Journaling is a valuable way of recording your life story. Your opinions, personal growth, relationships, philosophies, and writing voice are all important parts of who you are. You can use your journals to evaluate your personal strengths and weaknesses, share your personal journeys with your children and grandchildren, and become more aware of who you are and the great things you are capable of. But starting a journal can be scary. It’s hard to think of what to write about if you haven’t kept a journal consistently throughout your life.
1. Divide and Conquer
Start by dividing your page into at least five different sections. You can use random shapes like circles, squares, etc., or you can sketch five unusual, organic shapes to reflect what you see in front of you. The point is to create large sections that you can fill in.
Next, fill in each section with words. You don’t have to write your deepest darkest secrets. Write down what outfit you are wearing that day who you talked to at school/work, or the lyrics of the song that is stuck in your head. If you have colored pencils, you can color in some shapes, the background of your page, or write in various colors. Enjoy the process and don’t worry about if you are writing something important.
2. Draw and Write
Find insignificant objects you encounter in your day and trace them onto your page: A coffee-cup sleeve, a handful of candy, a bottle cap, your favorite pen, your keychain. Next to each drawing, write about how you encountered it: “I grabbed a coffee on my way to class this morning and spilled it all over my favorite shoes. Ugh.” Drawings and blurbs like this really help to loosen you up, get your first, most difficult pages filled in, and create an eclectic picture of what your life is like.
3. Make Lists
List-making is something that comes naturally to most people. List your best friends, your favorite songs, the top ten worst movies you have ever seen, ideas for school projects and papers, or anything else. There are whole journals dedicated to list making, because lists can tell you a lot about yourself.
If have a love letter, a college acceptance letter, hate mail, photos of you and your boyfriend, custom made stickers with your goofy face on them, doodles from your math notebook, or any other kind of two-dimensional keepsake, paste it into your journal. It’s a safe place to keep stuff like that, and it keeps your writing in the context of things that are actually happening to you. It also helps you to reflect on what is really going on in your life. One thing: don’t fill up your journal with a bunch of love letters and pictures from the past. Journaling is about writing about your present, so that you can read it in the future.
5. Uncensored Status Updates
This is my favorite technique for getting started in a journal. You know all of those people who use Facebook to write out their deeply emotional problems, pour out their frustrations, and embarrass their friends by publicizing their private lives? I think we all know those people. If you are one of those people, than you already have a great start for a journal. Write down your Facebook statuses on the page, and expand upon them by writing down all the other stuff that you really wish you could say.
If you censor yourself while you write Facebook statuses, that’s probably a good thing. But you will have to train it out of yourself when you write in your journal. When you sit down to write, ask yourself what you would post right now if nothing you said could hurt your reputation, career, or relationships. Jump right into it. Don’t try to introduce yourself to the page with a back story of your life.
Think of it this way: it’s the insignificant, daily things that you forget. In ten years, you will probably not remember what kind of coffee you ordered at Starbucks today, or how mad you were at your boss for calling you in on short notice. But it’s the little things like that are a part of what makes our journals more meaningful than just an autobiography.