Have you been intending to journal, but haven’t managed to do it? Do you wonder why something that seems so easy can be so hard? Here’s five tips for creating a successful journaling practice.

Pick the Right Journal

There’s so many journals out there that it’s hard to know which journal to pick. There’s leather ones, hand-bound ones, refillable journal covers, and even aside from that there’s the question of lined vs. unlined, or maybe graph paper or dot lined. It’s so complicated! What’s the right journal? The one you’ll use.

Fancy, gorgeous notebooks sometimes can be too intimidating to write in, and result in either you not using it or not being authentic in your writing because you want something that looks like it’s worthy of your journal. Big leather journals might be too weighty if you find you end up writing in bed in the evening. You might end up feeling silly using high-quality paper If you always end up grabbing a cheap ball-point pen to write with. Give yourself permission to use whatever is approachable, convenient, and simple. If it’s easier to write in a cheap wire-bound cat notebook from the drug store, then do it!

Decide What Kind of Journaling You Want to Do and When

Make a plan and stick to it. If you just tell yourself you’d like to journal, that’s all it will ever be — a vague desire. Make sure you have some accountability, even if you give yourself some wiggle room like writing thee times a week, or every day but it doesn’t matter when or how long.

The type of journaling you want to do may affect how and when you do it. Some people like to do morning pages, which is a well-known practice created by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. You can watch her describing that process live here:  https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/

If you find that it’s easier for you to write in the evening when you can reflect on the events of your day, that’s fine too as long as you make sure it somehow fits into your routine so you don’t decide you’re too tired to bother. Many people enjoy keeping a gratitude journal and find that the regular practice of expressing gratitude cultivates a positive mindset and appreciation for the small details of their lives. You can read about how to keep a gratitude journal in this article: https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-journal/

Whether you decide you’re going to write in the morning or the evening,  for three minutes, or three pages, set some goal that means you won’t just sit there staring at a blank page. If you’ve decided ahead of time on a duration or a page count then you’re less likely to be derailed by worrying about quality or whether your penmanship looks good.

Avoid the Blank Page

Most people find that it’s really hard to start by staring at a blank page. It’s overwhelming, but also an additional hindrance to our ordinary levels of resistance–often we very much don’t feel like writing about what’s on our mind even if we have the strongest intention to do so. You’ll be more likely to start and keep journaling if you make it easy for yourself.

One thing you can do is get hold of some journal prompts and write them on the top of some spaced-apart pages in your journal. That way, you can pick one and just get going, trusting that what you need to write that day will come out onto the page somehow. It can also be fun to bop around the pages of a journal instead of starting from the first new page each time. This is also a good way to make it less obvious if you haven’t journaled in a while, since it won’t be really obvious what your last entry was. Yay, no guilt!

Use More Than One Journal

It’s tempting to have one special journal for everything, but you may end up finding that you use it for nothing because it’s never in the right place. If you’re wanting to do morning pages, keep a diary, and write in a gratitude journal, you’re going to spend more time looking for your journal than writing in it if you try to use one for all these things! Or, you might develop a passive aggressive attitude toward your journal because it seems unfocused.

You can avoid all of these problems by keeping a separate journal for each focus, and leaving where you’re going to use it.  Make it easy for yourself, and keep your journal for morning pages by the breakfast table, your diary in your purse, and your gratitude journal by your bedside. The added bonus of this is when you pick up your journal your brain will know what to expect and it will be easier to get down to business.

Don’t Let the Best be the Enemy of the Good

We’ve all done it — started out with the greatest of intentions and wrote pages and pages for a few days, then got busy and stopped, and felt guilty every time we looked at our journal. It’s like when you keep thinking you need to call your friend or your mom and you keep putting it off and it gets harder and harder to ever do it because you feel really lame and guilty. Don’t do that to yourself.

It’s ok if all you’ve written one day is “Mondays Suck” for one full page, or if you think that what you wrote isn’t any good. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you show up and write something on a regular basis. You can even draw pictures, or draw pictures with your eyes closed with your non-dominant hand. You can give your cat a pen and help them write. As long as you’re showing up and not giving up on yourself, it’s a win.