You want to become a journaler but you don’t know where to begin.
Maybe you’ve been to the store and looked at notebooks and got confused. You saw the ones online that “real” journalers use, but they’re expensive and how do you know you’ll like this? And what else do you need and how do you begin?
Let’s Start with the Basics
Yes. You need a notebook and a pen.
A pen. Not a pencil. Pencils can be erased and the writing tends to fade over time. You need a pen.
Let’s start with the notebook first.
Right now, your two considerations are size and paper. Cost enters in as well, but you choose your price range and then go from there. You can find some very acceptable journals for less than ten dollars.
Begin with size.
I have found that the usual 8.5″ x 11″ notebook is too big for my journaling. There’s just too much page there. That might work for you, though, and you may find that a spiral notebook for a dollar or so is just right.
In the same section of the grocery store, discount store, or drugstore, you may find a similar spiral notebook in a smaller size. Usually around 5″ x 7″. I like this size much more and again, the price is right.
If you prefer a bound book, there are trusty composition notebooks with their familiar black and white covers. Or for a few dollars more, you can head to the “journal” section and find a variety there. These usually run a little bit more, but still, under ten dollars. They tend to be both bound and spiral, with sturdier, prettier covers.
Here is where you want to take a look at the paper.
Spiral bounds have perfectly acceptable paper as long as you won’t be using anything too intense like a Sharpie or fountain pen to write with. Those will bleed through.
The “fancy” journals are where you want to be careful. They often have smooth, sort of shiny paper that may make your ink smudge.
One of the best places to find a journal is Michaels. They have nice covers and good quality paper and usually cost around seven dollars.
Some people could care less about a pen and others care a great deal. I’m very picky about my pens, but then I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to journals too. I guess that happens when you’ve been journaling most of your life.
Don’t just decide that any old pen in the house will do. You can start with that, but you may want to change at some point.
You may end up writing a lot, and if that’s the case, you will need a pen that writes smoothly on paper. It will keep your hand from getting so tired.
Here’s a run down on a few pen tips, if you are interested:
- A plain ballpoint is easy and basic. They tend to write fairly well, depending on the quality, and usually don’t smudge. They come in a variety of colors and typically just two sizes: .7mm or .5mm.
- Gel pens come in a wider variety of colors and are most often .7mm, which is a broader tip. This makes the ink more vivid. Gel pens take longer to dry, so they are a problem if you’re writing on smooth paper.
- Felt tip pens have a more intense ink, although a brand like Flair won’t likely bleed through your paper. They come in a variety of colors, may smudge on smooth paper, and can sometimes drag a bit when writing.
- Rollerball pens are similar to felt tips in terms of ink but usually offer a smoother writing experience. They come in a limited number of colors.
- A lot of journalers like fountain pens, but I won’t go into those for this article. They really need their own.
A Time and Place
A comfortable place to write is a good place to begin, and if privacy or quiet is important to you, then keep those in mind as well.
I happen to do most of my writing in the living room, with my family around. It’s comfortable and they don’t intrude so it works for me.
The reason that I suggest a time to write is because it will help you get into the habit of journaling. At first, you’re likely to forget, especially if you don’t have a time and place established.
Choose whatever time works best for you. That may depend on your schedule or the time of day when you’re most likely to be in the mood to write.
Some people get up early to write while everyone is still sleeping. Others, like me, write in the evening. (I do morning pages when I wake up, but I’m not setting the alarm for 5:00 a.m. to do it.)
You may have to experiment to find the time that’s best for you, or you may find that there are different times on different days when you feel like writing.
I tend to have a regular journaling time, but if I’m upset or need to work something out, I will reach for my journal whenever I need it. That’s what it’s there for.
What to Write About?
A lot of people tend to think of journaling as the old “Dear Diary” kind of stuff.
I don’t know about you, but when I got my first diary, I was maybe twelve and really had nothing to write about! I tried a few entries, realized I had a boring and predictable life not worth writing about (and wasn’t interested in boys yet), so I gave it up.
Journaling for me is all kinds of things:
- A place to vent when I need to
- Throwing a pity party for one
- Getting my feelings out when I’m sad or depressed or whatever
- Exploring the way I feel and trying to figure out why
- Expressing gratitude for the day
- Letting my dreams unfold
- Shadow work
- Recording my sleep dreams
- And more
You can choose to write whatever you want in your journal. No rules.
And if you want to write something else the next day, go for it.
Journaling is about expressing yourself, getting to know yourself better, and getting things out when you need to.
You can forget grammar, punctuation, and sentences if you want to. You don’t even have to write legibly if you don’t want anyone else to understand it.
You don’t even have to write!
You can draw or paint or collage if that’s how you express yourself. That’s something I’m trying.
The most important thing that I can tell you about journaling is this:
Just begin. And keep going.