When I was younger, I made several failed attempts of writing a journal. As a girl who read the Princess Diaries books about six times each, I would always keep them religiously, updating every few hours in painful detail and each try lasted a maximum of about two weeks.
Recently, I stumbled across an old diary that I thought I had thrown away in a fit of 14-year-old embarrassment the last time I found it and I was over the moon to discover it was somehow still in my room. I sat for ages reading every page, remembering my final days at primary school, finding it hilarious how jealous my eleven year old self was at not being cast as Alice in the Alice In Wonderland play. It was such a great collection of memories, no matter how small, and I found myself sending quotes from it to the friends that I had been talking about. It was also interesting to see how my outlook on life had, unsurprisingly, changed as I’ve grown up and the things that I’d predicted that were completely wrong- for example, my apparent hatred that I don’t remember at all for one of my best friends.
This inspired me to give it another go. I went in with the expectation of it lasting maybe a month but here I am four months later and I haven’t missed a single day and I can’t see that happening any time soon. For the first week or so, I nearly forgot pretty much every night but I forced myself to write something, even if it was just a few short sentences about my day, every single night and before long it became part of my routine. Even only a few months later, I so much enjoy looking back on each day and remembering how I felt, because even if you don’t go into details about your emotions every day, if you write down the things that happened, you will remember the way you felt and even more tiny details about the day that you would have otherwise forgotten.
Personally, I tend to keep my diary because I have such a terrible memory but love looking back at old photos and scrapbooks and remembering specific days with forgotten jokes and meals and friends, so I usually don’t write much more than a recount of my day. Sometimes I talk about emotions and all the big stuff but I tend to keep it mostly factual.
I’m no expert, I’ve only been going for a few months, but here are some of my top tips if you want to get started which I highly recommend you do!
Don’t censor yourself
If you want to spew out a spring of expletives to get your point across- do it! This diary is for your eyes only and you don’t even have to tell anyone about it, let alone show them. If something horribly embarrassing happens, such as a period horror story on your first day of work- something I am grateful I have documented now, don’t leave it out because it feels too real. It might make you uncomfortable to go through all the details of it but before long you’ll be able to laugh about it- otherwise, you could just briefly outline what happened and if it’s that horrible, trust me, you’ll remember anyway.
Make journaling part of your routine
Every night before I get into bed, I put on some music and write in my diary, usually at my desk because I personally have found I tend to write more then than if I’m in bed because if I’m in bed then I want to go to sleep. On average write about one and a half A5 pages a day, but never set yourself constraints of how much and how little to write- for example, if I’ve had a pretty boring day or if I’m just exhausted, I tend to bullet point a few main things that happened and leave it at that. Most days, however, I think back on my day in chronological order and simply write down the main things that happened.
Don’t miss a day
Once you skip one day, it’s so difficult to get going again and to get back into the routine of writing. I recommend, if you go somewhere and forget to take your diary, or you’re staying with a friend and don’t want them to read over your shoulder, open a notes page on your phone and write what you normally would write there and transfer it first thing when you get back to your diary.
Choose the right notebook
This may seem unimportant, but after suffering with the ring bound fox cartoon notebook I bought because it was the only one I could buy with the change I had, trust me, it’s important. I would avoid ring bound notebooks because the spines start to come undone if you open them a lot or try and transport them somewhere. My new diary is a composition notebook and I prefer it a lot more. I would also recommend getting an A5 size journal as anything bigger takes up a lot of storage space once you’ve filled it up and is a bit of a nightmare to transport.
Have a countdown
At the end of every diary entry, I have a small ‘tracker’ section where I write down the days until something I’m looking forward to happens and I also write down a song I’m currently listening to or one that’s been in my head all day. I find it satisfying to end the entry with something optimistic like a countdown, mine have included the days until my last exam or the days until my holiday, because even if the day was bad, you manage to end on a high note. I write down songs because I really like looking at how my music taste changes over time and looking back and remembering a song and associating it immediately with a period of my life.
Use shorthand- it doesn’t have to be pretty!
As much as I would like my handwriting to be calligraphic and my diary entries to border on poetry, they don’t. I unashamedly abbreviate your to ‘ur’ and there are a few hashtags in there for comedic emphasis (that I am a little ashamed of). This means you can get more down in less time and really, you’re the only one who will see it, so there’s no need to write in full sentences with correct grammar as long as you know what you mean. As long as your handwriting is legible, you’re good.
I hope you have found this helpful and if you are considering starting to keep a diary- don’t wait! It doesn’t need to be a special day, just get going and you’ll understand the benefits right away. Good luck!