How To Start Journaling When You Don’t Know How

by | Feb 8, 2024 | Journaling

For the last few days my journaling has been flowing. I have written and written like a demon. But it’s not always like this. Sometimes I feel stuck and things do not flow. And that’s ok.

It’s ok to not be ok, but you wouldn’t want to be stuck in that state for long would you? When I feel stuck, I leave it. Sometimes, I’ll put on a meditation to ground and centre and I may or may not come back to my journal. But I certainly do not feel the need to have to write anything.

Over the many years that I have been a journaler I have got into a groove that works for me. I don’t remember what it was like to want to journal and not know how or where to start.

In this post, I hope to inspire you to start. And what I will say is keep it simple.

Starting a journal can be an incredibly rewarding journey, offering a safe place for your thoughts, dreams, and experiences. Yet, for many, the initial step into journaling feels like standing at the edge of a vast, uncharted territory, unsure of how to proceed.

So much has been written about this weird art of journaling, how could you possibly know what is the right way. Well, phew the only way is your way.

I’d like this article to act as a gentle kickstart, guiding you through the initial stages of setting up your journaling practice. Whether you’re looking to navigate through your thoughts, document life’s moments, or go on a massive journey of self-discovery, this blog will offer practical advice, creative prompts, and motivational insights to help you overcome the blank page syndrome.

Start with your environment

How and where do you like to write? In a crowded café, with hot chocolate and biscuits to dunk, or in a peaceful place with no noise or interruptions? Do you like to travel to inspiring places like the beach or by a wood. How about just parking up, watching the world go by and pen your thoughts?

What about making your space comfortable? What do you need to make yourself a writing den? What about your desk and chair? What about the energy of the space?

Reading all of that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable as I hate noise and love the comfort of my bed for writing. The thought of sitting in a cafe turns me off. But you are not me.

Decide where you want to write. Is this in bed, on the sofa or somewhere else? Do you like smells, sounds, silence or something else? TV or radio on in the background? What about people? I find it a pain to be interrupted when I am writing, do you?

Get a beautiful journal

I adore the Stationary Island bullet journals. I hate lined journals and would rather a complete blank page if I couldn’t get one with faint dots. I’m not bothered by pretty pictures on the cover, moons and unicorns don’t do it for me, but they may you. What I dislike is cheap nasty paper and while some people may baulk at spending €15-€20 on a journal once a month, that’s a lot less then weekly sessions with a therapist.

Being grounded and centered

When we are grounded, centered, in alignment, working from our heart and listening to the whispers of our soul, the Universe flows to us and through us. That’s when your writing will flow and you can create what you need.

Imagine that you have roots growing from your feet into Mother Earth, breathe that energy in, up into your heart and out through your head. Send it down into Mother Earth, breath the energy up again. Do this a few times.

I have found that using my breath helps me to remain focused and if I am writing something tricky, it helps to stop and breathe.

Just write

Ha! I can hear you say, that’s easy for you. Really? I do have days when I look at my journal and can’t be arsed. These are the days that I need it most. I ground and then start writing rubbish and as that flows and I am engaged what I need to write comes flowing out.

So what do I mean by rubbish? Well, I could just start with what I ate for dinner and from their the angel of journaling usually steps in and takes over. It does make for amusing reading later.

So, yes, just write. Trust me I’m a coach and cake lover.

Other things to try

One word

This is so cool. All you have to do is write one word. Let’s say you wake that morning and without censorship you ask yourself, ‘hey, self, what is my one word today?’ I can guarantee that you will get a word.

Write the word and forget it for the day. Later when tucked up in your jammies with a lovely hot chocolate, review the word. What does it mean in the context of the day? Write. That’s it, even if you only manage one sentence, you have started.

Mind mapping

When I am stuck for putting structure around something, I simply create a mind map. A mind map is a collection of thoughts around a central idea. It is quick and simple and serves to ignite my imagination. I also use it for creating plans and developing ideas.

5-word mind-map

This is very simple and is similar to the mind mapping idea, except the word is a word for today.

Write a word in the middle of the page and then allow five other words to come and on each branch five and five more until you run out. Try this: Put SMILE into a mind map and see what words come up for you.

Then you can write about what comes up for you.

Questions — journaling prompts

Of course, things are so much easier if someone asks us questions. If you struggle with the prompts in each of the sections, scribble them out and try one of these:

  1. How did the day begin?
  2. What happened as the day progressed?
  3. What is today’s story?
  4. What is the best thing that happened?
  5. What am I grateful for today?
  6. How did the day end?

Use prompts from journaling books

Try one of my journals.

The Gratitude Habit contains, thirty mandalas and 30 insightful prompts to help you cultivate an attitude of gratitude and change your life. The way that it works is that you look at the prompt and then spend five minutes with your mindful mandala, letting what needs to flow come out. Mind Map or scribble your initial thoughts and come back later to explore more. It’s a fab way to explore gratitude.

Benefits of journaling

There are many benefits. All I can say is journaling has saved my life more than once.

Journaling is a therapeutic outlet for expressing thoughts and emotions, allowing you to process your feelings and reduce stress. It can help in managing anxiety, depression, and coping with trauma by providing a safe space to explore inner conflicts and fears. By writing things down you will find clarity and a greater understanding of yourself.

If you wake after a few hours sleep you may be suffering from stress or anxiety. Don’t mither, scribble.

Journaling can be a great tool for setting personal goals, tracking progress, and reflecting on achievements and setbacks. Writing down goals makes them more tangible and actionable, providing a visual reminder of your aspirations. Journaling about the steps taken towards these goals, obstacles faced, and lessons learned can increase motivation and accountability. It allows for self-reflection on what works and what doesn’t, facilitating personal growth and the achievement of long-term objectives.

So that’s all well and good providing you have a system. What I do is use my Wheel of Life workbook. I created it just for this reason. I wanted to keep a track of my goals and my journal didn’t work, because my goals were in amongst my ramblings. Whichever way you look at it, it’s still journaling.

More tips

Establish a Routine

Consistency is key when it comes to journaling. Try to set aside a specific time each day or week for this activity, creating a ritual that you can look forward to. Whether it’s first thing in the morning to set intentions for the day, or in the evening as a way to reflect and unwind, find a schedule that works for you and stick to it.

This consistency will not only help integrate journaling into your life but also make it a dependable, safe space for self-reflection and creativity. Bedtime for me and as I said, if it doesn’t want to be written one day, so be it. Write one word.

Embrace Imperfection

Oh yes… Many people hesitate to start journaling because they worry about doing it “right.” Remember, your journal is a judgment-free zone, meant for your eyes only. Don’t stress about spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, or finding the perfect words. The beauty of journaling lies in its authenticity and rawness. Even all of your swearing.

Embrace the imperfections in your writing as a reflection of your true self. Let your thoughts flow freely, without censorship or self-criticism, allowing your journal to be a true reflection of your inner world.

And the best thing about journaling is

Burning them. Every once in a while I will burn them to release the energy. There is nothing in my journals that I want to keep. you might, but for me, that stuff needs to go. Ok, I do read through first and rewrite some of the good ideas into my latest journal.

Chat to me if you would love to create a content rich journal to help your clients explore their thoughts. You can use it to support your coaching and therapy.

Let your journal be a mirror reflecting your true self, unfiltered and raw, capturing the essence of your journey through life.

Dale Darley