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How to Start a Journaling Practice

If you are new to journaling, you probably may have asked:

  • How do you start journaling?
  • Is there a proper or right way to do it?
  • When can you start?
  • What materials do you need?
  • How can you succeed at journaling?

I started journal writing in my late teens over 30 years ago (yes, that’s how old I am) when journals weren’t in style and were called by a different name. Yes, diary! And guess what, I used plain old ballpoint pens and lined notebooks. My journaling practice included writing my thoughts and feelings, inspiring quotes, expenses, contact information, daily to-do list and accomplishments, sketches, stories, insights, class notes, outlines of things to write, relevant facts and figures, among other forgettable stuff.

My daughter started journaling at elementary some seven years ago with just a pen and paper. It was a lot of girlie stuff, love notes to me, doodles, and stories. She still does now that she’s at Grade 10 and oh, dear! She has become so much better. She does it every day non-stop. She loves art so her journals are full of it.

We both weren’t well aware that what we were doing was journal writing. We just started it.

We didn’t think if there was even a proper or right way to write our thoughts, feelings, and creations on paper. We just did it.

We started when we felt ready. We didn’t give a thought about when. We just did.

We used whatever was there. Nothing fancy. Just plain old paper and anything that writes on it.

You may do that, too.

Journaling is simple. It knows no rules. People make their own. 

It is inspiring to use fancy journals and accessories such as:
  • ink pens
  • coloring pens
  • markers
  • stickers
  • stamp pads
  • sketch pads
  • dividers
  • acid-free papers
  • watercolors
  • gelli plates
  • glitters, and
  • various other embellishments.

You don’t have to.

It’s really up to you.

So about those questions, the answer is – Just start.

There is no right or wrong with journaling and how you do it is really up to you.

If writing long entries is what you enjoy or find helpful, do so.

Even the format is up to you.

You may jot down a few bullets or lines to serve as your memory aid.

However you do it, find a medium that’s comfortable.

8 Smart Tips to Advance Your Journaling Practice

There are countless ways to do journaling. 

Anyone who is into journaling can teach you a thing or two on how to do it.

Here are eight smart tips on journaling that you can learn from:

Tip #1: Find a journal that inspires you

Your journal doesn’t have to be fancy.

It can simply be a lined notebook oftentimes used at school.

It can be from recycled or recyclable paper that you buy or bind.

Use your computer, if you wish.

Whatever it is, let it be something you would spend long hours with (or, perhaps, most of your life).

It should inspire you to keep journaling even when you don’t feel like.

Tip #2: Keep things simple

Keep your journal log simple and short.

You don’t have to write kilometric paragraphs or error-free sentences.

Journals are supposed to be relaxing and liberating.

The more you keep things simple, the more you get out of it.

As such…

Forget about rules.

Even your own.

Take things easy.

Focus on opening up and being mindful of your thoughts and feelings.

Do that and you’ll be fine.

Tip # 3: Write freely

Your journal is your kingdom.

As a ruler, you do as you please.

Nobody can tell on you.

Don’t hold back.

Don’t make your handwriting lovely.

Don’t even correct mistakes.

If you have the urge to end each sentence with a stop, question mark or exclamation, stop!

Write freely – whatever and however.

Cry, sulk, laugh.

Be happy.

Tip #4: Focus on your feelings

The most important person in your journal is you.

Focus on you – most especially your feelings that affect your thoughts and behavior.

Being mindful of how you feel could liberate internal blocks or bolster positive energy.

If you are stumped about what to write, begin with the phrase, “I feel…”

This will unblock you and let your thoughts and emotions flow freely.

Soon, you’re better able to journal your thoughts and feelings.

Tip #5: Use prompts

If you’re struggling with what to write, use prompts to get your juices flowing.

Journaling prompts are idea starters that can aid and boost your journal writing.

They do wonders specially when you don’t know how to start, what to write, or how to keep going.

Examples of prompts are:

  • Think about a horrible experience in your childhood that transformed you into the person you are today.
  • Describe your perfect career and the reasons it would fulfill you.
  • Who is the person who influenced you to seriously pursue a profitable hobby or business?
  • If you were to start all over in your relationship with your significant other, what would you do differently?
  • What are your greatest regrets in life and why?

Tip #6: Make sense of your journal

Take time to review your filled-up journals.

You would understand yourself more if you do so.

Over time, you will see clear patterns of how you think, feel and behave.

Be open to possibilities while being as objective as possible.

Don’t judge, beat or belittle yourself.

Accept everything in it – good or bad, tasteful or distasteful, delightful or horrible.

