Do You Keep a Journal?


I love to write, but I’ve never been good at keeping a journal.

On the other hand, I’ve had some success with what I call “specialty” journals.

For example, I kept a gratitude journal the year after my divorce (and it was very, very helpful).

I’ve also worked on a few art journals, and one year I kept a “mandala journal” which resulted in a wonderful little book filled with gel pen mandalas that I still like to look over every now and then. I found the time I spent creating these little mandalas each day to be incredibly meditative.

Some of my favorite mandalas from that little book:

mandala mandala2 mandala7 mandala8

I’ve had my greatest success, journaling-wise, with “Morning Pages”, from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I did them for about eight years, and toward the end, they, like the mandalas, had become quite a meditative tool. I still have several notebooks crammed on my shelves, even though I occasionally pull a few out to shred them (the whole idea of Morning Pages is that you NEVER reread them, so I’ve had no problems disposing of them).

But I’ve never been able to keep a regular “daily” journal consistently, something that I could pick up and read over older entries, see what I was up to on a certain day in a certain year.

A while back, I wrote about how I was inspired to give journaling a try. In fact, I titled that post much the same as this one!

I never did do anything about my inspiration last time around, though. Those beautiful Moleskine notebooks arrived but I never did anything with them.

Recently, though, I’ve come across a few articles online that have made me think about how wonderful it would be to keep a journal. And during our decluttering these past few weeks, I also decided to pull out the book Creative Journal Writing, by Stephanie Dowrick, from my TBR pile.

Those Moleskine notebooks from last year are still blank, and now I’ve decided I’d like to start using them.

And it occurred to me that maybe the problem I have with journaling is that I am just too eclectic – it’s hard for me to consistently write the same kind of thing every day.

So what if I let myself write whatever I wanted to every day? (Ahem. Much like I’ve been doing here, and thank you all for continuing to read, by the way.)

I’ve been thinking that I could write in it:

  • gratitude lists
  • story ideas
  • conversation snippets overheard or dreamed up
  • my dreams
  • quotes from things I’m reading or see online
  • any of those one-line thoughts that come to me in droves every day

Or anything else that might occur to me. Maybe sometimes I’d even write about what I did that day.

And some days, I might whip out my gel pens and draw something, create a mandala or maybe do a ZenTangle.

I’ve been thinking that this just might work. I might work in my journal consistently if I let the content be as varied as whatever might appeal to me that day.

Do you journal? If you do, do you have any tips for me? And if you don’t, do you ever think about keeping a journal?

Photo credit

34 thoughts on “Do You Keep a Journal?

  1. Heidenkind

    I’ve never been able to keep a journal. People assume I do, because I like writing, but writing about my own boring life always seemed like a waste of time.

    I do keep a journal on vacations, though, especially for art museums. I put all the paintings I saw, article ideas, things I noticed, etc. That is very helpful.
    .-= Heidenkind´s last blog ..Musical Notes: Darkfever & Flat-Out Sexy =-.

    1. Belle

      I always have such good intentions when I travel – I don’t think there’s been a trip I’ve gone on where I didn’t take along a blank book. I never do get around to writing in them. It’s great that you’ve been able to keep a journal going when you’re on holidays!

  2. Joanne

    I don’t journal about my daily life, but do keep a couple of journals. One is a book journal where I record a few details of each book as I read it, including a favorite passage, that sort of thing. It’s amazing how often I do refer back to that journal. I also use a pretty journal to keep my itineraries in, keeping track of everything in one place. It’s nice to have a running log of what needs to be done, things carried over from the last itinerary, crossed off. So I guess I’m pretty specific with my journals :)
    .-= Joanne´s last blog ..Day Trip Destination =-.

    1. Belle

      A journal for itineraries sounds like such a good idea. I think I’d like the satisfaction of crossing things off! When I was in school I worked part-time in human resources, and my manager had a notepad she used the same way.

      When she was all finished with each pad, she’d file it away, and since she dated everything, we could pretty much always find whatever we needed to find. I really admired this, but haven’t thought of it for a long time, not until I read your comment, Joanne!

  3. Nicole

    I remember when you did that last post. Glad to see that you are giving it another go. I journal off and on, officially. I think whatever major writing I am doing at the time serves as my writing. I f I’m blogging, I ‘m probably not journaling and haven’t been for awhile, etc. I do keep specialty journals- like a gratitude journal and sporadically a dream journal. A Voice of One’s Own by Marlene Schiwy is my journaling inspiration. I highly, highly recommend it if you get a chance to pick it up and want some journaling inspiration. It’s probably time for me to give that a re-read.
    .-= Nicole´s last blog ..The Amy Einhorn (Perpetual) Challenge =-.

