How to Stick To Writing in Your Diary
Journals and Diaries for Beginners
Would you like to increase the writing you do on a daily basis? Would you like to keep a detailed record of your thoughts, feelings, experiences, and observations?
Many of us want to, but we don't necessarily know how to get started.
Regardless of why you want to write, these tips will help you develop the right daily writing system for you!
1. Why do you want to write?
First, I recommend knowing why you want to start writing.
For those with depression, anxiety, or other emotional issues, therapists and doctors often recommend journaling as a means to monitor your emotional state.
Budding writers and many others look towards keeping a diary as the perfect way to both improve their writing frequency and remember crucial events. These preserved memories can then be shared with future generations, or used as a means to reflect upon the past once those finer details begin to fade from memory.
To keep a diary, you must know why, exactly why, you want to write.
If you're still in the "I don't know...I think it might be fun?" stage, you might not have the dedication to keep up. You really want to find a specific reason.
Here are a few great reasons to write.
"I want to..."
- Get into a daily writing habit (because I am a writer, or would like to be)
- Have a written recollection of my life
- Share these memories with my future children or grandchildren
- Preserve a glimpse into this interesting time in life
- Collect and develop a more objective focus on my emotional health
- Become more aware of my life and its finer details
Homework Assignment #1: Write out your number one reason for keeping your diary either on the inside page of the book, or at the top of the file.
This journal guides you each day with specific, accessible prompts. Perfect!
The Box of Notes Method
If you're great at jotting down stories really quickly on napkins, pads of papers, the backs of receipts or wherever else, save 'em! Add a date (and a place to make it fun), then put them in a box. Organize in the future if you really feel the need. Otherwise, this is an awesome way to collect your thoughts as they come without pressure!
2. Pick the means.
One of the best parts of keeping a diary is the diary itself. How do you want to do it, though? Physical diaries in book form are merely one solution to this predicament.
Here are a few others:
- One long document on Word, Google Docs, etc.
- Free online diary programs like Penzu, Up to the Sky, and Evernote (all mostly free)
- Free blogging software (WordPress.com or Blogger)
- Guided print diaries (see below)
- Boxes of notes instead of consecutive pages
- or anything else that works for you!
Really, you need to focus on the method that works for you. Regardless of how beautiful your newest journal may be, you might never open it after today. Check out all of the options above, and read my descriptions to the right to find the best fit for you!
Homework Assignment #2: Research the journal options above, and determine the one best method for you.
Note: You might have to switch things around once you get started. Perhaps you prefer an online diary over your physical one. Go with what you flock to naturally, and embrace it!
Make your diary fun with the Box of Notes method!
"Should I blog?"
Although you can, I don't know if blogging is the best place to share your deepest darkest thoughts or observations. Plus, many bloggers feel exhausted under the pressure of sharing frequently updated content for their readers. That's no good, especially when it comes to the details of your own life (and what is supposed to be a fun project)!
If you want to blog, consider making it password protected or totally private at first. Be sure not to let search engines index it either!
Tip: One challenge at a time.
Since we're within smelling distance of 2013 right now, you might be building up your list of New Year's Resolutions.
This is a great habit if you have the courage and willpower to stick to your changes!
I recommend picking one resolution, and hitting it hard. If this is on your list (as it was for most of my life), make it your only resolution, or one of the few, for this coming year.
3. Set a time.
When do you have free time, and when do you write best? Find the nice middle ground, wherever it may be.
Here are examples of the perfect times to vent a little.
- With your morning coffee
- During your lunch break
- On the train
- Before bed
- While waiting in line
- On your "smoke break"
With 15-20 minutes, you can record just enough about your life to get it out of your system. Once it's easy to write that long, you'll find the time to vent at length when need be.
But, I recommend that you set a specific time, or find a group of times that work best for you.
I love lunch time. Why? Well, the work day has passed it's hump. You've got one foot in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Things are on a slope, which provides a nice bite of excitement.
Homework Assignment #3: Find one 15-minute chunk of time you have available everyday (or three 5-minute chunks). Fit it in.
Tip: Tie string around your finger.
4. Remind yourself.
If you have difficulties sticking to scheduling changes, there are many ways to pester yourself to get going!
These include notices and reminders on:
- Google Calendar,
- an alarm on your phone,
- free SMS text reminders,
- regular email prompts
As cool as these may be and as good as your intentions may be, this does not work for everyone. The second you start feeling irritated or annoyed by those reminders, you'll mutter like the father in "A Christmas Story."
Homework Assignment #4: Set up an accountability system. This could include a check box in your planner, a virtual reminder, or simply a sticky note at your coffee station (or wherever else you write).
Why do you want to write more?
"8 Tips to Help You Start a Journal"
Take the time to make journaling a sweet moment in your day.
5. Build a reward system.
Just as with every attempt to incorporate a new practice in your life, you need to find a way to make it extra rewarding.
This might sound indulgent. "So, I'm going to reward myself for doing what I want?"
Yes! You made a commitment to yourself, and you honored it. That's a surprisingly difficult thing to do, and you deserve a reward. And not just once.
I recommend building in elements you really like for both the short and long terms.
Here are some wonderful short-term rewards:
- For every week you journal everyday, sleep in an extra 30 minutes on Sunday.
- For every day you journal, eat a piece of chocolate.
You can even build in a positive memory association by writing while you light your favorite candle, drink some tea or coffee, eat a yummy snack, or sit at a special desk!
When you've met your goal over a longer period of time, you should reward yourself with larger gifts.
After one month of regular writing, you should:
- Take yourself for a hike.
- Get a massage.
- Go out to lunch.
- Order a new "extra" you really like (or buy a luxury item).
Tip: Build in a buffer zone, or a free pass. Perhaps you only require 6 days of writing instead of 7. Although I recommend sticking to an everyday system, this can work for some.
What about when you hit the one year mark?
Celebrate with a special night out, a fancy bottle of wine, or something else that makes you happy!
Homework Assignment #5: Write out your short, medium, and long-term rewards in your journal or in a document somewhere. Save these, and stick to them!
How to Keep a Diary: Your Homework
6. Finally, respect the challenge.
It is never easy to start doing something every single day. Even if we like whatever we want to do, we often kick and fight and resist as much as we can.
If you want to keep a diary, there's absolutely no reason not to do so. It will be uncomfortable, but remember:
"Every time you follow through on your goal, you build a habit for the future."
The sooner you start, the sooner you are "someone who keeps a diary." That's success!
How to Write in a Journal: What would you add?
Do you have any tips on keeping a diary or on adding a new practice to your daily routine?