Think – How can your discoveries improve your circumstances? How can they help you grow?

Focus of them.

Proceed from there.

Tip #7: Protect your privacy

Your journal is a sacred part of you. It is a window to your soul. It is therefore very important to feel secure writing and pouring yourself into it.

If you’re haunted by fears that people would violate your privacy, it is important to take the necessary steps to allay those fears.

For ways to keep your journal private, click here.

Tip #8: Keep going

Let journaling be second nature to you

Write daily.

Write when you feel like.

Write even when you’re under the weather.

Write for as long as you like or as briefly.

Write about anything.

Write about nonsensical or extraordinary things.

Write or do art.

However, do it regularly and don’t stop.

Soon, it would become effortless and involuntary.

By then, you shall have developed a great journaling habit!

Journaling: A Versatile Experience for Everyone of All Walks

Journaling or journal writing is putting pen to paper to write, express, illustrate, document, capture or record just about anything you want, need to or feel like.

In the past, journal writing was done using a simple lined notebook, blank book, slum book, or diary.

These days, you have all sorts of fancy, chic, colorful and handsome journals on just about any topic.

You may even create them yourself, by binding lined or blank sheets or through printshops.

Journaling with Shabby Sheets

But who says you need to spend a fortune for those commercial journals?

Well, you don’t!

You may use any writing material for your journals:

  • Clean, unused paper
  • Recycled paper
  • Crumpled or torn paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Receipt
  • Bus, movie or event ticket
  • Post-it-notes
  • Card
  • Index cards
  • Cardboard boxes.

If there’s nothing else, your palm would do the trick. I use Google mail on my cell phone every day, these days.

Worry about posterity later. For the moment, capture whatever you must.

Your goal is to seize the moment (and making sure to move your writing over to a more durable form afterward).

Believe me. I’m no newbie to this kind of journaling.

Journaling for Moms

Like any kid with a fertile imagination, my little ones whipped up just about anything – stories, poems, jokes, quotes, thoughts, doodles, songs, shapes, shades, textures.

Their creative stock came randomly, unplanned, and in splashes, bursts and roars. A mom has to be ready for these but many times, I wasn’t. I had to settle with what I had, including shabby, throwaway sheets.

I could tell lots of stories about this but that would be for another post.

Looking back, I find those moments precious and priceless. I can say with certainty now that they won’t happen the way they did… especially now that my kids have grown up.

I’m glad I took the pains of “catching those happy moments” even with shabby sheets, which I have kept, by the way.

Publishing: Journaling to Write a Book 

For those glued to their screens like forever, rest assured that your computer doubles up as a journaling tool.

That’s how my youngest son’s book got created. I was sitting on a work table across him tapping (almost pounding) my laptop keys to capture his words, verbatim.

 Blogging: Journaling with Your Computer

Those who are into blogging know how well they are able to chronicle their activities, take note of their experiences, thoughts, emotions, wisdom, even silliness. Call that online journaling or weblogging where you use a website as your diary or journal.

Summing Up

Journaling is for everyone and for various purposes. It may capitalize on writing materials that are readily on hand, including shabby sheets.

The purpose of journal writing is to capture ideas, emotions, memories, stories, poems, art, and practically anything you want to be written.

On unplanned moments, use shabby sheets and move them over to a form that would withstand the test of time.

Here’s your challenge: Do whatever it takes to write down what you must. 

Journaling is an experiential process whose benefits go a long way.

Gratitude Journal: Make It Easy to Say Thanks Everyday

Why Practice Gratitude

Why not? Life is a blessing and every moment unnoticed and not celebrated is a waste.

If you imagine people never getting up from bed to see the light of day, you would realize just how lucky you are. Also, you don’t have to buy a bottle of canned oxygen to breathe fresh air, to scamper for food in a mountain of rubbish, nor to be subjected every day to the terrifying sound of bullets and real threat to life.

Life is great and there is just so much to be thankful for.

People who express gratitude, whether openly or in subtle or covert ways, radiate positivity and cheerfulness. They tend to be calm, peaceful, content, and joyful, knowing that blessings abound and are there for the taking.

God gave you 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “Thank You?” ~William A. Ward

So, why practice gratitude?

What do you think?

Get Yourself a Gratitude Journal

If saying “thanks” is an ordeal because you have so much to attend to, it’s a clear signal for you to stop what you’re doing.

Take a moment to breathe. It would unburden you of stress.

Be mindful of what’s happening in your surroundings and, more importantly, your life.

