Thursday, September 2, 2010

Journaling: tips for getting started

The Spirit of Flight Journal (Notebook, Diary) (Oversized Journal)For anyone who has given some thought to writing, but wonders how to start, this is for you. One easy way is to keep a journal because with journaling there are no expectations. Like other kinds of writing, there's none of the angst that goes along with trying to get it published. And unless you're Lewis or Clark, or Anne Frank, no one will most likely ever see it.

You may think you don't have anything to write about, but once you discover there's a whole land of uncharted territory waiting to be discovered, you'll have plenty to say. The uncharted territory is your inner self, a life long journey of discovery, enough to fill hundreds of journals.

All you truly need to get started is a spiral notebook, a pen and a lot of thoughts swirling inside your head. To loosen up, start by writing, 'I don't know what to write' and keep going. Don't judge what comes out even if it sounds a little crazy. Most writers are a little crazy so you'll be in good company. Don't worry about making it sound or look good on paper. No one's going to grade it.

If you're prone to dark thoughts, depression and confusion, the act of writing them can be a great release. Writing helps clear the mind by untangling the brain. When I was young, I used to think my thoughts were like spaghetti, or knotted string. When I wrote, thoughts came through my fingers, streaming out onto the paper, thus untangling themselves and freeing my mind.

I kept a journal through high school, then again through several turbulent times in my life. I still have them and sometimes they unearth themselves while rummaging through old boxes and trunks. Some of it is painful or embarrasing to read now, but I wouldn't dare toss them out. They are a window into who I was so long ago.

Keep your journal in your backpack or purse. Write anywhere and everywhere. Here's a few suggestions for getting started.

  • Write letters that you wouldn't dare, and shouldn't, send to people, but the act of writing can help sort out troubled thoughts and feelings.
  • Write a poem. Or write song lyrics, then sing your heart out.
  • Write about something you're grateful for, especially if you are feeling ungrateful.
  • If you are too hard on yourself, write about at least one way that you can be more gentle.
  • Write down some goals. Short and long term.
In case you need more help, here's a few suggestions for some guided journals.Life's Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest full of enlightening quotations, exercises, questions, and techniques to nurture the writer and seeker within. Another is Writing Down Your Soul. How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary Voice Within. One especially for teens is Through My Eyes: A Journal for Teens.

There are some cool blank journals that make great gifts and keepsakes, like I Hope You Dance, The Spirit of Flight and Wreck this Journal.

Although there are a number of online journaling sites, my suggestion is to write by hand. There's something special about the connection between your hand, the pen and paper that doesn't happen with a computer. Besides, on real paper you can draw and doodle and write in circles if you like!

For more journals, visit the Guardian Cats Bookstore's Journaling store. If you like this post, please share with a friend. Thanks and Happy Journaling!


  1. I think writing things down - keeping a journal - is such a great way to de-stress and sometimes whenever I read what I wrote retrospectively, I'm always surprised!

    Thanks for the links!

    Take care

  2. Wonderful post Rahma..I just love the idea of starting a journal. I am sure it will help untangle the knots in my brain and blow away the cobwebs infesting it.

    Thanks for the links. Have a great weekend!

  3. Kitty: I used to keep journals long ago and have now recommitted to keeping one. It's a great warm up exercise I think, especially if you have other WIPs. With a journal there are no expectations, no edits, no destination to worry about. Just pure thought streams!

  4. Rachna: Have you thought about having your students keep a journal? I started my first one as an assignment for a high school English class and received my first encouraging words to keep writing. I never forgot that.

  5. Rahma, the quality of your blog posts are excellent, and I am appalled you only have 16 followers! I dropped by to let you know I've added you to my blog-roll on my blog, so hopefully you'll get a few more. You deserve to be read. Keep up the great work.

  6. James: I'm appalled at the low numbers too! Thanks for your encouragement and the add to your blog roll.
    You made my day!


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