Starting a Journal


"like article in NYT today.  Would like to hear from someone about how to start a journal..
I live near Atlanta, Ga.  thank you."

Allen Waters
from the Logbook

12 thoughts on “Starting a Journal

  1. The best way to start, as daunting as it sounds, is to begin. Over the years, I had lots of trouble starting a journal. The key, as I see it, is to make it your own. Don’t try to make it how you think it “should be,” because there is no right way to do it. I would consider my journal to be more of a repository for my ideas, a window into my feelings. I rarely, if ever, write down what happened that day. The other excrutiatingly important thing to do is write in it often, and if possible, write in the same place at the same time every day. I heard somewhere that the most you should go without writing, even writing just a little bit, is three days. After that, it gets out of your system and it’s hard to start up again. I find it hard to write in the summer, because I usually write in school. Remember, a journal is all about you and what you feel, not what other people feel.

  2. Step One: Start writing. Just write.

    Step Two: Find a copy of Thomas Mallon’s excellent book, “A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries.”

    Step Three: Keep writing. Just write.

    Step Four: Read a copy of Joel Saltzman’s book, “If You Can Talk You Can Write.”

    Step Five: There are NO rules. Just write.

    There are many other books about journaling – including Tristine Rainer’s classic, “The New Diary.” I enjoy reading various books on the subject, but the Thomas Mallon and Joel Saltzman books stand out for me as simple books that are inspiring and stress the diversity of journal methods and, in the case of Saltzman, the ease of writing. If you want inspiration, read Mallon. If you are afraid you “don’t know how to write” read Saltzman.

    Keep writing! Just write.

  3. Good advice above!
    I have kept a journal since 1979 (yup, I’m getting old), writing in it almost daily. Now I have a great box of volumes, and picking up any one of them gives me glimpse into who I was at different points in time. I haven’t worried about writing down the mundane and ordinary “what happened today.” At least it is a starting place. Keep writing!

  4. I agree with the other commentators that “just write” is the primary answer to your question. However, if you’re looking for quality as well as quantity, there are a few things that worked for me:

    1) Consider keeping a “public” online diary. I’ve kept one since my dotcom days. Though my name was not on it, I used only first initials for friends’ names, and none of my friends knew it was there, the very idea that someone somewhere might read my ramblings made me clean up my prose. When I was keeping it regularly, I came to think of it more as a newspaper column. I tried to make entries about something, whether it was a book I was reading, the number of tattoos I’d spotted on the way to work, or the latest inscrutable billboard in front of a local church (I began referring to it as “Our Lady of Implausible Utterances”). My energy and interest for the online diary eventually waned, but unlike my failed paper journals, I kept it up for close to five years. More importantly, many of the entries are well written and worth rereading, something I could never say for rambling paper journals about the weather and work and how neither is quite to my liking.

    2) Consider keeping a “themed” journal. In my case, I started with a combination sketchbook/journal, which unsurprisingly was devoted to art, artists, inspiration, creativity and how the world perceives artists. This worked well and I continue to keep a small Moleskine sketchbook journal devoted to the general topic of art. The next themed journal I tried was kept during the process of writing a book. It sounds like the last thing a writer under deadline would want to do, but it worked for me. I poured out my fears, ideas, frustrations, daily word-counts, and observations about where my planning had paid off and where it had been a pointless stalling tactics. I filled a PaperBlanks journal, and while I probably won’t ever reread it cover to cover, I will skim it before starting another book. I know I jotted down some good ideas in there.

  5. I can tell you this as a photographer… without exposure, nothing develops. Perhaps you might consider the elements of your personal environment. Pay closer attention to who, what, where, when, and how. Give ‘why’ and ‘should’ a break. Perhaps when you develop more awareness of who is around you, what you could create, where to see something that stops your heart, when might be the best time, and how things work then what to write will become known. Like an appetite becomes known. Like an idea becomes known. Let your journal be your camera.

  6. I know this sounds pretty harsh/negative for the ‘I love the world’ aura on this website, but when faced with a blank page, I think of what I am currently disliking, such as the Government, and write down ideas on how to make it better, how it could be better and why it isn’t.

  7. A method that works well for me is conversing with an inner me…call it higher self perhaps or conversation with ones conscience (and I don’t mean guilt). So, the journal becomes a dialogue between me and me….you’ll be surprised how wise that “inner you” is! I sometimes start with a quote that I’ve seen somewhere, that resonates with where I am at the moment, and then just expand on that.

  8. PLEASE, do not use a journal as an “emo” curiosity; to be one of those sad, sad people who are deluded enough to think that they will improve their life by having something to show off, brag about, or use as a conversational topic.

    You must also ask yourself who the journal is really for:

    1. You, for ego fodder and for showing off
    2. You, as an introspective, spiritual or philosophical tool
    3. Others, to see how you live your life (and understand the ‘real’ you)
    4. Or to attempt to fool others into thinking that you are, in fact, deeper than a 2mm puddle, by writing lies and fiction.

    If for the 1st or last reason, please, don’t bother. No one cares.

  9. When I was younger, I used to love the “Dear America” series of books. They’re historical fiction novels written as diaries from the perspective of young girls during important times in history. Since then I’ve always liked reading published diaries, fiction and non-fiction alike, and so that would linger in my subconscious when I used to start journals.

    I would self-edit, keeping out things I thought would make me look bad or were boring. I would keep myself from writing on days when I didn’t think I had anything interesting to say, and it would depress me how many days could pass without some adventure befalling me. Sooner or later, I would stop writing altogether, until the cycle began all over again months later.

    Eventually I figured out what I was doing, and I started my current journal as a place only for me. It’s not intended to be read, only to be written in. It’s a repository for all the things I can’t say out loud, especially for writing all those things I used to leave out. Some days I write with style, others I just babble. I kept poetry separate for awhile, but now it all runs together, and I love having all of me down in one book, because now its’ as if it really is an extension of me, not a depiction. Sometimes I forget and write things like “to whoever’s reading this,” or “I know this is boring, but”, but I just have to keep reminding myself it’s only for me and I’m back on top.

    I don’t know if this helps anything, but it’s my two cents.

  10. 1. Write.
    2. don’t show it to anyone.
    3. Try not to profread to much
    4. Write
    5. Write
    6. Understand it is yours and only yours
    7. Write
    8. WRITE
    9. Write
    10. BE YOURSELF!!!

  11. I actually think so too=P I have been browsing around the internet for a while this week, and its kinda hard to find anything interesting to read on blogs:P Maybe its because there are too much of them around =) But your site actually keeps catching my attention=] Great stories, and kawai design ^__^. Ill be sure to give it more visits now .

  12. I have found your blog druing the search for ” Starting a Journal | Moleskinerie”, here i have found the information i need, so thanks for your help and keep on the good work, Sabine Kosmetik

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