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I'm a writer, a freelancer, a crafter, a nail polish mixatrix, a tea drinker, an unconventional life-liver, a journaling junkie, an introvert, a chronic-pain-sufferer, an idealist, a geek, a TV-lover. Welcome to my corner of the web!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Three ways to keep up with a journaling habit

I'm a huge fan of journaling. It's useful for everything from keeping track of what happens each day like a classic diary, to tracking your progress, to using it for therapy, to using it as a creative tool to capture and work through ideas. Personally, I think they should all be in one book, a holistic record of what your brain is up to. But, understandably, it can be confusing and stressful if you've never kept a journal before, so here's three tips to help you keep up:

1. Make it easy on yourself

  • Printables - If you google journal printables, you get SO MANY hits, a lot of them free. I even have my own printable shop on Etsy, and there's lots more than just me up there! The best part about printables is that lots of the work is already done for you. All you have to do is answer questions or fill out pages, and if you want, you don't even need to have a book to start with, just a stack of paper.
  • Prompts - Similarly, googling journaling prompts gets you tons of hits, and all you have to do then is pick one at random when you don't know what else to write, and do what it says! You can also google specific topics, and there's daily prompt websites or emails or services; look around and see what works for you!
  • Put it where you can see it - Especially at the start of a habit, it's easy to forget; if you put your journal somewhere out of sight, you might be more likely to forget about it! I definitely am, and I've been journaling on and off since I was ten. I keep mine on the corner of my desk, open to today's page, so I remember to use it. You can find something similar that works for you.
  • Use one book for everything - Having a dozen books for different purposes feels like organization, but really, it can get overwhelming. It'll take twelve times as long to fill, and you have so much more to keep track of, but if it's all in one book, it's much simpler. You can take it places more easily. You might have to come up with a system to find stuff--tabs or color coding or an index, but that's not that big a deal.
  • Make it an extension of your planner - Almost every day, I transfer my to do list from my planner to my journal, adding stuff that I do every day but still need to remember, but that would clutter up a planner. I also track daily concerns and note birthdays and world events and such. If nothing else happens in my journal that day, I have that page noting the day.
  • Use a cheap book - No one loves an expensive and beautiful handcrafted notebook like me, but when you're spending 50$ on one, you can tend to get possessive of it? I know I do. I feel like I have to justify every drop of ink on every page to make it worth the effort and the cost. So I mostly journal these days in composition books that I buy in bulk twice a year when school supplies go on sale. A 50c book is way easier to just fill up with stuff, whatever your brain and your life needs at any moment. Way easier to fill up and file away and start the next one.

2. Expand your definition of journaling
We tend to think of 'journaling' as either this big important thing like all the Big Names in History always did, these very intricate accounts of their lives and times. Or like Leonardo diVinci, full of world-changing ideas. Either that, or like a touchy-feely hippie thing. But literally anything can be journaling. All it has to do is fill your personal needs in your personal life. You define what counts as keeping up, and how often you want to do it.

Things that count as journaling:

  • Making a note each morning or night (or each week, or only when things happen...), regardless of topic
  • Writing out memories you want to remember
  • Taping in articles, recipes, clippings, etc you want to keep or refer back to later
  • Research into any topic, important or not
  • Complaining on paper so you don't do it in real life
  • Sketching or doodling
  • A dated series of scratch-pages just for keeping your day on track
  • A daily quote or passage to focus you
  • Random flat scraps of paper, leaves, packaging, etc you find during the week
  • Ideas for stories, art projects, your house, your job, papers, articles, whatever
  • Scraps of stories you're in the process of writing, character notes, plot details you want to remember, lines of poems, titles, names, etc
  • Practice on anything written you're learning
  • Notes from lectures or seminars or meetings or phone calls
  • Experiments with materials or techniques
  • Processing through words--new knowledge, old trauma, today's gripes, whatever you need to get through and come to grips with
  • Lists--of anything
You get the idea, I think. If anything counts as journaling, anything can fill a page and represent the day for you.

3. Make it pretty
If you make something nice to look at, you'll want to look at it more often. And everyone needs a creative outlet. If you start cheap and blank like I suggested above, you can do almost anything to the book as you fill it--or before, or after or whatever, I just like it to be a work in progress for as long as I'm filling pages.

What counts as pretty is up to you. It could change day to day. It could be themed or not. Some ideas:

  • Using colored ink instead of just plain pens
  • Washi tape and stickers (a fav of mine)
  • Doodling in the margins and then coloring them in
  • Cutting pics of stuff you like from magazines and sticking them in (I like to cut them to size and make whole new pages out of the really good ones)
  • Paint or ink to decorate or color pages, before or after you write on them
  • Stamping
  • Collage
  • Calligraphy or other practiced sorts of writing
  • Writing other ways than just on the lines
Start simple, and try things out as you go. If you mess up, turn the page and start over; if it turns out well, keep doing it until you get bored or find something else you like better. It's your book!

How do you keep yourself interested in your journal?

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