Over the years, I've been asked multiple times about journaling, how I stay committed, and how I even made it a habit. Here are some tips you may find helpful.
First: Buy a good journal -This is probably the MOST important, yet tricky step. It has to be a comfortable journal for you. It has to have good paper, appropriate line width, and ease of access to suit your needs. I'll explain what I like and why i like it to help you understand the importance.
Decide if you want to write on both sides of the page. This will help determine if you need spiral bound or a stitched spine.
If you want to write on BOTH sides of the page- spiral bound is better. You don't have to fuss with a spine that isn't flexible. (This was a major frustration for me in the beginning. I would try to MAKE the spine flexible and end up damaging the spine and paper wouldn't stay in.) Spiral is my go-to. I can flip the journal any which way and write comfortably.
If your choice is to write on only one side of the paper- then a stitched spine OR spiral is ok to use.
Decide if you want lines or no lines on your paper.
If you are a creative and lines make you feel restricted- go with no lines! If you need structure (that's me!) then go with lines. But make sure they are a comfortable width for your handwriting style. I had several journals with lines that were very narrow and I felt my handwriting ended up being ugly and uncomfortable. I never ended up writing in that journal more than 5 pages. Some people write very small and a narrow width of lines is great for them. Not me. I needed wider lines to accommodate my handwriting mood.
Decide on thickness of paper:
This is mainly determined by which sort of pens/pencils you prefer. If you like super inky pens that bleed (totally fine) then you need a thicker paper. Just make sure to take that into consideration when purchasing your journal.
I prefer a thicker paper as my writing utensil of choice changes frequently. I like writing with sharpie pens some days which will bleed through. Also- if you are opting to only write on ONE side of the paper- this isn't as important of a decision. But if you want to write on both sides- pen choice and paper thickness is key.
Decide on size of journal:
If this is your first journal or you know in the past you've not been able to complete a journal- don't go for a huge journal! Pick a smaller option that will be easier to fill.
I have been using an Ecojot journal since 2007. I started out with their regular journal (5x7, 80 pages) and then moved to the jumbo journal shortly after (6x9, 150 pages). The jumbo journal is a big commitment for a newbie- so I strongly recommend something smaller to START with- but if you see journaling working for you- then go ahead and move to a bigger journal
Second: Find a time/place. I love to start my morning with a cup of coffee, my journal, and my couch. This wasn't always the case. In the beginning- I needed to get OUT OF MY HOUSE so I wouldn't fall back asleep. Starbucks became my place. I'd get ready for work, drive to the closest Bux, and read/journal for 40 minutes. THEN I'd go to work. If you know me at all- you know night time wasn't the best time for me. I go to bed early. If you are at your best at night- then that's the time for you. If mornings are when you are on your game- try fitting 30 minutes in to your routine. Grab some coffee, a cup of tea, a diet dr. pepper….whatever it is you need to feel right- grab it and make it happen. Find your spot. In a comfy chair or couch, outside on a patio, at a coffee shop...find your spot.
Third: Don't limit your writing to one specific thing. Some people feel they need to clarify if it's a daily journal or a prayer journal, etc. Don't limit yourself. If some days you need to write about an event that happened, do so. If some days you need to write out a prayer, do so. If you need to use your journal to take sermon notes, do so.
Journaling prayers: Confession. I'm not a good prayer-er. I get sidetracked. I get sleepy. I've found that journaling prayers helps accomplish several things. It helps me to actually pray. And it documents the things I've asked of God….and when I go back and read- I see how He's proved himself faithful. Also. When i 'pray journal' for friends/family, I can write for DAYS. If you are needing to get in the habit of writing- I highly suggest this. I start with people that I love and just go to town. It's easy to ask things of God for people that I love.
Life events: This is often an area that trips people up. They don't feel as though they have enough exciting things in their life happening to warrant writing about. Write about your day if you feel like it. Did you meet someone new? Jot their name down. Did you eat at a new restaurant you loved? Write it down and list what you had. Did something at work frustrate you? Write it down. Did you get an email/text from a friend that encouraged you? Write it down. Life events doesn't have to be the BIG things. And when you write it down- you're making the small things BIG things and then life ends up being more exciting :)
Song lyrics: Not feeling like you want to write? Not feeling inspired? Is there a song you've been listening to on repeat? Write the lyrics down. No need to expound on them. Just write them.
Verses: A verse that encouraged you? Write it down.
Fourth: What to do if you forget to write several days or even several weeks in a row: Open the journal and just start writing. What to do if a REALLY big life event happens and you don't have the time or the hand strength to write that much? Type it out- print it off- and tape it to a page in your journal. I do this often. Some days I want to write a LOT more than what i have time for or my handwriting will allow for. Type it- Print it- and tape it. I've received text messages that were encouraging or funny- or just something I wanted to remember and I'll screen shot the text- print it out- and tape it to a page in my journal.
Fifth: Be Honest. Be Real. Be You. Your journal shouldn't have a filter. This isn't to say it should be a black box and you can write hateful things about other people, but be honest. If you are upset- write it. If you are over the top excited about something- write it. I'll be honest- I cuss in my journal. Some days I am so confused by what God seems to be doing in my life- and I let him know. I think he appreciates the honesty. I think he WANTS that from us. Think of your journal as a best friend. The person you would tell anything to. It's good to be open and honest about life. Don't sugar coat how things are going. Writing the honest and real thoughts can spur you on to pray for certain things. It can encourage you to deal with certain things rather than keep it all inside. Some days- you just need to write it out to get it off your chest. Once you write it- you'll find life is a bit easier. It helps put things into perspective. It doesn't solve the problem- but it allows you to get out your thoughts and make a game plan to attack your problems. If life is grand- it documents that and reminds you that life is good, that God is good. It helps you to remember to be purposeful about seeking God and thanking him for the GOOD things- not just when we need something.