A daily journalling habit is a great way to bring a creative moment into a busy day. It can fit in anywhere in your day, and really be about anything you wish. Just picture it — a cup of tea steaming gently on the table, the sunlight through the window, the sound of your pen across the paper. A small solace of a moment.
There are all sorts of ways to bring a journalling habit into your life. We’re going over some of the more common types of journals, but you might find your own habit growing into something unique and special to you. A journal can be a dedicated notebook for one topic, or a personal collection of varied and different thoughts and notes. It can start a day or softly add to a quiet evening. You might sneak your notebook out on your lunch break, or with a coffee at your local cafe. Try some things out, and see what sparks your thoughts.
What do I use my notebook for?
An excellent choice for writers, this sort of notebook is also a lovely habit for anyone who enjoys words, introspection, and following the trail of random thoughts. Whether you are working on a long writing project, or enjoy playing with words in short fragments, the blank pages of a writing journal are waiting to filled. Write or plan a novel, indulge in some world-building, begin writing your memoirs, or explore your inner poet . . . You never need share your writing journal with anyone, so don’t be shy!
Starting with a timed free-writing exercise is an excellent way to get your words and thoughts moving. Pick a topic or prompt, set a timer, and write without stopping until the timer ends. There’s no time for deliberating or thinking too hard — just words, flowing from your pen. Five, ten, or fifteen minutes are good blocks of time for free-writing, depending on your preference.
Yes, you probably kept a diary once, many years ago! But there’s a lot more to keeping a diary than love hearts in gel pens (though those are pretty neat too). A personal diary can be a record of your day and happenings, a place where you acknowledge and give time and space to your emotions, dreams, and sorrows. It can be a place where you have an honest and candid conversation with yourself about what you want to do in your life, and the dreams you are aiming for. It can also be a place for those less-pretty feelings (we all have them), and can help empty out a tumultuous mind to allow for calmer thinking. It can also be something sweet and simple, such as a daily record of moments that made you happy.
Nature journal or seasonal diary
For the windswept among us, for those who enjoy the rattle of autumn leaves and the swirls of spring blossom. Take a leaf from Edith Holden’s lovely books, and keep a daily or weekly nature journal. Take note of the shifting seasons outside your window, and keep a record of the wonders of the passing years. (And keep your volumes in style, with our Seasonal Almanacs for Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.)
If reading is a daily enjoyment, then it’s just a piece of cake to add in a reading journal too. It’s a great way of keeping track of your chapters and reading history, making note of your favourite quotes and scenes, and your thoughts about them. (You can check out our pamphlet on Reading Journals here for more tips and tricks for keeping a reading journal.)
Daily planners, schedules & to-do lists
If organisation makes your life easier, then you probably have a planner or three. Make time to go over your weekly or daily schedule every morning, even if you know there is nothing on that day. This is an excellent habit for those of us who often forget things until it is too late, or have a habit of letting deadlines slip away. Choose a time early on, perhaps when you have your morning tea or coffee, or after the breakfast dishes have been cleaned and put away. Sit down somewhere comfy, open your journal or planner, and read through your day’s notes, and the notes you have written for the days ahead. If it’s later in the week than Wednesday, you might want to peek over the page and see what next week has in store for you, just so you know what is coming.
If you’re a list-maker, keeping all your lists in one notebook means there’s little chance of you misplacing yet another list on the back of a piece of paper. Just remember to date your lists, and cross off your completed items!
Other lovely things
There are, of course, near endless options of notebooks to keep. Artist journals, maker’s journals, knitting diaries, sewing books, daily planners, research notebooks . . . Why stop at one? Notebooks and journals can bring a lot of depth and enjoyment to any number of tasks.
Building a writing routine
The simplest way to build a new habit is to link it to something you already do every day. Always have a cup of tea in the morning? Now it’s tea-and-journalling. Sit outside of an evening to watch the sunset? Do it with your notebook in hand. Regularly sit for a moment on the couch after dinner? Yep, add in your notebook.
Alternatively, you can carve out some new time in your day. Maybe there’s a space of time that is blank, and you need something creative to fill it. Or maybe you’re busy as ever, but setting aside some quiet time each day might be a life-saver. In any case, pick a time when you have both time, space, and energy for your creative pursuits.
Some people swear by writing first thing in the morning, before the day has begun to intrude and busy up your thoughts. Make a coffee or a cup of tea, and sit alone with your thoughts for a while. What things are easier to write in the quiet world of morning, when everything seems possible?
A good way to acknowledge the positives and victories of your day! Write about everything that day that gave you a good feeling, or a bit of cheer. Maybe your afternoon tea was perfectly brewed, or some exciting mail came, or a cute dog walked past your window. Maybe you finally achieved something you’ve been working on, or you had a successful day at work. Anything that makes you smile. Gather all those moments down, write them out, and celebrate them.
Late night thoughts
Writing down late night thoughts is a good practice for those of us with busy minds that just won’t settle down when it comes time for bed. Finish your evening routine and get settled in bed with your journal, and write out all those last minute thoughts, the worries, those sparks of shiny new ideas that come and go in a flash. They’ll be safe on ink and paper until you wake up in the morning, and you can sleep well, knowing so.
Once you have an idea of what you’ll be writing, and when you’ll be doing it, the only thing left is to do it. You might not always get to write, every day. But if you prioritise your journalling time, you’ll find yourself able to, more days than not.