If you have a piece of paper or notebook, go on… write the things that you are grateful for, both big and small, important or not, Earth-shaking or trivial.

If you have a gratitude journal, all the better (though not necessary)! You could easily use the journaling prompts in it.

Keeping a gratitude journal is nothing complicated. It doesn’t have to be methodical or structured. Although it is more focused on practicing daily gratitude, it functions in the same way as most other journals.

The bottom line with keeping a gratitude journal is having a tool to express thankfulness.

5 Simple Steps to Practice Thankfulness Every Day

If starting a gratitude journal is something strange, here’s a brief on how to do it:

Step #1 – Ask Yourself: What are you grateful for today?

Think about events, people, challenges, learnings, or insights that have moved or enriched you.

Step #2 – Write down your thoughts on paper. 

It doesn't matter what you use to write on - standard notebook, fancy journal, tablet, print paper, calendar, post-it notes, scratch paper, or receipt. Personally, I use my cell phone and save to draft. What is important is getting into the habit of expressing gratitude each day. Of course, there is nothing like keeping a journal that you can go back to time and again. 

Step #3 – Keep a daily regular schedule.

Set a time each day to write on your gratitude journal. It may be on your work break, lunch, before bed... you decide. Your important keywords are daily, regular and schedule. 

Step #3 – Express gratitude any way you want.

Draw, illustrate or color. You may even write a poem or song. If that's how you want to say thanks, do it. 

Step #5 – Protect your privacy.

At the end of the day, keep your journal in a safe place. What you write in there is yours to keep. It's best to keep it private and secure. 

Aren't those steps simple?

Go ahead  – pause, breathe, reflect and write!

A piece of paper and pen along with a grateful heart are all it takes.

 

Bullet Journaling: A Simple Guide for Beginners

Bullet journaling is a popular way of journal writing that uses a certain structure and system to keep track of things.

A bullet journal may simply be a plain notebook that you customize following some guidelines. You may also opt for the pre-made, pre-labeled bullet journal that you could buy at shops or bookstores.

Your bullet journal is organized using this guide:

Part 1 – Keys

The first page of your bullet journal is your key that shows the codes you use for your bullet entries.

The codes traditionally used are as follows:

  • task
  • completed task
  • migrated task
  • appointment
  • completed appointment
  • migrated appointment
  • notes

You may adopt these codes as they are, or modify them based on your needs or intended use. 

Part 2 – Index

Your next two to four pages are for indexing. The index will let you quickly find any collection, or get to a particular month.

Title each page as an index page and move on to the next section.

Part 3 – Future Log

This two-page spread records the coming 6 months. It is great for recording events or planned activities such as birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays.

For convenience, you may use the traditional yearly calendar for this.

Be sure to add or note the page number and record your future log in your index.

Part 4 – Monthly log

Each month, do a monthly log where you record appointments and due dates. You may use a grid layout, or one line for each day of the month.

While the monthly log isn’t where you’ll track most of your tasks, it comes in handy when you need to take note of a doctor’s appointment or scheduled school meeting.

Part 5 – Daily Log

This is where you’ll spend most of your journaling time.

Here’s what you do:

  • Each day, start a new section.
  • Create your to-do list including things you need done, reminders, concerns, and anything you find important.
  • Cross off each item when done or taken care of.
  • Move the items to the monthly or future log, or migrate them to a different day, as needed.

Part 6 – Migrating Tasks

This part is done at the end of the day or first thing in the morning.

The goal here is dealing with each entry from your daily list by ensuring that they are done, recorded as done, crossed out if already irrelevant, and migrated to the next day’s list.

Here are the steps for this:

  • Review your list of tasks set for the day past
  • Complete those that you still can
  • Cross out tasks already done or no longer needed
  • Migrate tasks that were not checked off or done.

Part 7 – Collections

This is a thematical list or collection of things of interest to you, whether personal or professional.

Examples of this are places to visit, people to work with, courses to attend, books to write, among others.

To build your collections, follow these steps:

  • Start each list on a blank page.
  • Label or create a title for each one.
  • Write down the content for each collection.
  • Note down the page you’re on and add the collection to your index page.

Publishing: Transform Your Book Cover from Blah to Awesome

When you look at book covers, what usually strikes you? Almost always, it’s the dominant elements – the title, author’s name and image.

These are the obvious or most apparent elements – elements that you easily recognize.

However, book covers are more complicated than that and graphic artists would tell you that there is more in there than meets the eye.

Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.  ~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry, The Little Prince (1943)

They work at the background, are subtle, almost invisible, and can, at times, be subliminal. They play with your mind as viewer and influence how you feel, think, decide or act in ways like:

  • turn your head around or grab your attention;
  • make you curious or excited about what’s inside;
  • create a strong desire in you to explore a book some more;
  • compel you to browse the book’s table of content;
  • pique your interest to read sections of the book;
  • push you to search for customer reviews about the book;
  • nag you to buy the book;
  • compel you to buy the book.

Insane, isn’t it? But that’s true. And it always happens at both the conscious and subconscious planes.

What is in your book cover that creates these kinds of behavior?

Let’s take a peek into what makes book covers stand out.

4 Attributes of Exceptional Book Covers

What do great book covers have that set it apart from the rest? You’ll get a ton of responses on this and here’s my take.

A standout book cover has four attributes:

Attribute #1 – Appeal

It grabs attention almost instantaneously. I can use an endless stream of powerful words to describe it: dazzling, captivating, charming, attractive, handsome, beautiful, stunning, striking, entrancing, professional, wow, dynamite, lovable, cute, delicious, delightful, pleasing, magnetizing, elegant, hypnotic, inviting, great, awesome, wonderful, engaging. And on and on

How the book cover elements were used or put together effectively contributes to engendering a positive feeling of excitement, curiosity and/or desire in your target reader. They may not even know it. They simply feel it.

Attribute #2 – Simplicity

It is simple, uncomplicated and spot on. It is devoid of clutter that may repel, mislead or confuse readers and take them away from the real message, theme or content of your book.

You would see book covers that only have type or words in them, nothing else. 

Attribute #3 – Uniqueness

It is different, uncommon and special. No other book cover has that “X” factor or quality.

In an ocean of romance novels or non-fiction books on productivity, yours is undoubtedly a standout.

Attribute #4 – Clarity

It is crystal clear what your book is all about simply by looking at its cover. It mirrors and/or hints at your book’s content, theme, genre or topic. At thumbnail size, your book cover is easily recognizable; its text – title and author, most especially – is highly readable.

Book Cover Elements: The Obvious

The apparent or obvious elements of book covers are mostly these three:

Element #1 – Title and subtitle

The title is the name of your book. It is usually the dominant element of your book cover (although in many instances, the author’s name is). Many titles, most especially non-fiction, are straightforward. You get what the book is all about as soon as you read its title. It may be one, two, three or more words whose meaning may have to be deciphered.

Book titles are important and necessary. Your book has to have one. The subtitle, however, is not compulsory but optional. You may or may not have one.

What’s the value of having a subtitle? Your subtitle puts more meat on your title. It defines the slant of your book, explains its content further and provides more details. This is especially most helpful if you have a book title containing a word or two.

For instance, how would target readers know what your book “Hurry” is all about? If it’s fiction, your choice of image would most probably reveal more about it. For non-fiction, it may be more daunting and can be confusing. Attaching a subtitle that says “How to Do Things More Quickly in Your Own Terms and Succeed at What You Do” would most probably help clarify your book’s content.

Element #2 – Author’s name

This is the name of the book writer or, in some instances, the publisher. As an author, you may use your real name or choose a literary pen name, fictitious name or pseudonym. 

Element #3 – Image

This may be a picture, image or symbol that would depict your book’s content or provide a clue or hint. It may be a single image or symbol, a collection or collage of images, or a composite image.

A composite image is what you get after combining various visual elements from separate sources to get a desired effect or picture. Graphic artists achieve this through compositing (with the use of photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop) to create the illusion that all those elements belong to or are parts of the same scene.

So we’re done with the obvious elements.

Book Cover Elements: The Subtle

Now, make a guess on the subtle elements of book covers. They are those that you may not even know or suspect exist but are positioned or placed there for some reasons. The impact that they create is more psychological or at the level of the unconscious or subconscious.

I can think of four:

  • Color - You may not always be aware of this but colors have a subtle effect on your psychological, physiological and behavioral functions. For instance, red evokes excitement, energy, and warmth. Yellow stimulates happiness, laughter, and cheer. You may read some more about color psychology here.
  • Typography - You may use two types of fonts in your book cover. No more than three. Otherwise, you'll get a messy and incohesive effect.  
  • Space - Empty spaces give a break to your reader's vision. They separate each one from the other. Those near or within large chunks of negative spaces gain more importance or attention. 
  • Composition - This is how you arrange, place or size the visual elements or parts of your design so that the most important get dominance and all the rest contribute to it. This includes images, fonts, space, color, and everything else. 

What do you think?

Makes sense?