    1. Belle

      I’ve put A Voice of One’s Own on my shopping list, for my next online shopping binge – thanks, Nicole!

  4. Jemi Fraser

    I don’t journal. I did as a teen – full of typical angst – horrid stuff :) Burned the lot of them at a campfire one night. I had lots of fun!

    I did start keep a few writing ideas in a pretty journal by my bed recently. I won the journal on a blog contest & I thought it was appropriate :) I like the idea of using it as the mood strikes.
    .-= Jemi Fraser´s last blog ..Wonky Connections =-.

    1. Belle

      My teen journals were full of angst too – and I actually had an okay time as a teen and since I only wrote when I was in angst, there were a LOT of days missing from my journal :)

  5. Rebecca

    I started writing a journal in 2004 and have managed to continue to this day and I’m on my twenty-ninth book. I haven’t written every single day but this year I’m trying to. I also write in mine whatever I want. Basically, to me writing in my journal is like clearing my head. In mine I’ve put in entries about my day, lists of so many things, recipes, coin rubbings, leaf rubbings, interesting quotes or poems I find. Basically it’s just a place for me to write whatever I want, whenever I want. My advice to you would be to keep it in plain sight somewhere so that if you feel like writing it’s right there. Bascially, the best thing to do is to just sit down and write. Anything that comes into your head, just write it down.
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..In My Mailbox =-.

    1. Belle

      Your journals are exactly what I have in mind, Rebecca! It’s good to know it’s working for you (29th book! that’s wonderful) – it gives me hope.

  6. Molly

    Oh Belle, I have been thinking about this exact same thing for weeks!

    I WANT to keep a journal, but for some reason I put too much pressure on myself; I want it to be perfect – worthy of its lovely front cover :) I also wish that I had beautiful “journal” handwriting that is artwork in and of itself; alas, mine is very mediocre.

    I like your theme suggestions, especially memorable quotes and story ideas (although right now – my story ideas would take up maybe half a page)

    I have no idea what a mandala is — but I love the photos you showcased and I am now off to google the concept :)
    .-= Molly´s last blog ..Show Me 5 Saturday – The Lightning Thief =-.

    1. Belle

      I’ll keep you updated re: success or not of my journaling venture, Molly :) I am really hopeful that allowing myself the flexibility will keep me writing in it regularly.

      Did you find out more about mandalas? They are a favorite art form of mine!

  7. rhapsodyinbooks

    I don’t journal – I guess I would be afraid I would die precipitously and someone would find it and read my intimate thoughts and it would be too embarrassing, even though I wouldn’t know the difference on account of being dead…

    But I love your mandalas – I would love to see a post showing more and explaining what they mean to you!
    .-= rhapsodyinbooks´s last blog ..Black History Month: February 27, 1902 – Birthday of Marian Anderson =-.

    1. Belle

      Jill, I used a tuna can to make circles (in pencil) and then I’d just sit there and make whatever marks came to me. It gave me a chance to use all those gel pens that I can never resist buying.

      It all started when a friend of mine went to Italy and brought me back a gorgeous handmade blank book. I just had to do something with it!

      Sometimes I wonder why I stopped – and then I remember. It would take between 30 to 45 minutes for me to finish each one, which was just way too long when things got hectic.

      BTW, now you have me wondering what your intimate thoughts are like 😉 Mine are actually quite mundane LOL

  8. Claire (The Captive Reader)

    I’ve been journalling pretty consistently for the last four years. I did the normal, angst-ridden entries as a teenager but then nothing from the ages of fourteen to twenty. I started journalling as a way to record my travels and then, when I returned home, found that I was so used to the habit of writing that it had become a natural part of my day.

    I actually like that my journals are a record of my daily life. Looking back a few years later, even the most mundane details seem so distant that it’s nice to have a memory of them. Being able to reread the entries that followed any of my moves or my first few weeks of work is fascinating. I also try to record as many of my conversations as I can – they are definitely the most interesting part when I come to reread old journals.
    .-= Claire (The Captive Reader)´s last blog ..The Nonesuch – Georgette Heyer =-.

    1. Belle

      Claire, what you’ve described is what I love about the idea of keeping a journal. It would be so nice to have a record of my days. It’s good to know that journal keeping is a habit that I can form and maintain!

    1. Belle

      My life’s not very exciting, either, Kathy. I think that’s why I’ve never been able to keep a “regular” type of journal.

