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How to Start and Keep a Journal

Because we should be investing in ourselves

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Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash
Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

I have a confession… I’m a notebook hoarder. As a practicing minimalist, this goes against everything I do. Still, I can’t help but find myself strolling up and down the stationary aisles whenever I go to the store. My husband knows if I go missing, that’s where he’ll find me.

Ever since I was little, I was obsessed with notebooks. The problem was that I could never really stick to a writing habit. I’d use it as a diary for a while then I’d give up. I’d get halfway through one with school notes and end up doodling on the remaining pages. Or I’d just not want to change topics in the middle of a notebook and buy a new one for the idea I had.

The idea of starting a journal again once I was older brought back a lot of those memories. I knew the benefits of journaling and all the things I could use it for but I could never really get into the habit of writing every day.

Now, I journal almost every night (pending migraines which I have often) and have even picked up bullet journaling and other planners consistently. The habit wasn’t something I picked up easily but the more I did it, the better I felt and the more I got out of it.

Here’s how you can start and keep a journal just like me.

Get a notebook you like

There’s nothing more frustrating than a new notebook that just doesn’t write like you hoped it would. The feel of the pages just don’t work. I wish that they had samples in the stores where you could practice writing on the pages before you buy.

Still, I have found a few brands that work for me. I’ve learned I hate hard cover notebooks because the spine doesn’t fold how I like it. Spiral notebooks might sound cheap to some but they are my favorite to use.

And of course, you should absolutely use a writing instrument you love as well.

Put it somewhere you’ll see it

This goes beyond just leaving it out. I’m talking about putting it somewhere that reminds you to write in it.

I use mine at night before I sleep. It’s part of my evening routine and meditative practice. However, before I got in the habit, I’d find I would make excuses that I was too tired or I’d just straight up forget. To keep the habit, I started putting my journal on the pillow every morning so when I came into my room at night, I’d be reminded to write.

Tie it into another habit

Habit stacking is a great way to start and keep a new habit. You tie it into another habit that you already do consistently. Because I meditate at night, I would use five minutes to journal and then follow it up with five minutes of meditation.

Think about the things you already do such as brushing your teeth, eating dinner, or winding down for bed. Maybe even things you do in the morning. Whenever you want to do your journaling, find a habit that you can tie in.

Write a list of questions or prompts

When I was first starting, I had no idea what to write. I had a fear of the blank page. So I used the first two or more pages of my new notebook to write down reflective questions or prompts to guide me while writing. Whenever I was at a loss for words, I’d flip to those pages and use those prompts to help me.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good

Just like I used to be nervous to change formatting or topics in the middle of a notebook, I felt the same way about journaling. I couldn’t write a page one day and just a sentence the next. That wasn’t allowed.

By what rules? I was trying to be perfect instead of just going with the flow. I wanted everything to look the same rather than let the moment dictate my writing amount. Be okay with a ‘messy’ notebook. Nothing has to be perfect because you’re the only one who is going to see it.

You are in control. Sometimes you’re going to have a good prompt to respond to and sometimes you’re just going to write one sentence. It’s okay to change up the routine and do what feels good in the moment. You don’t have to be perfect every time.


Journaling helps me with my fiction writing as I flesh out characters and plots. You can see some of that in action with my newsletter. You’ll get a free short story that actually started in my journal just for joining my community.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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