What pops into your mind when you hear the word “journaling?”
Do you see an eight-year old pouring her unicorn dreams into a glittery pink notebook? Or perhaps a goth poet, clad in black, writing angry stanzas in her black notebook with such force she breaks the pen?
But what about a partner in a law firm thinking through legal theories for a big case? Or a marathoner recording every detail of a long-distance run?
Journaling encompasses all of these, and more. That’s the beauty of it. You make it whatever you want or need.
Whether you are new to journaling or just need a jumpstart, these five tips will make journaling easier and more effective.
1. Let Yourself Be A Beginner.
Think of journaling as a muscle you need to build. If you’re just starting to journal or taking it up again after a break, don’t thinking about writing well. Just write. Let your thoughts wander. Allow yourself to do it messy and celebrate every page as a win. If you do it regularly, not only will it get easier, your writing will also improve.
2. Treat It Like A Practice.
When you practice meditation, you set a timer and sit for a designated period until the bell goes off. There only goal is to do the thing you promised to do. You are practicing. No one expects perfection. If you treat journaling the same way, it removes the pressure. You don’t need to write well, stay on topic, or even make sense. You just need to do it!
3. Anchor It.
Find something you already do regularly and use that as an anchor. Tie your journaling to that. If you wake in the morning, have a cup of tea, and idly scroll through social media, allow that cup of tea to serve as an anchor. While it steeps, write! If you do this for a few days, the tea will become a reminder to journal.
4. Use A Guided Journal or Prompts.
You might find the blank page daunting. If so, choose a guided journal or use writing prompts. Books such as You Should Be Writing offer topic starters to get you going. I also publish a writing topic every day on social media platforms including my Facebook Group, The Writer’s Mind. To find the prompts, search for the hashtag #tenminutesgo.
5, (And Most Important) Make It Convenient.
Use the method of journaling closest at hand. If you always have your laptop or phone, a google doc is ideal. If you usually carry a notebook, grab a pen and use that. Find what works best for you. After you’ve been journaling one way for a time, try a different method. Hand writing and typing are two different physical activities which engage slightly different parts of the brain. But don’t worry about this. The key is to journal. The only effective method is the one you will do!
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Nita Sweeney is the award-winning author of the running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink and coauthor of the writing journal, You Should Be Writing both released by Mango Publishing. Nita coaches creatives in writing and meditation, blogs at Bum Glue, and publishes the monthly email newsletter, Write Now Columbus. She lives in central Ohio with her husband, Ed, and her yellow Labrador retriever running partner, Scarlet.
* * *journaling Mango Publishing Moving Write Along Nita Sweeney You Should Be Writing