Journaling ≠ “Dear Diary…”

{3 different ways to keep a journal}

Originally published on Medium as a part of the 30 days of writing inspiration series. This was my most popular article of the week, so I thought I'd share it here.


I have kept a private journal since I was eight years old. Sometime I wrote because I wanted to and sometimes I wrote because someone else told me I should — whether my mom or some guru online. Over the years I have experimented with various methods. Here are three I recommend trying:

One line a day

Some people tell themselves, “I only have to write one line,” and then write more if they want to. They let “one line a day” be a minimum, a starting point.

I treat it as an exercise in brevity. I set aside a single page in my bullet journal, number it with the days of the month, and limit myself to writing one line to sum up or highlight one thing about my day.

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Looking back over these month-at-a-glance pages is interesting. The simple summaries trigger more detailed memories.

Sometimes I take note of mundane things that turn out to be more memorable than expected. In May 2017, for example, I noted feeling strangely tired and a little sick to my stomach days before learning I was pregnant!

Morning pages

Julia Cameron coined the term morning pages, but the concept is quite basic: fill three hand-written pages with whatever is on your mind, be it mundane, emotional, petty, or whatever.

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I have attempted to form a “morning pages” discipline at different points in my life. It hasn’t been bad, but it has never stuck either. When I write first thing in the morning I prefer to dive straight into writing something that I aim to publish, especially now that I have limited focus time before my daughter wakes up.

Having a place to brain-dump and let random thoughts and ideas spill onto the page is important to me. Even if I don’t pick up my journal for days or weeks it is a comfort to know it’s there when I need it. Admittedly, I don’t have much of a routine right now, but when life steadies a bit I plan to integrate an “evening pages” journaling habit into my wind-down routine.

Digital journaling

My inner minimalist doesn’t know what to do with the pile of journals I have ammassed over the years. When I moved out of my parents’ house I had to face my stuff and that inspired me to try journaling digitally.

I used the Day One app for a good year or so, but writing on a screen is not the same as scrawling on a page. I did like the reminder to write that would pop up on my screen at the same time each day, and the ability to attach images was nice. I also love that the entries are searchable.

Still, even while I was using the app consistently I picked up a physical notebook to jot random things in. I also began my bullet journal during this phase.

What can I say? I like using paper and pen!

Try various methods to find out what works for you.

Don’t get hung up on finding the perfect method. Start writing. Experiment with different notebooks and apps. Write a little, write a lot. Keep a journal in a particular place and write at the same time each day. Carry a tiny notebook with you and jot down thoughts no matter where you are. Stop making excuses.

🤔 How will you begin today?