old manual typewriter with a paper that says Write Something

Starting a Journal

If you’re thinking about starting a journal, congrats! There is a multitude of benefits to journaling. But making the decision to start is the easy part. Actually starting is a little harder. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the choices you face.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no one right way for starting a journal. Journaling is a personal expression, so you just need to decide what is most appealing to you.

This post may contain affiliate links. What does that mean for you? Nothing. It means that if you use a link I provide to buy a product, I get a little kickback, but it costs you nothing.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you begin your journaling journey.

  • How do I want to express myself? (typing, handwriting, colored pens/markers, audio)
  • How much time can I devote to journaling?
  • Where do I plan to journal?
  • What is my goal for journaling?
Starting a journal - journal with silver pen

Once you have some ideas about how and why you're starting a journal, it’s time to consider some other things.


When you are deciding on a notebook or pen, you want to test them out. You should enjoy the feel of it. Do you like a spiral notebook or do you prefer a composition notebook? Do you need lines or blank pages? Maybe you want to try dotted pages like in Bullet Journals. What kind of pen do you like to write with? Does color matter to you? Try different tools to see what works.

I am particular about the pens I write with. A good friend introduced me to EnerGel pens and I use them all the time. She's a lefty and swears by them because they don't smear. However, if you are a person who likes pretty pens in pretty colors, I would suggest these journaling pens. My daughter is an artist and she loves these products.

If you are crafty, you might want to try a do-it-yourself journal kit which lets you design your own journal. And if you want more ideas for different ways to journal, check out this Creative Journaling book, which has 52 different projects to help you turn your journal into more than just a notebook.

If you prefer digital writing, starting a journal on your computer is easy. What platform do you plan to use? Word, Google, Notes app? I would suggest that you keep your journal separate from other work things you do. That’s why I prefer to handwrite. I spend my day at the computer, so using it for a journal wouldn’t be conducive for open-mindedness and creativity.


If you want to journal, it’s important to be consistent. Find a time of day that you can journal. Having a specific time of day that is journal time makes it easier to build a routine.

Guard writing time

When you first start journaling, it might seem like it takes a long time. As you write more, it will get easier, just like anything else you learn to do. Removing distractions will help your journal time to be more productive.

Be yourself

As you start your journal, do what comes naturally to you. If you are a list person, start with lists. If you like to write stories, do that. If you prefer to talk, maybe an audio journal is the way to go.

Know your why

Before you start a journal, know why you’re doing it. Yes, there are benefits to journaling, but you should have some personal reasons. You will be more likely to stick with something if you see the purpose in it. (and no, your reason shouldn’t be “Shannyn told me to.”) If you’re considering journaling, you have something in mind. Know what it is.

Do you want to reduce stress? Are you trying to build your self-esteem and confidence? Do you have feelings you’re trying to process?  Have a target so you’re working toward something.

Ideas for Your Journal

If you’re at a loss for what to put in your journal, I’m here to help. Of course, you can buy pre-made journals with prompts at the top of each page. Or you can Google journal topics. Lists are a great way to get you started. There are a ton of ways you can use lists to get into journaling.

Lists don’t require a ton of thought and they generally don’t take a lot of time to create, so you can use a list when you’re short on time or when you’re tired, but you don’t want to skip journaling. A list can help you stay consistent in your daily writing.

old manual typewriter with a paper that says Write Something

List ideas:

  1. Gratitude list – This is a simple way to start thinking about what you are grateful for. It allows you to practice gratitude while keeping the writing minimal. It’s good practice and can help you keep a positive mindset.
  2. Short-term goals – If there are things you want to work on in the short term, keeping a list in your journal will help keep them in the forefront of your mind.
  3. Long-term goals – tracking your progress on bigger goals can easily be done in your journal. You can break the larger ideas up into the steps you need to take to achieve the goal.
  4. Favorite Movies/TV shows/Books – Track the things you love and why you love them. You can take notes about favorite episodes or characters. Talk about why you love this thing.
  5. Books/Movies/TV shows you want to see – There’s always something new coming out and it’s easy to forget because things get lost in the sea of information. Keeping a list of things you are interested in will prevent that from happening.
  6. Places to visit – Want to travel? Did a friend tell you about an awesome attraction or restaurant? This is where you write it down so you don’t forget.
  7. Hobbies to try – Thinking of expanding your horizons and trying a new hobby? Make a list of the ones that sound interesting to you so you can do further research.
  8. Motivational quotes – Everyone has bad days. Sometimes words of encouragement can help. When you come across a quote in a book you’re reading or even while scrolling through social media, write it down so that when you’re having a bad day, you can review these quotes for inspiration.
  9. Family traditions – I don’t know about you, but having these in a list would be handy. There’s always some project that kids have at school, usually around the holidays where they have to talk about traditions and it never fails that in the moment, I can’t remember any.
  10. Habit tracker – A journal is a great place to track whatever habit you’re trying to implement. You can see your progress and how you feel about the habit as you form it.
  11. Happy list – Making a list of things that make you happy is both inspirational and motivational. When you struggle with your mindset, having a list of things that make you happy can help. It acts similarly to a gratitude list. It’s a good reminder that everything isn’t shitty.
  12. Sadness list – If you’re feeling down or depressed, you can keep a list of situations or things that have made you unhappy. Doing so might help you figure out what triggers to avoid.
  13. Daily routine – Use your journal to develop the best daily routines for yourself. As you test and experiment with different things, you can record the results to find the best fit for you.
  14. Self-care ideas – Self-care is about more than taking a bubble bath (not that baths are bad). If you don’t have a lot of disposable income, though, finding new ways to treat yourself well can be hard to come up with. Keep a running list of ideas as they occur to you.
  15. Good jokes – Like inspirational quotes and happiness lists, having a joke list is something that can make you laugh. It’s also something less personal, so you can share it with others to brighten their day.

Starting a journal should be fun and exciting. You should experiment to find the best way for you to journal so that you can reap the benefits.

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