How to Write a Journal Guide

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We keep a lot of things in our heads, but we put less down on paper. All those thoughts and ideas bouncing around can sometimes feel overwhelming. You have to-do lists, hopes, dreams, secrets, failures, love, loss, ups and downs. Ideas come and go, feelings pass. How do you remember all of them? How do you keep them organized? A great way to keep your thoughts organized and clear your mind is to write them down in a journal. Writing is a great exercise for anyone and by expressing yourself in a personal place is a wonderful way to stay sane. 

Starting a Journal

To start a journal, you just need to be willing to write. You don’t have to write well, you just need to want to do it. You don’t even need to decide what to write, you just need to let your words flow. Once you’ve decided you want to create a journal, here is a long list of instructions to guide you: 

Set up a schedule of when you play to write in your journal
You want to turn your writing into a habit, so create a schedule. Pick a time and the days of the week you will want to write and create a timely calendar reminder, so you don't forget. By scheduling the same times, journaling will become a natural and regular part of your agenda that you can look forward to. 

Screenshot of a modern calendaring application used to help schedule when you should journal.

Find the right space to write.  

When you’re writing, it is helpful to be in a space where you can focus and concentrate. A quiet room with no distractions works best. Allow yourself to focus on your writing, without any interruptions. Make sure you are able to sit upright and are comfortable. An office or a study room is always great.

A cozy and private desk space perfect for conentrating and focusing on journal writing.

Buy a physical journal or Sign-up for Penzu

Penzu is a digital journal that will allow you to write from any device. It will make your journal writing incredibly easy-to-use, accessible, organized and private. It will save all your work and date it for you, so you never need to remember. It is a great tool for writing anywhere and keeping your work in one place. 

Screenshot of the modern and sleek Penzu signup flow. Just enter your name, email, and password to get started.

Close your eyes and reflect on your day. 

You may not know what to write about and that’s okay. Your journal can be about anything you want. A good way to begin writing is to close your eyes and think about what you’re feeling. 

A woman meditates before recording her reflections into her journal.

Ask yourself questions.

What has happened that day? How did that make you feel? Are you excited about anything? Why? Reflect on the thoughts and feelings you’ve been having.

Woman standing in front of a cloud of question marks on a chalkboard.

Dive in and start writing.

It is easy to begin sentences with, “I feel,” or “I think,” or “I wonder.” Don’t feel pressured to stick to any particular form or topic. The beginning of your journal writing can just be an introduction to your thoughts at the time. This is your personal space, so you should feel comfortable writing. 

A pen rests on a blank pad of writing paper - perfect for sharing your reflections, thoughts, and feelings.

Time yourself.

Set a time for how long you want to write. Somewhere between 5-20 minutes is ideal, depending on how much you want to jot down. Setting a time will help you stay focused and stop you from getting carried away. It is easy to feel like you need to write down every detail and this will help prevent that. 

A hand holds a stopwatch ready to start the timer whenever it's time to start journaling.

Re-read your entry and add additional thoughts. 

When you are finished writing a journal entry, go back and read through it. Once you have reviewed what you have written, add a couple sentences at the end about what you noticed or thought about your words. If you can, summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two. That is a great way to narrow in on topics.  A hand holds a pen over a full page of lined writing paper in a notebook.

10 Tips When Writing a Journal

Here are some tips to get started properly and consistently writing in your journal.

1. Set a schedule

As we mentioned earlier in the article, setting a schedule is a great first step. Decide how many times you want to write and set a schedule. Whether it be once a day, or once a week, decide on a time you want to write and don’t skip it. 

2. Keep it private

A journal is personal and should be a place you feel comfortable expressing yourself honestly and truthfully. Penzu keeps your journal safe and secure, with all your entries made private by default, only made available to share under your command. 

3. Meditate

Any journal entry will benefit from some moments of reflection before you begin writing. Before you start writing, go to a quiet place and focus on your breath for a few minutes. This is a wonderful exercise to clear your head and settle your thoughts

4.Brainstorm

If you want your journal to be about something specific, brainstorm ideas to write about. You can write a bible journal, a dream journal, cooking, work, school, anything you want! Feel free to start writing down ideas of what you are interested in or feel you should be writing about. This is the perfect place to get your creative juices flowing. Check out this page for a list of all the different types of journals.

