you go, so experiment and have fun! When I first started bullet journaling in 2019, I tried all sorts of page ideas from habit trackers to spending logs. I found that habit trackers did not work for me because when I missed a day, I got discouraged, beat myself up, and quit the entire month of habits altogether. As time went by, I came to know what I loved in my journal and what I didn’t. Looking back, you’ll come to see growth as you figure out what works for you, so have fun with the endless possibilities. Get creative! This is your world, and there are no rules. 

  4. 4. Don't Compare Your Work

    bullet journal with two gold pillar candles

    Don’t get frustrated! It can be hard not to compare your work when you look for inspiration. When you start anything for the first time, you may not always get the results you want. That’s the beauty of journaling. When you look back on that first journal page, you will see growth. Journaling is capturing all those moments; the failures and successes, the memories and growth. I have pages that make me cringe when I look back at them, but they also remind me where I once was, and that is an art in itself. Whenever you catch yourself comparing your work to those of others, remember everyone’s journeys are different, and you can’t see their failures online because people don’t tend only to post their successes online. Social media is known for that. Just allow your creativity to flow without judgment. This can be difficult for people like me who are impatient perfectionists. You are a unique individual with so much depth and complexity, so use your journal as a canvas to express yourself fully. If you are angry and want to write to help yourself vent, do it!

  5. 5. Journal Spreads

    bullet journal

    A journal spread is a page or more that relates to a specific topic. There are hundreds of different spreads you can do from habit trackers, budget trackers, diary entries, and collages, to a list of your favorite songs of the month. There are so many different things you can add to your journal and that’s what makes it fun! It is all unique to you as an individual. I used to bullet journal for two years before I decided to start a life journal where I put anything and everything in it. I glue in receipts from my favorite restaurants, make playlists of the month, or when I feel anxious, I just start writing down my thoughts. I wanted a journal I could be my true self with, a journal where I could spill all my thoughts, creativity, and glue a bunch of little things to preserve memories. Of course, I decorated my pages with a lot of color and stickers!

If you still need some help on getting started, here is a list of spreads and ideas:

1. The first page of your journal can be a title page. Decorate it how you want, and add your name and the date you started journaling.

2. Make a page where you list all your goals for the year, month, or week. Cross them off as you achieve them and watch how satisfying it is to accomplish your goals!

3. There are many kinds of layouts you can create to track your spending and budgeting. Write down a financial goal, then list all your purchases to track where your money is going.

4. Make a list of things you want like a wish list.

5. Had an amazing day? Create a page where you write down what you did, and include photos and receipts. If you went to an amazing concert, glue in the concert ticket, as well as some photos from the event! I would highly recommend getting a phone printer to print photos directly from your phone! Many portable printers come with sticky-back photo paper so you can easily stick your photos to your journal! I learned this from watching journal flip through. There is so much to learn from those.

6. Write down a review of your favorite books, or make a list of books you want to read.

7. Have a song you can’t stop listening to? Create a spread and glue in album covers or write down a list of your favorite songs.

8. Make an appreciation spread. This can be for anything. Make a page for your best friend, or your favorite food. Anything you love and want to be remembered and appreciated.

9. Create a gratitude log. This one is my favorite. Create a layout where you write down one thing you are grateful for every day. This takes literally 5 seconds to record every day.

10. Always Decorate! This is so much fun. Make it your own world. There are no limits.

Remember, make your journal reflect your creativity and personality. Your journal does not have to be perfect whatsoever, but the more you keep journaling, the more memories you'll have recorded. It's important to find enjoyment in whatever you preserve.