      Did you journal at all when you were in Paris? I think living there would be quite exciting! I love your Paris posts – I guess they’re like a retrospective journal of sorts.

  9. Beth F

    Every time I try to journal I find I have nothing whatever to say! I don’t have any desire to be an author, so I don’t have story ideas or characters or anything like that to record. The only things I’d keep track of would be my reading (see the blog!) and cooking (written in cookbooks and notebooks).

    I love those mandalas!

    That Zen tangle looks cool.
    .-= Beth F´s last blog ..Thursday Tea: An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor =-.

    1. Belle

      I’ve always liked the idea of cooking journals. Ward did that the first year he started cooking, and it was quite fun to look back to any particular date and see what we ate. He’s kind of transferred that kind of recording to his cooking blog now – which is actually quite a good substitute because of the color pictures!

  10. Amy

    Love that you are going to journal like this Belle. Throw out the rules and let it be whatever you want….who ever you happen to be in that particular moment.

    1. Belle

      “Whoever I happen to be in a particular moment” – I LOVE this, Amy! Yes, it’s what I keep thinking of whenever I think of journaling.

  11. Melanie

    I hope you’ll be able to get back into journaling. I love to journal; I use my books as a way to keep track of my days — what I have been doing and what I have been feeling — and also to explore new ideas and directions for my life. I enjoy the aspect of looking back and seeing what I was doing at any one time, but also seeing, even through the angsty entries, how far I’ve come personally.

    Actually, I believe that the act of writing is a healing process in itself, even if there are no big traumas in your life. It helps me keep my sanity and feel connected to myself. I believe so strongly in the power of writing (and of reading) that I am in the process of launching my own journaling workshops within the next few months! So use those beautiful blank books and nice pens, it is worth it. :)

  12. MarthaAndMe

    I used to journal in middle school and high school. In fact, recently I’ve been wondering where those journals are – I would love to get a peek at what’s in them! Since then I haven’t journaled at all. Sometimes I think I should keep a travel journal so that I could have a record of what we did and where we went on our trips, but somehow that feels like too much to do during a vacation!

    I remember when you were making the mandelas and it’s so neat to get to see them. They are gorgeous.

    1. Belle

      I have been thinking lately about doing the mandalas again. It would be a good excuse to buy more gel pens.

      I’ve always thought you should keep a travel journal – when you go on holidays, you do such fun things. When we go on holidays, we don’t usually do much at all (much to Ward’s chagrin!).

  13. Ann-Kat (Today, I Read...)

    Like you, Belle, my journalling is sporadic. What’s strange, however, is that I collect journals (I think I’ve told you that before…can’t remember LOL). Most of the journals I collect, I don’t even write in.

    But, I’ve been trying to break that habit and, again like you, have given myself permission to write whatever is on my mind or whatever comes to me to write without limitation as to the “what”.

    My current love? Padded journal. (I saw Raven Simone making one on YouTube and had to try it. Results were awesome: black & white leopard print fabric with golden ribbon.) I’ve even decided to modify her instructions a bit to create more custom padded journals…now I just need to find people who would want one seeing as how I could never, in a million years, possibly fill all those journals. (Well, maybe in a million.)

    On another note, those are some lovely mandalas. I tried them once, but somehow it never stuck, so I’m always a little jealous of people who can make such beautiful ones. 😀
    .-= Ann-Kat (Today, I Read…)´s last blog ..BTT: News Bulletin: Grammar Brutally Murdered, Suspects Still at Large =-.

    1. Belle

      **raising my hand wildly** I want one, I want one! Are you really looking for homes for your custom journals? I want one!! :)

      You should give the mandalas a try. I think you’d create some really beautiful ones. And since they’re only the size of tuna cans, it’s not a whole lot of space to fill. Very meditative too.

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  16. Rebecca

    I always have these great intentions about writing. But my follow-through? It sucks. I think it is an ADD thing, but that’s no excuse. I just don’t push myself hard enough. My brain like shuts down when I think of keeping up something. I am pretty surprised I have managed to keep up with my blog this long!
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Michelle of Galleysmith on 20 Questions Today! =-.

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  18. Hyla

    I have kept a journal since I was 6 and just wrote one badly misspelled sentence a week. I am now 20 years old and except for a brief stop when I was 17-18, I have 13 years of journals to look through.

    I never write the same thing, I have broken sentences, page long senescence, and pages of doodles when I feel like expressing myself but can’t find the words … no matter what random things you put in there, they always have a story :)


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