For the Mind

How to Successfully Keep a Journal


I’m a dedicated journal keeper. In the picture above are all the journals that I’ve kept since I started seriously journaling eight years ago. Several years before I started keeping a journal, I kept two travel diaries.

Speaking of journaling, I opened an instagram account recently! I have been on a roadtrip/ministry trip/vacation last week with my family, and now we’re on our way home. It was a wonderful experience. Please follow me here to see glimpses of the trip:

Now back to our topic!

I love keeping a journal. There’s something special about putting ink on paper, about keeping a record, about writing down a piece of history.

Lots of people start journals, write for awhile, and then find themselves losing interest, dropping it, feeling like it becomes a chore, feeling intimidated or overwhelmed, or not finding the time to maintain one.

But anyone can keep a journal, whether you have talent in writing or not. You just have to understand the mechanics behind the art of keeping a journal.

So is the recipe to successful journal keeping!

There are no rules

Now allow me to qualify that claim. What that means is, a journal the place you can express yourself freely! Nobody sets the rules. You get to make them. You can write about any subject in the world. Use any style of writing you want. Write as short as one sentence, or as long as a volume of novels. You can journal in the sequence/order of how things occurred, or be random and freestyle.
You can write as often or as sporadically as you want-  be it several times a week or once every six months. You can journal about only positive and rosy topics, or mix it with your tears and disappointments, or rant your heart out. Imagine the possibilities of that blank page! Transform it into whatever you desire. My point is, there is no set rule to how much you have to write in your journal. For example, sometimes I only wrote one page length about an event (like a birthday for example), or one short paragraph about something unusual/exciting that happened that day (like a thunderstorm!). It adds dynamics and spontaneity to your journal. The important thing is to have a record of what happened in your own wordsfrom your own perspectiveIt’s unique.

Write about what interests you

In order to keep yourself motivated to keep writing, you have to write about the matters/issues your heart beats for. What is your passion? What is important to you? You can keep a journal just for your thoughts or discoveries on a topic (art, logic, science, philosophy etc.). But if you want to keep a journal about your life, write about events/days/thoughts that you consider special. Don’t feel pressured to write about new activity, unless you felt it was really worth remembering or writing down. I don’t write about each anniversary, holiday, or occasion I experienced. Sometimes I write about an ordinary day, just because something special happened (in my opinion).

Do it now!

The key ingredient to starting and finishing a journal is to write as soon as the event happened, or you had the idea pass through your head. Write that day. Or at the most, write the next day. You can even write while the event taking place! The point is, the more you put it off, the higher the likelihood you will never write it down. I think this is one of the main issues that causes people to drop journal keeping. They fall behind and get discouraged. Other things come up. But you have to make time for your journal. And this is where the “no rules” aspect comes in. We’re all busy, life is hectic (hey, I would know, I’m a college student 😉 ). When would you have time to write so much?!? So if you’re short on time, keep your journal entries short and sweet. My journal doesn’t get filled as much during school as it does during my breaks. The second thing is, make some time. Before you go to bed, jot down some stuff quickly. In your lunch break. Whenever.

Be flexible/improvise

This tip is not my own. It’s actually one implemented by my sisters who also keep their own journals. Let’s say you fell behind in all the stuff you wanted to write in your journal, or you want a fast way to write down your ideas. Here’s a tip that can be convenient. Type out your journal entry on your computer. It’s fast, it’s easy, and you stay on track. The less-convenient/time consuming part is to later write it down by hand in your journal. But it works for them. This option is if you are short on time, have a lot to write, and want to keep events in sequence in your journal. Or you can simply keep an electronic journal- all on the computer. Blogging is also a type of journaling. Then you can even print it out in a nice book format via Blurb or Lulu.

Jot down ideas

If you find it harder to express your thoughts in writing, but you still want to keep a journal, then try to formulate your paragraphs in your mind first before writing them down, jot down some titles, subtitles, ideas, and notes on a piece of paper as you go throughout your day, and later sit down and bring it all together. And since were on the topic of ideas, maybe you don’t know what to write about in your journal because you think your life is boring. Wrong! God is working many things in your life whether you know it or not. His plan for your life is unfolding as you go through the years. You can write about milestones (graduation, marriage, jobs, etc.), about “firsts” (first marathon, first trip cross-country etc.), about answered prayers, your hopes, dreams, goals, accomplishments. See? Plenty of things to write about.

Write with a purpose

You may be journaling just for yourself. You may be writing for posterity. You may be journaling just because. It’s a good idea to have a purpose for your journal. That will keep you motivated.

Some of the reasons I journal is because I love keeping a record of my life and looking back to see the amazing things God worked, the answered prayers. I write as a way of remembrance of His grace in my life. As a thanksgiving for His blessings. I love looking back over the years and rejoicing over the Lord’s mercy, or laughing at my silly immaturity sometimes.

If you function best under stress, then set a deadline/goal. You can set a goal of completing a journal in one year. Or write 1,000 pages in one year. That way it will force you to keep writing.

Add keepsakes

Ways to add more meaning to your journal is to add keepsakes along with your writing. For example, I added an “I voted” sticker, or a birthday card. Stuff like that. Tickets from concerts or trips, a pressed flower, stickers, a napkin from a special restaurant- you know what I mean. You don’t have to make it complicated or start transforming your journal in to a scrapbook. Just a few touches here and there. Adding those tangible little things makes a journal even more special and adds dimension to your writing.

Benefits of Journal keeping

I’ll conclude by mentioning the many benefits of keeping a journal.

– Sharpens your writing skills

– Sharpens your thinking and creativity skills

– Provides a tangible record of the past (you’re writing down history!) if you are writing about your life

– It’s a way to remember God’s blessings in your life

– It’s a way to keep track of answered prayers, thoughts, ideas

– It’s a great medium for expressing your feelings and debriefing

– It can be a great hobby


In conclusion I hope that this post provided you with useful tips for keeping a journal and motivated you to continue at it (if you’ve done it before) or start journaling soon (if you’ve never done it before). Feel free to share you tips and ideas, what’s worked for you and what hasn’t!

4 thoughts on “How to Successfully Keep a Journal

  1. Rebekah…What an excellent post! I have journaled since I was 14. That’s over 30 years and I still enjoy it. You shared great ways to love journaling and how to do it successfully. Thank you for sharing at Monday’s Musings. Blessings.

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