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Easy Steps to Help you Start Journaling

by Jacki Andre May 21, 2018

Easy Steps to Help you Start Journaling

Confession time.

In the last few days, I’ve purchased 36 markers, 27 rolls of washi tape, 12 plastic stencils, 10 fine liner pens, 2 new journals, and a partridge in a pear tree. Okay, I’m exaggerating about the partridge. And the pear tree. But I did kind of sort of also order a photo printer. Squee!

If I were married, this is where I would say: “Don’t tell my husband! Imma smuggle it all in, piece by piece, in my purse, so that he doesn’t notice the mountain of craft supplies grew again.” But I’m single, so it’s all good.

I am SO inspired!

I’ve been journaling almost my entire life. I spent decades (yep, DECADES) filling dozens of classic journals. But then I got mired in adulting for a while, and I slacked off on journaling. I started again a few years ago, but kept it simple with a gratitude journal (basically handwritten lists) and an intentions journal (collages and handwritten affirmations).

And then I got invited to blog for SohoSpark and I started to research journaling. 

You GUYS. Mind = Blown. I had no idea. NONE.

The world of journaling is exponentially larger, more beautiful, and filled with more options than I ever imagined. It seems like somewhere along the line diaries and scrapbooks melded together. And the outcome is fah-reakin amazeballs.

Yeah, sure, there are still the classics: the lined journal and the personal diary. But there are also line-a-day journals, bullet journals, vision journals, dream journals, prompted journals, art journals, bible journals. You can also devote an entire journal to pretty much any topic you please. Who knew? Travel, concerts, craft beer, reading, mental health, pets, cute things kids say, bucket lists, doodles, nature--the sky is quite literally the limit if you choose to track something like photographing the aurora borealis.

And the really exciting part is that everything is SO PRETTY. Everything! I was gobsmacked and, frankly, a bit overwhelmed until I learned there that are secrets that we non-arty types can tap into: washi tape, stickers, stencils, templates, colored pens, and brush markers, oh my.

And so, to be completely honest, I hustled on down to the craft store and dove in without a plan. Because. Shopping.

But here’s the beauty of this new age of journaling: you don’t need a plan. A journal can be anything you want it to be.

Deciding on a Journal Type

Sweetcheeks: your journal is for YOU. Do whatever your heart desires.

If you’re all about list making, a bullet journal (bujo) is right up your alley. If you’re a writer, or if doing “braindumps” helps you organize your thoughts, then a lined journal is a good choice. If you want to record the cute things your pets or kids do, chose a writing journal for stories and glue in photos.

And, hey, no one says you can only keep one journal. If you want a bujo for lists, an art journal, AND a travel journal for your trip to Milwaukee, who says that you can’t? Exactly. No one. That’s right. No one can tell you that a trip to Milwaukee isn’t cool enough for its own journal.

That said, a neat stack of journals, color-coded to topic, might seem like the BEST THING EVER to some. But it might give others the heebie-jeebies. All that paper. So much commitment. Ugh. But again: no rules. Who says that you can’t keep one journal that incorporates a bunch of different themes or elements?  Maybe your trip to Milwaukee doesn’t rate its own journal, or even a journal insert.  But  maybe it rates a double-page spread in the one journal you keep, along with your bulleted grocery and errand lists, doodles, dream recollections, photos, and concert and movie ticket stubs. Again, YOU get to decide.

Deciding on a Journal Format

Some types of journals have a set format by definition. Journals that are pre-formatted for line-a-day notations or answering daily writing prompts probably don’t have room for art, ephemera, or photos. But any kind of blank journal--even a bujo, which is all about bulleted lists--can be spruced up with colored ink, motivational quotes, and art.

And as for what you write in your journal, again: no rules. Traditional “Dear Diary” entries? Go right ahead. Letters that will never be sent but that say things that you need to say? You betcha. Poetry? Bullet points? Full sentences? Numbered lists? Beautiful calligraphy? Messy printing? Whatevs. It’s all good. It’s YOUR journal.

Analog or Digital?

Sparkly unicorn friends, I’m writing for SohoSpark, which markets beautiful leather-bound journals.Obviously, I’m gonna push the paper journals. Sorry. Not sorry. Paper journals rock because:

  • they get you away from those blasted screens for a while;
  • the slower process of handwriting helps you connect more deeply with your thoughts;
  • it’s harder to edit handwriting, making your journal more authentic and less polished;
  • you can paste in all kinds of ephemera (and use glitter glue to do so); and
  • let’s not kid ourselves, girlfriends: you can geek out at the craft store and buy loads of stuff you don’t really need.

That said, journaling has  all kinds of benefits, as outlined by Michael Wilkes right here on the SohoSpark blog. If the only way that you’ll commit to journaling is if it’s on your phone, there’s an app for that. Brett and Kate McKay at "The Art Manliness" have a great discussion of  digital journaling options.

Getting into the Habit

If stick-to-it-iveness is not your strong point, set some mini-goals for yourself that will help turn journaling into a habit. Erin Greenawald at "The Muse" has some  great tips including:

  • Commit to spending just five minutes a day on your journals.
  • Figure out the best time of your day for journaling and schedule that on repeat in your digital calendar.
  • Create a template or use a format that doesn’t need a lot of time.
  • Turn your screens off and minimize other distractions.
  • Don’t worry about perfection.
  • Always be honest.

Go Shopping!

As the proud owner of 27 new rolls of washi tape, I will still admit that you CAN journal with  just a notebook and a pen. But!  With a few basic supplies (many available at dollar stores), you can create a  highly personalized and  visually stunning journal.  If you’re a beginner or if you'd like to to be more creative, consider adding these items to your shopping list:

  • Writing journal or notebook with heavy, high-quality paper pages, to minimize color bleed
  • Colored pens and/or markers (erasable ones are especially nifty!)
  • Correction fluid/tape
  • Stencils
  • Pencil, high-quality eraser, and pencil sharpener
  • Ruler
  • Washi tape and/or stickers
  • Glue

You Do You

If you take anything away from this piece I hope it’s the idea that your journal can be whatever you want it to be. Simple/fancy. Stark/visually appealing. Detailed/succinct. Subject-specific/everything under the sun. It really doesn’t matter. Just find a journaling niche that lets you be you and embrace everything that you are.

Photo credit: StockSnap via

Jacki Andre
Jacki Andre

Jacki Andre has been journaling for over 30 years and still has her jam-packed Judy Blume Diary to prove it. Somewhere along the way, she started writing for reals, and is now a published author and Huffington Post blogger. In her spare time, Jacki supports dog rescue, advocates for disability rights, and educates other drivers via hand gestures about the importance of using turn signals. She keeps in shape by chasing joy (and her ‘80s teen idols) in earnest.

1 Response

Dawn Marsh
Dawn Marsh

May 26, 2018

Thanks to this, now I will have to go and buy ALL the WASHI tape.
I suppose I am long overdue for some good journaling time.
Can’t wait to get started!
Thank you for the push Jacki Andre!

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