Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
February 4, 2023

Tips to kickstart or revitalize your journal

By ROWAN LIU | December 1, 2022

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COURTESY OF ASHLEY KIM

Liu offers tips on starting and staying committed to journaling.

I've been journaling for over a decade now. My first journal was a shoddy thing I glued together from construction paper, notebook paper and cardboard back in fourth grade. I was big on crafts back then. 

Now, as a senior in college, I think I've gotten the hang of journaling. I've met other journalists through the years, and it's always fun to compare our strategies. 

Whether you're interested in starting a journal or whether you find yourself lacking the motivation to keep journaling, here are some pointers that I've picked up over the years that might be helpful.

1. Find your medium.

I personally like physical journals, which my friends and family gift for birthdays and holidays. Physical journals triple as sketchbooks and scrapbooks, and some even come with a pocket for keeping mementos like concert tickets or receipts.

A few of my friends keep online journals. Depending on your habits, an online journal might be more accessible to you. You can add photos, write faster and go back to revise your work.

2. You don't have to write every day.

Your journal is not a homework assignment! Never ever feel like you must write. 

At the end of the day, your journal is for yourself. You're not going to feel motivated if journaling feels like a chore. If you don't feel like it, you don't have to write. And when you do write, it can be a few words, a small doodle or even a key smash.

3. Write about your surroundings.

Some days you really want to write but can't think of anything. You stare at the page and wonder what you're doing, and that's perfectly okay!

Try describing the environment. Talk about the weather, the lighting of the room or the white noises you hear. It sounds mundane, but it’s a reason to write. Besides, focusing on your senses and writing down what you experience is a calming, meditative strategy. Allow yourself time to feel present and in the moment.

4. Keep track of chronology.

I don't mean just writing down the date. When I can't finish a thought, I create a line break then come back later. Sometimes I realize I’ve changed my mind, or I feel much calmer after returning.

I know others who show a change in time by using different colored pens throughout the day. Some people will mention a change in time within the text. Keeping track of changes makes rereading easier (if you decide to reread) and helps organize your thoughts.

5. Know your purpose.

I write for history keeping, so I focus on important life events. Will you keep a journal to improve your writing? Or will you self-reflect and work on mental health? Do you want a travel journal of cool places and delicious foods? Or all of the above?

Knowing why you keep a journal will help you stay motivated. You may even recognize journal-worthy topics in life more easily and find more places of inspiration.

6. Most importantly, have fun! 


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