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  • Writer's pictureAcacia Gabriel

Journaling Dos and Don'ts

Updated: Feb 9, 2022

My bullet journal with some of my favorite stickers

I’ve been keeping a journal for the last two years and it has been a really rewarding experience. I love being able to look back at old notebooks and read about what I was thinking, feeling, and doing over the last few years. It keeps things in perspective. Apart from the nostalgic aspect, I also just enjoy journaling in general. It has definitely helped me grow as a writer, thinker, and analyzer. It is a great way to be able to express my thoughts in a place that is reserved for my eyes only.

I’ve been journaling for a while now, so, per my friend’s suggestion, I have decided to outline some of my dos and don’ts of journaling. As a disclaimer, I would also like to add that these are some of my own personal tips, and I can’t claim to be the expert. When it comes to journaling, it is all about what works best for YOU.

DO ~ Write every day

Seinfeld’s philosophy on improving as a writer is to treat it like a job. While I’m not endorsing that you take journaling quite this seriously, his ideas do have merit. Seinfeld says that he will draw an x for every day he writes and, from then on, the whole idea is to just avoid breaking the chain.

At first glance, the prospect of writing every day may seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Just setting aside 5 or 10 minutes during the day is surprisingly simple. And personally, I am always happy when I spend that time writing rather than scrolling through Instagram or Snapchat.

Even just writing two paragraphs in a day will help you develop the habit, I have found that I have a lot to say, and I’m sure that you’ll find you have more on your mind than you may have realized. It doesn’t matter how much you write, but doing it every day will put you in the habit of setting aside time for self-reflection.

DON’T ~ Only write when you’re upset

The key word here is only. Writing is obviously a great tool to help you develop and explore how you’re feeling when you’re down. However, only writing when you are angry or stressed is an easy trap to fall into.

It’s important to write about the good times as well as the bad. For instance, I look back on some of my earlier journals and it can be depressing at times, but there have always been so many wonderful things to be happy about. The pleasures of life, from something as small as a new crush to as large as a college acceptance to my dream schools, are things that I want to remember.

A good tip to keep things positive is to try to list five happy things that happened that day. According to science, listing five positive things a day can make an impact on your happiness. Another technique suggested by this study is to journal. Two birds, one stone.

DO ~ Glue in ticket/cards/whatever you want

This is a new one for me, so stay with me. Lately I’ve been finding various ticket stubs or cards all over the place. Just yesterday, I realized that my Coachella shuttle pass is still in my wallet (can I get any more embarrassingly basic?), and I find things like that all the time.

There are movie tickets, train stubs, and arcade tickets that I keep to satisfy my own nostalgia. However, without a specific place to keep them, they get lost. I’ve started taping them in my journal, and I really like it! It’s a fun way to add color, and it makes my journal a bit more like an exhibit. Little tidbits that were once lost in the cracks are now preserved.

DON’T ~ Get set on a time or place

It’s easy to get used to writing at the same time and/or place, but as lovely as it is to get comfortable, it’s also important to try out new things. I have personally found that I’m most comfortable writing in my bed late at night. However, I have also really enjoyed writing in the morning or middle of the day. As it is with anything, it takes some experimentation to figure out what you like best. Even then, changing things up is always good.

I have also had a lot of fun looking for new places to write. While I’m home, I love going to the beach or different lookout points to just sit, listen to music, and write. In Athens, I found coffee shops and would also just sit on my balcony above the street.

As a small tip, one thing I like to do in my journal is make a note at the bottom of every entry just saying where I was writing. It’s fun to look at later on and it helps me challenge myself to explore new writing spots.

DO ~ Explore new types of writing

When you run out of things to write (or more accurately when you think you’ve run out of things to write), it can be really fun to try out writing prompts. Now, I’d hate to sound like your high school English teacher, but I’m gonna list out some of my favorite prompts below for your enjoyment. It’s honestly really helpful because it can help guide your writing about topics you might not have considered.

Writing prompts aside, there are so many different forms of writing to explore. You can try poetry or writing about an experience from the third person. You can take notes on your people-watching experiences or take a shot at writing song lyrics, even if you think you might not be good at it. Which leads me to my next point…

DON’T ~ Get embarrassed

The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles

Unless you decide otherwise, this is a space that is solely yours. Maybe one day, I don’t know just spitballing here, you’ll study abroad in Greece and decide to start sharing your writing a bit more on a blog. Until you make that decision, your journal is a place to be unapologetically yourself. No judgement allowed.

And to take that one step further, forget for a moment that even you are going to be reading this. I’ve talked a lot about how much I enjoy using journals as a means of documentation, but that doesn’t have to be true for everyone. The most raw and unfiltered writing can be the most therapeutic, but it is only attainable when you let go of your sense of embarrassment or shame and instead just focus on writing the truth.

DO ~ Buy yourself a journal and get writing!

Get yourself a journal that you love! I used to use a leather journal, but now I like shopping for new ones while I travel. The more you fill the more styles you can try! There are countless types of journals, and it is okay to be a bit picky and find the one that is the best for you.

More importantly, just start writing. I also often fall into the trap of planning things to delay actually doing them, but don’t procrastinate writing in your journal. In fact, if you do it right, you’ll probably start using writing in your journal to procrastinate other things.

So, best of luck! And remember, there is no “right” way to do this. It is all about what is best for YOU!



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