5.Date your entry

It is important to keep each journal entry dated, so you know when you wrote it. You will want to go back through your journal at some point and see when the entries of the topic you’re writing about were added. Also, it will be nice to see how you were feeling at different points in your life. Penzu automatically dates your entries for you, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to do it. 

6.Title your entry

If you can, try and title your entries. This will help you navigate your journal and keep your writings focused. You don’t need to title it before you start writing though. A great way to think of a title is after you’ve written, but it is something to keep in mind. 

7.Write naturally

When writing, don’t feel like you have to follow any form or structure. Just do what comes naturally. Follow your train of thought and see what kind of writing follows. 

8.Write quickly

Don’t let writer’s block get in your way. Just keep writing whatever comes to mind. It is always hard to stop and start again, so keeping writing. It doesn’t have to make sense. Don’t think too much about the words you are putting on the page. You can make sense of them later. 

9.Write honestly

Your journal is for your eyes only, so be honest. You don’t want to lie to yourself. Be real with your thoughts, feelings and opinions. Be as candid as you can. You want your journal to be an honest representation of yourself and the times you’re writing in. 

10. Have fun

Writing a journal should be an enjoyable experience. Have fun with your writing and take pleasure in it. Writing in your journal shouldn’t be a chore. It should be something you look forward to doing, so make it a fun exercise. 

8 Extra Tips For New Journal Writers

Writing a journal entry is different for everyone. We all write differently and about different things, so it is a different experience for everyone. We can help with pointing you in the right direction, whatever that direction may be. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Think about what you want to write. 

Your journal doesn’t need to have a theme, but an easy way to start writing an entry is to think about what you want to write about. 

  • Do you want to write about that day’s events? 
  • Do you want to write about your plans for tomorrow?
  • Are you planning a trip?
  • Are you working on a project?
  • Are you in a new relationship?
  • Do you want to discuss your family?

Decide what you wish to discuss and go in that direction.

2. Try writing with a journaling prompt

If you are having trouble deciding on a topic, try writing personally and/or creatively to get you started. Here are some journaling prompts you could think about:

  • What is your earliest childhood memory?
  • What is/was your favorite subject in school? Why?
  • Write a poem about your first romantic encounter.
  • What is your biggest secret?
  • Who is someone in your life that made a large impact on you? Why?

3. Plan ahead

Make sure you have a designated time to write. That way you can start thinking about what you want to write throughout the day and can prepare ideas. This will also get you looking forward to writing.

4. Practice

Write as much as possible. Writing will become easier you more you do it. Try and get into the habit of writing regularly and your entries will start coming to you naturally. 

5. Write letters

There are certainly times in your life where you wish you said something, or wish you didn't say something. Write about these moments. Think about writing letters that you will never send. They can be addressed to specific people or not, but they are great outlets for honest thoughts and make for compelling entries.

6. Try different perspectives

A helpful method of writing is to write from different perspectives. Pick a topic or event to write about and try writing in from someone else’s perspective, like a parent’s, a friend’s, or even an animal’s. It is healthy to think about things from different points of view. 

7. Add pictures

Pictures say a thousand words and can certainly inspire more. With Penzu you can import photos right into your entries, so feel free to add them throughout or just at the beginning to give you inspiration. You can talk about what is happening in the picture, the person that took it, what isn’t pictured, or just what it means to you. Think of it as giving the picture a long caption. 

8. Free write

Free writing is without direction, structure or motive. This means just take yourself to the page and go wild. Whenever an idea pops into your head, just write it down. It doesn't have to be cohesive or have a purpose. 

To Start Writing in a Journal With Penzu

Now that you’ve learned many tips of how to start and write in a journal, it’s time to get started with Penzu. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Grab your phone, computer or tablet.
  2. Make sure you are connected to WiFi.
  3. Go to Penzu.com to create an account.
  4. Enter your name, email and a password for your account.
  5. Download the apps.
  6. Log in and begin writing!

Writing journals is simple and easy! Download Penzu today and get let the words flow!

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